I met with someone recently and as I explained to him what I did and why developing effective leaders is critical for a company's success, he asked me, “well isn’t leadership easy?” I stopped to think about that and the answer I gave him was “I think leadership is simple but not easy.”
Let’s first start with the two words. Although the words are used synonymously, they don’t have the exact same meaning. When something is described as simple, it usually means it’s not complex and is understandable. While something that is easy usually means it doesn’t require a lot of effort.
Let’s look at an example. I recently decided I wanted to lose the few pounds that I’ve put on over the past year. This means I need to diet. I know that dieting means I need to watch what I eat and exercise. Simple right? But as those of you who have tried to lose weight or change your eating habits know, it’s not always easy. It takes diligence and commitment. Even though I know what I need to do, I need something to help hold me accountable which is why I’ve downloaded a food-tracking app.
So back to leadership and why I believe it’s simple but not easy. Just like a lot of things in life, we know the right thing to do, but we’re human. We have habits and skills that we have developed over the years and some of them do not line up with being a good leader. While leadership does appear to come easy for some, those people described as natural leaders, they are probably an exception. Most of us need to consciously work at it.
So what are some things you can do? Here are a few simple ideas.
Lead by Example
Are you a roll up your sleeves type of leader? Are you wiling to do anything you ask someone else to do, assuming you know how? Always telling, directing, and flaunting your title without contributing might be something you strove for after being a “doer” for so many years, but someone who leads by example will earn credibility faster and maintain it longer.
Leading by example also means modeling how to treat people. The golden rule your mother taught you applies to business. It doesn’t cost you anything to be kind, warm, and available to your colleagues.
One of the topics I speak on is how generosity isn’t just for the holidays. Why should we think about being generous only when holidays role around? Generosity doesn't necessarily mean giving something tangible. You can be generous with your words by publicly supporting and encouraging people. Even better, you can be generous with your time, which is something you’ll never get back. So help someone, mentor others, and give them your undivided attention when warranted.
Do What You Say You Will
If you say you’re going to look into something, get an answer or do something for someone, do it. Not following through on your commitments is the quickest way to erode trust.
I’ve been coaching a senior leader who understands this after learning it the hard way. Her CEO has a habit of changing his mind after decisions have been made. She started implementing some of these decisions with her team, only to have to walk them back a few weeks later when the CEO changed his mind. She learned that for her credibility, and for the credibility of the entire senior team, she doesn’t make changes that will impact her team until it is 100% sure it won’t be changed. This decision has done wonders for building trust with others.
These are just a few simple things to make leadership easier for you.