In many ways the current beliefs and thinking around leadership seem amazing compared to the leadership beliefs of prior generations.
No longer does it feel like leaders have to rule with an iron fist, not care about the people being lead, or are afraid to show vulnerability in front of those people.
Instead it is encouraged to be a servant leader, to be committed to the development of people, and to try and create more leaders, not more followers.
In spite of all of this, being a leader today can feel almost impossible because it seems like you are being pulled in two widely different directions. On one hand, many executives in the c-suite expect immediate results and have the mindset of profit over people because they have shareholders and quarterly earning expectations to make. So their first line leadership team must get results and make an impact quickly or they are deemed a failure. On the other hand, you have to play the long game; with your primary focus being the people you lead. Not to mention you must cater to the range of different generations and display the leadership styles that each individual on the team needs to perform their best. It puts modern professional leaders in a difficult situation and it’s hard to know which is the right path to follow.
A recent survey showed that there are roughly 2 Million new employees promoted into leadership roles in organizations every year. Consequently, 60% of them fail. Meaning 1.2M people fail at leadership every year. It’s astounding to think about and the effects are enormous:
- Loss of confidence
- Lack of work fulfillment
- Eroding workplace culture
The list could go on and on, so here are some things you can do to avoid becoming a statistic in the failure column:
Learn From Others, But Be Authentic
A couple of years ago, I interviewed SAP CEO, Bill McDermott on the Follow My Lead Podcast and he said something interesting. “At the end of the day leaders have to be authentic and the only way to do that is to learn from other great leaders and make those lessons your own.” Regardless of what the leader above you is telling you about hitting numbers, making cuts, or giving up on a person early in their journey, you have to do it your way. Make bets on people that you believe will create long term growth, success, and improve your culture.
Invest in Your Development
Don’t wait for the next corporate leadership training initiative or pass another bookstore without picking up a leadership book. Professionals are in the golden age of education. Every day we create as much information as the world did from the dawn of civilization until 2003. To put this in perspective, blog writers post 1,400 blogs and YouTube users upload 72 hours of content a minute. Yes, I said A MINUTE. Online programs, MOOCS, books, podcasts; the amount of valuable content is literally limitless. If you are reading this you are on your way but don't stop at reading a blog while you are at work. You get to decide whether to waste time watching a mindless TV show when you get home or invest in your development. As Tony Robbins famously said, "There are only two options: make progress or make excuses."
Get Really Good at Thinking of Others
When you look at a picture on Facebook or Instagram, who is the first person you see? Nearly 100% of the time it’s yourself. We are hardwired to think of ourselves and our own self interest first, but it doesn’t have to stay that way. You can train yourself to think of others first and put your own self interests to the side. I don’t pretend this is easy, but in order effectively lead, you absolutely have to think about your team first and yourself second.
You will never be a perfect leader because leadership isn’t a destination, it’s a journey. You will fail more than you succeed, but what’s most important is you understand that being a modern leader is hard. Through work, self discipline, and authenticity, you will provide yourself the best opportunity to be successful.
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John Eades is the President of LearnLoft and Host of the Follow My Lead Podcast. He is passionate about the development of people. He writes, and speaks about modern leadership and learning techniques. You can find him on instagram @johngeades.