By: Bill Treasurer, special to Overdrive
Leadership is the most over analyzed, thoroughly dissected, and utterly confused topic in business. Just think of the expectations that we have of leaders and the definitions that we want them to live up to. We expect leaders to be bold and calculated, flexible and principled, tactical and strategic, competitive and cooperative, etc. We want leaders to be everything. Of course it is possible to be all of those diametrically opposite things…if you’re God!
By holding unrealistic and unattainable expectations of our leaders, we’ve made the concept of leadership unattractive, causing people to opt-out of the chance to lead. It’s time to lighten the leadership load by clarifying what’s most important and essential about leading. It’s time to simplify leadership so we can make it attractive again.
So what matters most about leadership? Well it’s not about feeding the ego of the leader, that’s for sure. And it’s not exclusively about getting results and adding value either – though obviously those things matter. What matters most about leadership is developing the people you’re leading. It’s about creating more leaders by staying committed to those who you are privileged to lead. Effective leadership isn’t about having power over people, it’s about using power for people.
I call this kind of leadership Open-door Leadership. At its core, this kind of leadership is about identifying, creating, and assigning opportunities that help people and organizations grow and develop. Think for a moment about the leaders you admire most. Pick someone you’ve actually worked for versus someone on the world stage. My bet is the leader is someone who:
- Took the time to get to know your career goals and aspirations,
- gave you challenging and meaningful stretch assignments that helped you grow,
- supported you and gave you pointers for being successful,
- was someone who you could look up to because you knew they you’re your back” and truly cared about you and your development.
People will move mountains for a leader if they know that in exchange for moving the mountain they get something in return. If by moving the mountain they grow skills, deepen their knowledge, have greater access to the leader, and advance their own opportunities, they’ll be deeply loyal to the leader. But if their told to move a mountain because “it’s their job”, that ol’ mountain will be moving very sluggishly.
Want to be an Open-door Leader? Take these actions:
- Sit down one-on-one with each of the people you’re leading and find out about his or her career goals and aspirations.
- Look for opportunities that align with both the organization’s goals and the career goals of each individual.
- Support them by removing barriers to their performance and/or make it easier for them to do good work.
- Give them challenges and goals that cause them to grow and sharpen their skills.
Open-door leadership is not just good for the people being lead, it’s good for the leader! When you are loyal to the growth, development, advancement, and fulfillment of each of your employees, they in turn will be deeply loyal to you. And when they are loyal to you and the goals you’re pursuing, you’re chances of being successful will go way up. Remember, the folks you’re leading are the folks who will determine whether you’re successful as a leader. You want to be successful, right? Then start opening doors for the people you lead!
Bill Treasurer is the Chief Encouragement Officer of Giant Leap Consulting. His latest book is Leaders Open Doors (www.leadersopendoors.com), and focuses on how leaders create growth through opportunity. Bill is also the author of Courage Goes to Work, an international bestselling book that introduces the concept of courage-building. He is also the author of Courageous Leadership: A Program for Using Courage to Transform the Workplace, an off-the-shelf training toolkit that organizations use to build workplace courage. Bill has led courage-building workshops for, among others, NASA, Accenture, CNN, PNC Bank, SPANX, Hugo Boss, Saks Fifth Avenue, and the US Department of Veterans Affairs. Contact Bill at firstname.lastname@example.org, or on Twitter at @btreasurer (#leadsimple).