This is a guest post by leadership consultant, Bill Treasure. Bill’s new book “Leaders Open Doors: A Radically Simple Leadership Approach to Lift People, Profits, and Performances” is a refreshing look at the true essence of leadership, namely, making life better for others. I will be posting a full review of Bill’s book later this week. For now, I encourage you to continuing reading this post and buy the book.
Leadership is the most overanalyzed, thoroughly dissected, and utterly confused topic in business. Just think of the expectations we have of leaders and the definitions we want them to live up to. We expect leaders to be bold and calculating, flexible and principled, tactical and strategic, competitive and cooperative. 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 – 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 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 leader you admire most among the people you have worked for. My bet is the person you picked 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.
- truly cared about you and your development.
People will move mountains for a leader if they know they will 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. But if they’re 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 their 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 making 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 good for the people being led, but also 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, your chances of being successful go way up.
Remember, the folks you’re leading are the ones 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). Bill is also the author of the bestselling book Courage Goes to Work along with the training kit Courageous Leadership: A Program for Using Courage to Transform the Workplace. Bill has led courage-building workshops for such organizations as 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).