Early in my leadership role working with small teams, I realized that most people liked me. My relational connections with my team members were very strong and I was able to please each one of them. I worked very hard at developing my people-pleasing skills. At one point, leadership for me is all about – “Make people happy and they will follow you”. I was continually asking myself one question: “Is everybody happy?”
What a mistake? 🎯
No leader can please everyone all the time. It took a while for me to realise that I was doing things backwards. All this while, my goal had been to get people to like me enough so that I could gain the confidence to ask them for commitment. If they declined I simply worked harder to try to get them to like me more, thinking that would solve the problem. I gave the most time and energy to the unhappiest and least committed people, even though they are neither superstars nor contributing to the vision or helping the company to move forward. I was letting the tail wag the dog instead of the dog wag the tail.
I finally realized that I wasn’t leading people. I was trying to please them thereby making them and myself feel good. I wasn’t moving the organization forward. I was in the friendship business, not in the leadership business.
I was not helping people to do better and get better. I have now moved from Pleasing people to Challenging People. It was not an easy process for me. My desire to be liked by others was deeply rooted within me to the point where the best days in my leadership were the ones when people affirmed me. I craved for affirmation every single day. Now, I realized that affirmation doesn’t equal leadership accomplishment.
WIth my new level of awareness, I am now on a path to become the leader people really needed, not just the one they wanted. It’s been one of the most difficult changes I’ve had to make in my leadership, but it has also been one of the most rewarding.
Leaders today face the challenge of influencing people from all sides of an organization. John C. Maxwell, In his book 360 Degree Leader, explained the principles using which how middle managers leverage their unique positions and become 360-degree leaders by exercising influence in all directions–> lead up(to the boss), –> lead across(among their peers), –> and lead down(to those they lead) in addition to lead self (self-leadership).
In this article, I would like to focus on the concept of Leading Up. According to John C. Maxwell to attain leading up mindset, first, we need to come out of the below myths #
I can’t lead if I am not at the top
When I get to the top, then I will learn to lead
If I were on the top, then people would follow me
When I get to the top, I will be in control
When I get to the top, I will no longer be limited
I can’t reach my potential if I am not the top leader
If I can’t get to the top, then I won’t try to lead
Lead yourself :
In order to lead up first, you need to lead yourself exceptionally well. Lead yourself. That’s where it all starts. Besides, if you wouldn’t follow yourself, why should anyone else? Once you start doing it you would soon realize that this will be one of your greatest challenges. If you lead yourself well, then you will earn the right to lead others.
Lighten your leader’s load :
Leading up is the process of influencing a leader. This process includes lightening the leader’s load by being willing to do what others won’t while knowing when to push forward and when to back off.
Many managers with leadership responsibilities feel that because they are not the main leader, that they cannot influence their bosses. One of the most commonly asked questions is: How do I lead when I’m not in charge? You do not have to be in charge in order to lead. It’s the biggest myth about leadership. If you’re on the front lines, you see things others don’t—you have a unique perspective. You have ideas that could make a big difference. You are thinking of solutions to problems some people don’t even know exist. Leading up will not only help your organization, but it will eventually help you.
You can think of lightening your leaders load by means of doing the following:
Do your own job well first
When you find a problem, if possible provide a solution
Tell leader what they NEED to hear, not what they WANT to hear
Go the second mile
Stand up for your leader whenever you can
Always go the extra mile
Always show in spite of attitude rather than instead of attitude
Ask your leader how you can lift the load.
Your ability to lead up NOW will help determine your ability to move up LATER. It doesn’t matter which position you are currently in the organization, leading up will open doors for more influence in your organization in the future. Organizations won’t excel without honest upward communication. Lighten your leader’s load. Find something that needs to be done and do it. The best team members don’t need to be told what to do because they intuitively find important things to do.
Honor your leaders:
Leading up can be risky. If you lead in the wrong way, you can get some negative labels and lose personal power. Honour your leaders publically results in getting an opportunity to influence them privately. If you want to be over people, you need to learn to be under them.
If you don’t feel a sense of honour for the person who is above you, they are going to sense it through you. One day, If you want to be OVER others, then you need to learn to be UNDER others and show honour from where you are now. Well, you may say that my leader is not amazing and if I work for a great leader it is easy for me to show honour. Please don’t get confused between honour and respect. Respect is earned. Honour is given. We simply honour those in authority over us. You should accept that they are in that position because they are supposed to be there. Therefore show your influence by serving them and helping them rather than being critical about them all the time. Still, if you feel like you can’t honour your boss then it’s better if you consider doing everyone a favour by going somewhere else where you can show honour. Here is what I know, without honouring UP we can’t lead UP.
