Act… Like a Leader
You have probably heard the quote “leadership is an action, not a position”.
This quote is widely used in leadership development programs and is credited to broadcasting executive Donald McGannon. It’s one thing to know and understand that leadership is an action, but it is another thing to put that action into practice in your everyday life.
Why Practicing Leadership Is Important for Everyone
You don’t have to have to be in management to practice leadership in your work, leadership is for everyone. The best leaders are those who lead with integrity which the good old Oxford dictionary defines as “the quality of being honest and having strong moral principles”. Essentially, integrity is practising what you preach and being consistent in a variety of situations and circumstances.
Leading from a place of integrity also requires you to lead in a way that you would want to be led. I think most people have been in a situation where their leader leads from a desk as opposed to the floor and is detached from the realities of your job. This detachment leads to inconsistencies and unrealistic expectations of how to perform any number of tasks. Not only is this frustrating but it also leads to distrust and poor performance.
When you or someone in your team leads by example, you can trust that they have a realistic understanding of the complexities of the job and will act in a manner that fosters a positive environment for everyone.
Whether you are in an entry level position or top of the ladder, effective leadership is essential for creating an environment where people can be effective and feel confident that they are valued and appreciated.
Assuming that you have reached the point where you recognize that leadership is something you do and not something you are, here are five ways that you can integrate leadership practices into your everyday life, even if you are not in an official leadership position.
Walk the Walk
You saw this coming – great leaders walk the walk. Walking the walk is another way of saying that someone is leading by example, actually demonstrating how they want things to be done instead of just telling people how to do something. When it comes to learning styles, everyone benefits when they can see how tasks can be done. Not only does observation help people envision themselves completing the task, it also affirms that the task is indeed possible to complete.
Nearly everyone has experience with someone in leadership who has unrealistic expectations of how to do a job. This can be because this person has either never done it or the situations have changed since they last attempted the task in question. Things change over time and people can easily become disconnected from the new work realities.
When a leader is able to lead by example, this builds trust between them and their teams. You can trust the expertise of the leader and also that they have a realistic understanding of the resources needed to complete a task which translates to more reasonable expectations overall.
Own Up and Be Accountable
If you are human, you make mistakes. Period.
Taking responsibility when things do not go as planned not only demonstrates integrity but it also gives other people permission to do the same. Even if you are not a team lead, chances are that someone is looking up to you and you can give them permission to be human too.
How you give and receive criticism is also an act of accountability. When you need to give criticism, practice giving constructive criticism. In the same breath, it is also important to practice being on the receiving end. Remember, you are not perfect and if people feel comfortable that they can hold you accountable, not only will you grow but you will also foster an environment of openness and trust.
Check out this blog on Promoting Accountability and Trust in the Workplace for ways to practice accountability.
Embrace Developmental Opportunities
There are endless programs, courses, and other learning opportunities to improve your leadership skills. Not only should you indulge in them, share them with the people on your team and encourage them to participate too. When you prioritize development and learning, you are leading by example and giving your team permission to do the same. Everyone wins!
The benefits of gratitude are far reaching and can certainly help in your leadership practice. It isn’t much of a stretch to recognize that happy leaders are better leaders but there are even more benefits that extend to your team. Never underestimate the impact of a thank you note or positive feedback on team morale but also your own credibility as a leader. Recognize the great work that your team is doing and watch them thrive.
Check out this blog for 10 Simple Ways to Start Practicing Gratitude today.
Find a Mentor
In order to be a good leader, you really need to observe one in action.
While it’s ideal to find a mentor that you can meet and interact with regularly, following leaders on social media is a great place to start. Take note of what they are doing and how they do it and start implementing their practices in your everyday life, they are giving you permission to try!
Humility is important – if the “leader” you are following is constantly bragging and talking down to people, they are not actually a leader. Many people will claim to be leaders in their respective field and may even have an impressive following but take a minute to look at what they do and not just what they say.
Act… Like a Leader
At its core, leadership is the willingness to act considerately.
Great leaders are observant, responsive to the people around them, and flexible. Your wall can be covered in certificates and trophies of recognition but if you are not acting like a leader, people will notice and your team will suffer.
Like anything worthwhile, effective leadership will take practice so start with some of the suggestions here and be open and flexible to feedback from your team, you will be glad you did!