Leadership - It's About People

This is one part of a whole series on leadership.  Check the leadership introduction here for all articles in the series.

It’s impossible to cover the topic of leadership without focusing on people.  You can learn about leadership , understand yourself , develop your leadership skills and have all the right things in place to be a leader, but it’s all for nothing without remembering that leadership is all about people.  It’s about having influence with others and about the relationships and connections you build as a leader.  These skills are the people skills needed for leadership and there are five major areas I’ve learned that make up those people skills.  I hope you’ll go back in this series and read the previous 4 articles if you’ve missed any and please do sign up for my RSS feed or by email to get the next articles in the series if you haven’t yet signed up.

1. Awareness

Wake up!  You need to be aware of things around you as a leader.  You need to be more alert to opportunities, to easily see change and to recognizing solutions easier than the next guy. These will enable you to be thinking and discovering just ahead of your likely followers and gives others that perception of being first.  Little things here can make a big difference.  Just putting more attention to things can easily bring the small percentage increase on a consistent basis that will help you deliver more and more ideas and content before others.  Presenting your thoughts first, offering to take on new challenges and noticing change before others will not only have you demonstrating your willingness to lead but it will give you opportunities that others miss out on that you can further develop and prove your skills with.

Leadership is About People

Leadership is About People

Not only is being aware of opportunities important but also the interactions with others.  Being aware of when others need help, are struggling or feeling left behind is the best time to show leadership by helping, waiting or encouraging them to continue.  This capacity to see what is going on with the people around you demonstrates great leadership.  Look for times you can give decision or choices to others or even hold your own ideas to ensure those presented by others feel more important.  Often a few simple steps here can gain long term followers as they begin to respect you without seeing you in their way.  You can still lead people without slowing them down and by being aware of these signals with others ensures you do not step outside the boundaries of good leadership.

2. Impactful

This can be the most difficult people skill to develop as a leader as it is often counter to what is first believed.  I’m suggesting here that you need to have impact with others without authority, without position power and without necessarily having the respect or experience to immediately convince someone.  Impact is about earning respect but doing it in a way that you demonstrate your values and leadership characteristics.  Some of those techniques are:

  • Trusting others

You must build trust as a leader.  Do this with honesty and sincerity with others.  Offer trust before it is deserved whenever possible as this will gain favor in return that far outweighs the negative impacts from not trusting others as a leader.  Look for places to trust others, tell them you trust them and then show them by accepting their ideas and accepting the consequences without blame.

  • Welcome good conflict

Conflict can easily be a bad thing if it becomes personal or in any way an attach (physical, verbal or mental).  However, it can also be a huge team builder if done well and it quickly lets a leader demonstrate their ability to work on difficult problems with others no matter what.  Conflict in this sense is as simple as disagreeing on decisions or methods to use and it sparks discussion.  Look to draw out both sides and seriously weigh the pros and cons of each side of a conflict before trying to move ahead.  Get people to think of all consequences and thank people for participating in any disagreements.

  • Be dependable

If you want to have impact on people, you must be dependable on what you say you will do.  Be ruthless in completing any commitments you make and make yourself available to help as often as you can.  This lets others depend on you and proves that you can deliver what you say.  Be careful not be make commitments you cannot keep and don’t ever make commitments for others unless they are involved.

  • Show confidence AND openness

As a leader, you want to have impact on others by stepping ahead and having them trust you and depend on you to steer things forward.  You must have confidence in those decisions to convince others to come along and you must also balance this while remaining open minded enough to ensure you are not going down a path, dragging others with you that leads nowhere.

3. Recognize Behavior Patterns

I considered whether this section should be on it’s own or otherwise part of adapting and communicating but I thought it deserves it’s own attention, especially when covering leadership from the people perspective.  I love examining others from the perspective of behavior instead of my own interpretations or opinions.  Behavior is real and is always something you can see or hear from someone else.  It is about what they did or said and not a personal character judgment.  There is no value in judging others and will never help you as a leader so it’s much wiser to use behavior as a foundation for examining others instead of any personal opinions.  Look at what they did and consider that, instead of what you might “think” or  “imply”.   Judging others is very dangerous and will completely destroy your ability to lead.  It will blind you, guide you by prejudice and create voids in relationships that are difficult to ever close back up.  By using behavior, you can look at something as a single action, not a flaw or personality problem and get past it.  This is not only with others, but yourself as well.  If you put judgments on yourself, you will find you impose the same limitations on yourself.