Value Leaders Time:
If you are going to lead up, make sure the time is right. Value their time. Schedule a meeting, and keep it short and focused. Have a written agenda. If you’re leading up, it shouldn’t be to make yourself look better, or to be a hero, or to make someone else look stupid. Your only motivation to lead up should be to push the mission forward. Some leaders are moody. You can’t change who someone is. Be aware of your leader’s mood and then go on with your day like normal. The best thing you can do for your leader’s mood is to act as you normally do. Be the consistent force they can rely on. Don’t let your leader’s mood affect you. You have no idea what they are dealing with after hours.
Don’t just point out problems; bring solutions. Your leader would rather hear someone who has potential solutions than hearing about problems. Even if your idea isn’t perfect, it often evolves to a better solution. If you have only a critical spirit, you’ll never have an upward influence.
Always be honest and think critically :
Always remember that there is a world of difference between thinking critically and being critical. If you’re a yes-man, you will lose credibility. Truth always trumps flattery. The more successful you become, the more difficult it is to find people who will tell you the truth. Those who care enough to tell you the truth are incredibly valuable. Tell leader what they NEED to hear, not what they WANT to hear
As a leader, we must do everything we can to give opportunities for others within our organization to allow them to lead up. We should never penalize them for telling the truth. Instead, give them public credit for bringing good ideas, taking initiative, and putting the organization first. Saying you don’t care what your team thinks is unacceptable! If you say you don’t care what your team thinks, either you have the wrong people or you are the wrong leader. Change the people around you or change your mindset. If you don’t listen to them, you will eventually be surrounded by people who have nothing to say.
Always remember you don’t go into an opportunity, you GROW into an opportunity. Good leaders in the middle make better leaders at the top.
360 Degree Leader – John C. Maxwell
Craig Groeschel Leadership Podcast
The Art of Managing Your Boss Podcast – Wharton University
Remember Everyone in the organization is Important:
Every team member is important in the organization. Every player has value but not every player has got equal value. An experienced person may have the gift of wisdom/experience as there is no shortcut to achieving wisdom. Sometimes the amount of time spent in an organization tends to equal to wisdom. But the downside of it according to Andy Stanley is the longer time spent in the organization erodes awareness. In other words the longer we are in an organization, we tend to stop seeing the problems and just accept them.
This is where a new team member would be incredibly valuable. So you need to tell your new team members that they are really valuable in the early days. Because they will never be more objective than they are soon after joining the organization. That is why I tell our new team members often that first 45 days in the team is when they are going to be most objective before they start accepting things as they are. So we want them to know that every team member has value. We are going to learn from the senior’s experience and we are also going to learn from rookies fresh perspective and together everyone gets better.
The most important thing we should do at our workplace is to
Hire them right
Train them right
Treat them right
I want to see my staff attending office every morning not because they have to but because they want to. Because we make them feel that they know they matter because of the way they are treated, respected, involved and listen to. During my initial days of leadership, I often wonder how can I do that? Later I learned that the best way to ensure people matter to us is to just tell them. Common sense right? You love your wife and you just tell her and your life will get a lot better !! You love your kids and parents and you just tell them. It’s easy.
Begin with the end in mind:
As a leader, one of the most important skills that we can develop is identifying, empowering and developing the right people. Nothing more important than who you bring in through the front door to work for your company. Who do you hire? We need to get that right. We need to be careful about it. If we get this wrong every day we have to deal with bad attitudes, non-performers and all kinds of bad things and negativity.
The potential of your organization rests on the strengths of its people. You can have the best product, best strategy, or best vision, but without the best people, your organization will always be limited!
Jim Collins said it this way: “People are not your most important asset. The right people are.”
Zig Ziglar says “You don’t build a great business, you build people then people build the business”.
Craig Groeschel says “You don’t need a large, successful organization to attract great people. You need a vision worth following.”
When you’re writing a job description, be clear about what type of person you want—don’t just list duties, list characteristics the person needs to have. This one sounds simple, but many of us overlook it. A general idea of what you want won’t help you fill a specific role. We always hire for the future and not for the present.
I always look within our organization before looking outside. If you want to guard the culture, hire from within as often as possible.
The best time to fire someone is before you hire them. Making no hire is better than making a bad hire. The cost of hiring a bad team member is greater than the cost of missing a good one. Wrong hires recruited early will make it more difficult to make great hires later into the team.
