We get a lot of questions about people who work in toxic leadership environments. They ask what are they to do. They ask how can they be the leader they wish they had.
As Tim Denning states, “Leadership can seem as though a person must be born with the wings of an angel.”
But it’s actually a skill that can be developed by adopting some very simple habits.
Being the leader you wish you had means you commit yourself to the care and success of those around you. Remember, leadership has nothing to do with rank. Some people have very high positions in organizations, but they’re not leaders. They do have authority, which why people do as they tell them, but they do not follow them.
Leadership can happen at any rank. The choice you have to make is whether or not you want to be the leader.
Leadership comes with risks. If you speak the truth to somebody in power, you can get in trouble. If you’re the one who stands in between those in authority and the ones you work with, you might face friction from the ones above you. But if you want to, for instance, commit yourself to work late at times to help people, you’ll have to be strong enough to take those risks. That’s why not everyone wants to be a leader because it comes with real sacrifices and real risks.
But if you want to be that person, i.e. if you want to be the leader you wish you had, then look to your left and look to your right, then ask yourself, “How can I help these people to succeed?”
If you see somebody on your team struggling, ask them if they’re okay. Ask them if you can help. If you know that somebody doesn’t know how to do something, sit down and show them. Ask them if they want you to double-check their work.
A great way to build trust is not just by offering help, but also by asking for help. So one of the things you can do by being the leader is asking those around you to help. Let them feel like they are in power and give them a chance to help those around them. Over time, you will build a level of trust within your team, and they’ll begin to see you as the person who has their back. They will also get into the habit of asking others for help every time they are in trouble. This is called leading by example.
Darius Foroux once wrote, “You can only lead by example. There is no other effective way to inspire people.”
The amazing thing about acting as a leader is that you get used to it. It’s like a practice like any other skill. For example, when you’re learning to ride a bicycle, you have to practice to get good at it. When you practice being a leader, you get into the habit of considering the lives and concerns of others. For instance, if someone’s running for the elevator and the doors are closing, while you’re inside the elevator and running late for a meeting, instead of just letting the doors close, hold them open for that person. If you’re the last person to pour yourself a cup of coffee at the office, instead of putting the empty pot back, make another pot of coffee.
It’s the little things that can turn you into a leader. It’s when you consider the needs of the ones around you, sometimes even ahead of yourself. Be willing to sacrifice a little bit of your time and energy to help other people, and you’ll be able to develop the traits of the kind of leader you wish you had.
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