How to Be an Even Better Leader

How to Be an Even Better Leader

If you want to be a better leader, get curious about what you might still be able to learn.

We recently had a very senior leader join a live-online leadership training he had hired us to do with his team. Not in a “watch from the sidelines” kind of way as sometimes happens. He was all in.

He actively participated in the breakout conversations and completed his action learning assignments and reported them in the learning lab.

In addition to providing this training for his team, he was curious about what he could do to be a better leader.

In debriefing his experience after the final session, he shared.

This was interesting for me to slow down and really think about HOW I’m leading. I spend so much time on strategic issues, it was helpful to try some new approaches and tools. Ha, I can’t help but think that it might be helpful for my boss to take this class too  😉

4 Approaches to Help You Become an (Even Better) Leader

Once you get to “expert” level, it’s easy to put all your leadership development energy into your team. After all, it’s your job to grow leaders. You want to invest in your team as others have invested in you.

Perfect. There’s no better way to get your team focused on being better leaders than to show that you too are working to be a better leader. Experts are continual students.

Here are a few approaches that can help.

1. Slow down and revisit the fundamentals.

I (Karin) am a decent skier. Most of the time, I can get down the expert slopes without doing too much harm to myself or others.

But the trouble is, my form isn’t always the most efficient, or graceful. AND, I’ve been skiing pretty much the same way for the last decade.

This past week, over Christmas break, I did something I haven’t done in a really long time. In the mornings I watched some really basic Youtube videos which included some skiing drills. And then, I spent part of each day skiing the easy stuff and really paying attention to my form—before I headed back to the blacks.

Shocker—I got better.

What if you took a moment to really think about how you’re approaching the foundational leadership activities that come naturally for you and consider your technique? Look around. Read a new book. Notice what your peers are doing that might be worth a try.

2. Become a Leader Teacher.

One of the best ways to continue to refine your leadership skills is to teach leadership. In many of our long-term leadership programs, we incorporate a “leader as teacher” approach. In addition to more senior leaders participating in the program along with their teams, we prepare them to be “leader teachers” to reinforce the concepts and discuss application in-between sessions in small challenger groups.

There’s no better way to master a new skill than to teach it. And when leaders know they will be facilitating conversations about a new approach, they’re much more likely to try it themselves first so they can speak from first-hand experience.

You can do this on your own too.

Talk with your team about some strategic areas they’re focused on to become better leaders this year. Perhaps it’s getting better at leading virtual meetings. Or building a more robust virtual communication strategy. Stretch yourself to learn some new approaches, teach them to your direct reports, and then schedule some time to debrief how it went and what everyone learned.

3. Avoid S.A.S.R.N.T. syndrome.

When you’re a strong leader, and you stumble across a new leadership approach or tool, it’s easy to fall into S.A.S.R.N.T. syndrome. (So and So Really Needs This).

You think you know who needs this … my boss, or my peer, or my spouse, and you run off and immediately share it with them.

Of course, when you do that, you miss the opportunity to become a better leader yourself.

There’s no better way to get your team to notice a new approach than to first model it yourself. As you take the journey, then you can invite others to join you.

4. Involve your team in your development.

The start of the year is the perfect time to work on leadership development plans … not just for your team, but for yourself as well.

Start with a courageous question. “This year, one focus I have is working to become a better leader for you and the rest of the team. What’s one specific area you think I can work on that would have the biggest impact?”

Of course, when your team sees you investing time and energy to become a better leader, they’re more likely to make it a priority for themselves as well.

Your turn.

What would you add? What has worked for you to take your leadership to the next level?

Courageous CulturesAnd if you’re looking for an advanced leadership book to read with your team this year, check out Courageous Cultures: How to Build Teams of Micro-Innovator’s Problem Solvers and Customer Advocates (and download the FREE Executive Strategy Guide) to facilitate a “leaders as teachers” conversation with your team.

May Busch

How to Be the Best Leader You Can Be (May Busch)

Winning Well Connection Reflection

May comes to us from London. We first got to know May when she invited us to share our Winning Well message in her Career Mastery Challenge. We’ve enjoyed getting to know her and the important work she is doing in the world.

These days, being a leader is about your behavior, not your title. So, every day you and I have a golden opportunity to be the leader we want to be – that best version of ourselves. Being that “best self” leader takes conscious effort, but it’s worth it. You’ll feel great, bring out the best in everyone around you, and make a greater impact in the world.

In my experience, there are three main areas to focus on as you keep advancing toward being that “best self” leader:

• How you work with People

• How you work on the Business

• How you work on your Self

And of course, these areas are interlinked.

The key is to figure out where spending some time right now will make the biggest positive difference for you. And that will change over time because we’re always a work in progress.

Here are a few quick thoughts on each area to get you started.

WORKING WITH PEOPLE

There’s a saying, “Treat people the way you want to be treated.” As a leader, it’s important to bear in mind the noble intent behind that advice but otherwise ignore it because it won’t make you effective.

Instead, treat people the way they want to be treated. Like snowflakes, no two people are the same. And just as I might prefer that you get right to the point, someone else might like some rapport-building small talk first.

The best leaders understand the person they’re interacting with and figure out how to communicate most effectively with that person. It’s not one size fits all, so start noticing how things land with others.

While it’s tempting to revert to your comfort zone, you’ll be more effective if you can adapt your approach to suit the person and the situation. Of course, while still being yourself… but the best version of yourself for that occasion.

WORKING ON THE BUSINESS

No matter what your work may be – whether it’s delivering commercial results, contributing to the social good or something in between – there are many dimensions to working on the Business. Having vision, being strategic, and delivering results in innovative ways, just to name a few.

Click on the image for more information about May’s book.

But at the core, being a leader means making decisions and acting on them. Often those decisions can be difficult, involving tricky trade-offs. And doing nothing is also a decision … sometimes the riskiest one of all.

I find that the best way to lead well is to make those decisions based on your core values. It keeps you from being buffeted by the winds of special interests that otherwise may be hard to resist.

So get in touch with your core values, and make sure you’re working in a place where there’s alignment between your values and those of the organization. And if you’re in charge, then make sure you hire people who share those values and can help you build the culture.

WORKING ON YOURSELF

The more you understand about what makes you tick, the more you can put yourself in a position to be at your best more of the time. When you have a strong foundation, you’re in the best position to support others.

Part of that foundation is confidence, and you’ll benefit from building confidence both in yourself and in others. Since no one is confident 100% of the time, the key is to tap into the areas where you do feel confident and build from that. It could be confidence in your technical expertise, or in a time you mastered a new skill. Use that as a touchstone you can come back to and recall the feeling of confidence. Then, channel that into the areas where you’re less sure.

Extend this confidence building to people you work with as well. Help them tap into their best, strongest selves. Encourage them to step forward, and support them along the way.

WHAT WILL YOU DO? Now, it’s over to you. What’s the one area that would most move the needle for you if you worked on it right now, and what will you do to move forward on it?

Winning Well Reflection

In her three areas where we work (on the business, with our people, on ourselves) May has captured the critical Winning Well focus of results and relationships. You cannot build sustained breakthrough results without working in all three of these areas. We appreciate May’s observation that it all begins by leading yourself. Cultivate confident humility and watch your influence soar.