Leadership is a marathon, not a sprint, and honestly the finish line can be hard to see.
An effective leader continues to tweak his approach and methods, adapting to the situation and the personalities of the individuals on his team. A leader’s development never ends.
Michael Brown, founder and principal consultant at Insight Leadership Group in Fayetteville, says the philosophy is best summed up by leadership coach and author Marshall Goldsmith in his book title “What Got You Here Won’t Get You There.”
There needs to be a willingness to continually develop oneself, to find the approach that best matches the individual or situation.
“I need to pay attention to how you’re wired up,” Brown says. “I need to pay attention to what your strengths are and how you pay attention to communication. Then I need to tweak that to match the moment to you. To bring the right strength to the moment.”
What got you here won’t get you there, but a few insights, Brown says, can keep “there” within reach.
Insight No. 1: Lead with selfless ambition
A leader must ensure the job is getting done, but that doesn’t mean doing everything and working until midnight because you don’t trust your team.
“That ruins your home life, stifles your professional development and diminishes the capability for your team to be there when you need them,” Brown says.
Leaders need to pay attention to their influence and their authentic connections and not feel like they have to walk on eggshells with anyone on the team.
A core strength is mastering the moment. It means knowing yourself, knowing your team and bringing the right behaviors to the right team member at the right moment.
Your previous manager might have loved your ambitious, clear directives with few details, and your people might have thrived on that at the time. But your new team, Brown says, might feel devalued and not know how to move forward with that type of leadership, and maybe they need a more methodical approach with parameters.
“It’s not about large, sweeping changes in our leadership,” Brown says. “It’s small, incremental shifts in our relationships.”
Insight No. 2: The right tool for the right job
There are times for a blunt instrument and there are times for finesse. Successful leaders work at finding which tool is which and knowing when to select the right one.
The Strength Deployment Inventory (SDI) 2.0 is an assessment tool that helps people learn their core strengths and explain why we behave and how we relate to each other.
“I believe that it is important to hone in on your strengths, however we also need to look at the reasons we might not be hitting the mark as leaders,” Brown says. “We have strengths we can develop and learn how to use, we just haven’t had to yet. Just because it makes us uncomfortable now doesn’t mean it won’t be one of our greatest strengths later.”
It’s not just about trying harder when things aren’t going well, Brown says.
“Shift gears, be more effective and master the moment,” he says.
Insight No. 3: Going deep
Think about what your values are, your voice and who you are at your core. The Insight Action Guide is a free tool that helps leaders find their voice and develop their vision framework.
What are you passionate about? What brings you the most fulfillment? Once you’ve done a deep dive you can begin to make decisions in a way that aligns with your mission, according to your values.
Brown recalls remarks by Arkansas Blue Cross Blue Shield CEO Curtis Barnett, who essentially said that employees take home how we treat them.
“What I say to an employee today impacts how they go home to their families that afternoon,” Brown says. “It is so important to lead through our values even under stress, not only for our personal health as leaders but for the people we have the opportunity to serve as leaders in order to love life at work and love life at home.”
One thing to avoid
Hard work is good, working harder, however, is not always the answer. Instead of hammering away when a challenge arises, staying late or demanding more, you might apply one of your other strengths, using finesse or having the trust in your team to delegate tasks.
Start small and go big, Brown says. Before you know it, you’ll have gotten from here to there.
“I don’t know where your ‘there’ is but my hope is when you get there you sleep well at night, you wake up at peace in the morning,” Brown says. “My hope is when you get there you love life at work and your life at home, and my hope is that who you set out to be before the pressure came is who you are under pressure.”