Here are a couple of previous articles I’ve written about judgments and the dangers of it.

Understanding others of course requires awareness like the section above but it’s much more than that.  There should be a deep understanding of people in order to enable that awareness and allow communication.  I highly recommend learning the DiSC behavior model and seeing how it fits into understanding other people better.  It’s made a huge impact to me as a leader and I find it far easier to apply than other personality types.  Seeing real things with real behaviors is a key step to finding change as a leader and to then work on changing those behaviors.  Remember, you can’t change someone’s personality, but you can certainly change some of their behaviors.  Plus it is a whole lot easier and more enjoyable since behavior is easy to see.

4. Communicate Meaningfully

Since leadership is really about people, you have to look closely at communication to be a great leader.  Some think there is a specific type of communication style or method that is best for leadership, but I really don’t think that is necessary or required.  I think that communicating well simply means to get through to other people in a way that you impact them and can build the trust and relationship needed for you to successfully lead them.  If that is happening, I don’t think there is a right or wrong way to make that happen, I think it depends on the individual as a leader and any followers.  Everyone communicates in their own way and so being genuine and personal is the important points here.  Does it help to be regularly communicating, laying out direction, having clarity and to be a good well voiced speaker?  Sure, but I don’t think it limits you to not be those things either.  Put attention to communicate your meaning, involve followers, give them the communication they want and that works for them and don’t worry about how you communicate, it just doesn’t matter that much.

5. Adapt

The last section I have about leadership from the people perspective is about a leader’s ability to adapt.  Not only are circumstances always changing that you need to adapt to, but so are the people you are leading.  They will grow themselves, challenge you as a leader both positively and negatively and continually change. You must be able to adapt to these people changes as well.  All the above pieces can assist in adapting and they will continue to need changes as long as you hope to lead.  Leadership really is all about change so if you cannot adapt to the people you want to lead, you will never successfully lead them.

Expect people to change that you lead.  Some people will come, some will go, others will follow you for ages, and some will hope to or even pass you in leadership skills in a short time.  You must enable this, encourage it, allow it, and welcome it as a leader.  Know the changes will occur, don’t get discourages by them and certainly don’t hold back anyone else to quickly adapt, even if it’s faster than you can as the leader.  There are ways to adapt yourself, demonstrate this and then use it to lead others as well by showing the results of it.  Look to teach others to adapt and adapt them into your own leadership to take the journey with you.  If you can adapt with the people you lead, instead of only adapting yourself, you can enable a large following to not only deeply believe in you and have trust and respect for you as a leader, but you will develop more leaders and yourself along the way.  Now, that is leadership with people my friends!

Examples of Leading When It’s About People

I have a few points listed here to help illustrate examples of some of these ideas and what it might look like to lead with people more than simply leading them.  I’d love to read your stories and examples of leadership, so please comment them below…

  • Integrity – hold your values strong and don’t sell out for anything
  • Always give (or at least include) your followers the credit for your successes
  • Take the responsibility and blame for your follower’s mistakes
  • Do not self-promote, learn to be a humble leader
  • Give decisions to your followers or at least include them
  • Regularly ask for others’ views and never judge them
  • Share your vulnerabilities
  • Help your followers anytime they need it
  • Be fair and treat everyone equally
  • Do what you say and hold others accountable for the same
  • Encouraging your people to grow, to learn and to take on as much as they want to, at a pace they can handle
  • Show compassion for others and what they share with you
  • Be confident and positive in all your actions
  • Read good books in your field and always encourage learning
  • Be a storyteller
  • Smile, have fun and be passionate about your goals!

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