We have the most rigorous selection process with multiple rounds. Why so rigorous? Because we won’t settle for anything but the best people!! My interview questions all fall under four main categories: skill, value, behavior, and character. In my experience, most companies only focus on skill and character. The best predictor of future success is past success. You can learn a lot from the past. If you find someone who is crazy talented but has vastly different values or behavior’s, they’re not a great fit! Make sure you ask questions geared toward your core values and don’t be afraid to put candidates in real-life situations to test them. If they don’t have the skills yet, but they fit your values, go all-in!
Try reverse-interviewing to help prospective employees understand the job expectations and ensure the job is a match for them. The prospect interviews the people who would be their colleagues about the job, the culture and anything else they’re interested in. The employees being interviewed don’t ask questions but focus on responding to the prospect. These sessions usually last 30-45 minutes.
If possible, give candidates an opportunity to test the job for a day. To ensure that prospects truly understood what the job would be like and what it would feel like to work in the office with their new colleagues, after receiving an offer and prior to accepting they are invited to shadow someone in the role and ask questions. The goal is to give the prospect a truly realistic representation for what the work will be like before they accept the offer. This reduces miscommunication about the job.
Never hire someone out of desperation and I have learned this the hard way after making few mistakes. Be careful when you find yourself talking yourself into hiring a candidate. When you see something that concerns you about a candidate, don’t try to make excuses for them—dig in! If the right person isn’t there, it’s not the right time to hire. Once you complete your hiring create magic with training and it will help you make your people your brand.
Bill Hybels in his Courageous Leadership book says “Hire people for their character, competency & chemistry”
Character – What do they stand for
Competency – Knowledge, skills, and tools to get the job done
Chemistry – Do I like this person?
Do not ever underestimate the value of Chemistry. If you like their character and competency and don’t like them then I suggest not to make the hire because chemistry matters too.
According to Warren Buffet, we should look for integrity, intelligence, and energy while recruiting someone into the organization. He says without the first one the other 2 will kill you. Patrick Lencioni in the book the ideal team player says to recruit people who are hungry, humble and smart.
Burn the free fuel:
John Maxwell says a man does not live on bread alone, sometimes he needs a little buttering up. No matter what each one of us says everyone needs appreciation, recognition and encouragement.
Appreciation – Recognition – Encouragement. That to me is the fuel that drives human performance. Ask the below questions to yourself.
Do you want to be appreciated? – Yes
Do you want to be recognized? Absolutely
Do you want to be encouraged? Yes by all means
The number one reason why people leave companies is that they do not feel valued. That is why as a leader I have a rule in appreciating people. My rule goes like this. What I want to do is to appreciate more than I think I should. Appreciate more than I think I should and then double it. Never rob your team member of the blessing of knowing that you notice and you care.
Finally in Craig Groeschel words….
When the leader gets better everyone gets better
Remember, you don’t have to know it all to be a great leader! Be yourself. People would rather follow a leader who is always real than one who is always right.
This article identifies different types of leaders and the followers they create. In addition to this, it also mentions how each kind of leader can grow.
Unpredictable leaders produce hesitant followers. If you ever have the misfortune of working for an unpredictable leader, you never know what they’re going to do next. Since you don’t know what to expect, you inevitably become hesitant, fearful, and tentative. It’s impossible for the team to find consistency. If you think you might be an unpredictable leader, work on consistency. When you say the same thing over and over again as a leader, that builds trust.When your actions are consistent with your words that build trust. Consistency matters in leadership. People would follow a leader rather with a consistently average plan than a leader with a great plan, bad plan or a mediocre plan that changes all the time. Successful people do consistently what normal people do occasionally. Don’t be an unpredictable leader.
Domineering leaders produce compliant followers. These leaders will have the attitude of my way or highway or because I said so that’s why or we are going to do what I want to do or your voice doesn’t matter. Finally, This is the way it is going to be. Domineering leaders create week teams. These types of leaders will intimidate or threaten people into following them. This might produce short-term results, but long term, they can be devastating. Domineering leaders foster a culture of ‘yes’ people. They might get compliance, but not commitment. The bigger your organization gets the more people are likely to fear you. Be intentional about not bullying your team or organization. Ask questions and really listen. A good rule of thumb is to ask ten times more questions than you give directions. Getting the insight and the wisdom from your team matters more than you can imagine. If you are the only one bringing direction, ideas, you will be the ceiling on your organization.
