Most new business leaders possess a general concept of how they plan to lead in a particular situation. However, as conditions evolve and new circumstances develop, many aspiring leaders discover that their plans don’t necessarily match their reality.
According to leadership team coach and author of “Navigating Chaos: How to Find Certainty in Uncertain Situations”, Jeff Boss, a large part of the leadership challenges evident in today’s professional landscape stem from the tendency to overanalyze what could happen, rather than addressing present issues. As Boss points out, the future is uncertain; therefore, if business leaders base their strategies solely on possibilities, they are not technically leading, but simply planning for contingency.
This certainly doesn’t mean that leaders should not consider the future, but rather than simply anticipating events, they should try gaining a clear visual of the future they want, and mold their plans around achieving it.
As a former Navy Seal, Boss learned a great deal about leadership, and continues to glean expertise through his role and research as an executive coach and author, respectively. Here, we tap into some of Boss’s most valuable leadership lessons.
Leadership, itself, is a choice among choices for leaders.
The act of being promoted, offered new responsibilities and/or decision-making powers doesn’t automatically make you a leader. As Boss confirms, “These are just tools designed to test you, to be added to your arsenal of potential should you accept the challenge, but they don’t inspire others to follow you.” To attain true leadership status, you must have made a choice that motivated and influenced your team. Leaders are relied upon to make the challenging decisions that others tend to shy away from.
Leadership is the solution (not the problem).
It’s common to hear blame placed on “poor leadership” when something goes wrong within an organization. While “toxic leaders” do exist, those who choose to complain without action may actually be compounding the problem. Rather than assuming HR will “fix” an ineffectual leader, team members and aspiring leaders who speak candidly during meetings, ask questions that warrant direct answers, and hold inadequate leaders accountable, are working toward a solution to the problem. “Poor leadership doesn’t exist because people are malicious, but because nobody has taken the time to develop people as leaders,” says Boss.
Leadership is difficult to gauge.
Most people have varying opinions on the definition of leadership; which makes it a difficult concept to measure in terms of quality. Business leadership can be broken down into five basic styles:
- Laissez-Faire (low supervision)
- Autocratic (total authority)
- Participative (value on team input)
- Transactional (goal-based)
- Transformational (high visibility)
While each style offers a legitimate approach to leadership, not every method will work in all situations. For example, a creative working environment with an autocratic leader could prove disastrous, while a sales department with a transactional leader may be just what the team needs to achieve their goals. The key is to know which leadership style works best in a particular environment. As Boss explains, “…leadership is neither good nor bad, but a tool that serves as a guide toward intention”.
Leading is not a solo job.
Many still hold on to the visual trope which depicts a business leader at the top of an organizational pyramid with his or her subordinates inhabiting various levels beneath. Yet, in circumstances of effective leadership, this model could not be further from the truth. Successful leaders know that positive outcomes are the result of a shared effort toward a collective goal. A budding entrepreneur enlists the advice, skills, and general expertise of others when building a new enterprise; therefore, it makes little sense to assume that the practice of consulting with those who have something valuable to offer should end once an organization has been established. “The point is,” says Boss, “smart leaders are smart because of the people they surround themselves with”.
Further Reading: “4 Leadership Lessons You Should Learn Early” by Jeff Boss
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