Conventional thinking would have you believe you need a title to be considered a leader. Conventional thinking is wrong. A title doesn't make a leader; your actions do.
In my book, Building the Best, I define a leader as:
"Someone whose actions inspire, empower, and serve in order to elevate others."
People who live out this definition don't wait for a title -- and acting this way isn't reserved for the select few. All you have to do is make the choice to lead, because when your actions inspire, empower, and serve others, not only will the performance of the people increase, your own performance will too.
There’s a substantial difference between the title of “manager” and the actions of a leader; one is vastly more important than the other in today’s business environment. Therein is why many of the primary roles of a manager can be or will be automated and replaced by technology over time. On the other hand, there has never been a more important time in our history to be a leader.
Here is the problem. Most people lack the self-awareness to know whether they’re a leader or a manager, either because their team doesn’t tell them or they choose not to believe when the clues should be obvious.
There are powerful tools and strategies that can be used to improve self-awareness, like a 360° assessment or interviews with team members. While those are powerful and effective methods, there is a simple way that can expose the answer much quicker.
What would be your team members’ answer if asked the question, “Do you love the person you work for?”
If you want the answer to this question to be a resounding “yes,” what’s required, is for you to choose to lead by making decisions that contribute to their long term success and wellbeing. Instead of making it complicated, there are a few small tactical ideas to help:
If you are like most professionals you make “to-do” lists each day to ensure you get the right tasks accomplished. While there is nothing wrong with these lists, there is a different kind of list I want you to make.
During an interview with hall of fame speaker Simon T Bailey, he talked about the idea of creating a “to-be” lists for any manager struggling to lead. The purpose of “to-be” list is to remind you to live out the wise words of Grace Murray Hopper, "you manage things; you lead people."
In order to create a “to be” list, open Evernote, or grab a piece of paper and write down the following and then challenge yourself to accomplish them:
The first great leader I ever worked for did something unusual that made me love working for him. He constantly challenged me. He knew I was capable of more than I was accomplishing at the time. By challenging me to raise my game, he showed me he cared about me.
Challenging people is so important because it’s human nature to only stretch ourselves to the point where we feel discomfort. Often it takes someone challenging us to go further or reach higher for it to become a reality.
Here is the key, having solid relationships and a strong bond of mutual trust is critical for you to challenge them in order to get a positive response.
If you love your people, then don’t be afraid to challenge them. Eventually, they will love you back for it.
I have written and often speak about Growth20, which is committing to 20 minutes a day to grow your mind and skills. In an interview, Simon T. Bailey described exactly why this is so important from a leadership perspective.
Getting in the habit of making a “to-be” list, challenging your team, and practicing Growth 20 won’t be easy. In fact, it will be hard. But without hard work, nothing thrives.
You’re in your position to lead and not manage. It’s my hope by implementing some of these ideas when I ask your team, “do you love the person you work for?” their answer would be a resounding “yes.”
John is the CEO of LearnLoft, author of, F.M.L. Standing Out & Being a Leader and host of the 'Follow My Lead' Podcast. He writes or has been featured on Inc.com, LinkedIn Pulse, TrainingIndustry.com, eLearningIndustry.com, CNBC Money, and more. John completed his education at the University of Maryland College.