Secretive leaders produce guarded followers. If you as a leader, keep all the information or there are just a few people at the top know what’s going on then what we are doing is that we are communicating to people that we don’t trust the people that are serving our organization. And the reality is if we don’t trust them then how in the world can we expect them to trust us? If your people are guarded, they’re not going to give you feedback. And if they don’t give you feedback, your days as an effective leader are numbered. That’s why transparency, vulnerability, and honesty are so important for leaders. Simon Sinek said it this way: “A team is not a group of people who work together. A team is a group of people who trust each other.” Be sure to use this as an opportunity to identify where you are and use it as an opportunity to have an honest conversation with your team. As leaders, we only see the organization in one direction. The people that are on the front lines are thinking about solutions to the problems that we do not even know exist. We have to engage their minds, their heart and their commitment to contribute to the organization or we are always going to be limited by what we know and what we can do. As a leader, if you are surrounded by people that cannot or will not tell the truth, your days of effectiveness are very numbered. We need to be transparent and we need to be vulnerable. We need to be honest when we communicate the information so that people can trust you. So we need to refuse to be secretive in our leadership. One of the biggest problem in a growing organization is that we tend to assume that people know everything. We should never assume. Communicate, communicate and communicate. The more they know the more they care.
Passive leaders produce disengaged followers. If there’s a problem everyone can see, but the leader doesn’t fix it, eventually the problem is not the real issue—it’s the leader. In other words, when a leader doesn’t address the problem, the problem is no longer the problem. The problem becomes the leader. If a leader doesn’t care, the team isn’t going to care and they will become disengaged. Acknowledging the problem is the first step to overcoming passivity. If you’ve been a passive leader, start by doing something. If you find yourself being more passive right now, it might be because you are discouraged, you feel overwhelmed, might be because you feel slightly helpless or might be because you don’t know what to do. But if you are a leader, you are the one capable of making changes. If you are not supposed to be the leader, I believe you would be replaced as a leader. As a leader, it is your job to make changes. It’s OK to admit I don’t know what to do, I am not even sure what step to take next? Acknowledging the problem is the first step to overcome passivity. Then start doing something about it. Doing nothing is worse than doing something. Once there is forward momentum, it’s easier to adjust a moving car than it is one just sitting still. An average plan is better than no plan.
Healthy leaders produce faithful followers. Instead of being unpredictable, a healthy leader has a clear vision. Instead of being domineering, a healthy leader listens and collaborates. Instead of being secretive, a healthy leader is transparent and trusting. Instead of being passive, a healthy leader is active. A healthy leader is engaged daily in the organization. If you work for a healthy leader, you’re going to want to follow, sacrifice, and give your best. The next type of leader, however, is a step beyond healthy.
Empowering leaders don’t just produce followers, they produce other great leaders. Empowering leaders are going to do all the things a healthy leader does, and then do more. Empowering leaders are not focused on themselves. Instead, they empower people with the ability to say ‘yes’ to opportunities and vision. If people deep within the organization have the ability to say ‘yes,’ you have an empowering culture. People often ask how do you get and keep great staff members? I say you don’t just get them, you build them. You don’t find them, you mould them. The way you keep them is by giving them significant leadership responsibilities. If you just tell them to do what I tell you to do, they are going to be followers. I always tell team members that as a leader you can have control or you can have growth, but you cannot have both. If we delegate tasks, we are actually creating followers. We are creating people that only know how to do what we have directly asked them to do. That’s why as leaders we don’t just delegate tasks, instead, we delegate authority. If we delegate tasks we are creating followers but if we delegate authority we are creating leaders. Listen, if you wonder why you don’t keep some of your great employees. I will tell you why you don’t keep some of them. Because you have not let them soar. You have been a lid on them. You have told them what to do but you haven’t given them the freedom to create. When they create they don’t always get it right. But they learn and get better. As leaders we are going to do is that we are going to make decisions that only we can make and we are going to delegate the other decisions deeper into the organization. The better you become as a leader the fewer decisions you make. Your favourite words should be: “I trust you.”, “I believe in you.”, “You decide.”
Remember you don’t have to know it all to be a great leader. Be yourself. Why, because people would rather follow a leader who is always real than one who is always right.
If you have a team, then gather them and ask these questions:
How unpredictable am I as a leader?
What are one or two things I can do to build trust with predictability?
Am I ever domineering? or How am I domineering?
What can I do to make sure everyone has a chance to offer their wisdom?
What are the 3 things that I could share that will help people feel valued and care more about our mission?
Ask them what do you not know that you want to know?
How deep into our organization have we empowered people to say yes?