January 11, 2012 at 3:34 pm #149250
A first in a new series of discussions on what leadership means at different levels in an organization. These discussions are based loosely on the structure provided by The Leadership Pipeline: How to Build a Leadership Powered Company, other GovLoop discussions like “What is the Role of a Leader in Government?,” and a sprinkle of personal experience.
“Every good leader must first learn to be a good follower.“
I didn’t make up this quote and I don’t know who did, but I do know there’s wisdom in these words. The question is – what does this mean?
We all have to learn to manage ourselves before we are able to manage anyone else. This is a core level of leadership that doesn’t get a lot of play in the context of Leadership. It’s usually billed as time management, self discipline, diplomacy, dressing for success – and a bunch of other personal “self-help” labels. However, it is possibly the most important level to master for anyone wishing to be a leader – and therefore, it is a critical level of leadership in itself. It never goes away!
For convenience, we might talk about this level of leadership in terms of three perspectives:
- Skills needed – new capabilities required to do this job well
- Time Management – the way we use time once we master this level
- Values – The things we believe are important at this level of leadership
What have you learned/ do you struggle with in the context of mastering your Self?
- What tips or advice can you share that worked well for you?
- What story can you tell that might help others understand Self-mastery and/or the importance of this as you climb the leadership ladder?
- If you feel brave – what about Self-mastery do you still struggle with? (Note: You’re not alone!)
January 11, 2012 at 5:56 pm #149262
Interesting questions and probably more than just a discussion box. I tell my kids and others who seem to need guidance – if you are not comfortable with yourself, you will never be comfortable in other relationships; that includes personal and professional relationships. If you cannot manage your own life, time management, finances, work/self-balance, etc. you will always be like Sisyphus pushing that rock up that mountain.
I learned as a 2LT to be early for meetings, early on deadlines and anticipate requirements. You only get locked out of one meeting with the Battalion Commander for showing up ten minutes late. My other guidance is make all the mistakes at the level you are at once and learn from them. You can’t make GS7 mistakes as a GS9, etc. There are plenty of mistakes to be made in life, don’t waste time repeating them.
I still struggle with owning the solutions to every problem that comes up. It took me a very long time to learn when to say no to some problems. Taking on everything means you eventually can’t do anything well. Learn what you can effectively manage and accomplish, then say no to the rest. Let them become someone else’s opportunity to excel!
Hope this gets the discussion started!
January 12, 2012 at 2:48 am #149260
Advice-writing on smartphone so brief:
stick to the structure
give other people control
ask for negative feedback specifically
laugh at yourself as you inevitably make mistakes-admit it and go on
do not reinvent the wheel
look to others to contribute their unique skills
encourage the shy
teach technology actively and avidly
be a champion and advocate for people
communicate your passion for the cause
find others who can package your ideas for the mainstream
be sensitive to others’ need to be respected
thank people often
and finally…understand that God is ultimately behind everything. You can only do your part. (if you don’t believe in God then surrender ultimate control to the universe.
We are only human and can only try.
What do I struggle with? Some days it feels like everything!
Seriously – I move fast and have to calibrate with those around me. Too fast is not manageable for most people.
January 13, 2012 at 5:09 pm #149258
I definitely agree with the quote you’ve provided, especially in a new workplace or professional setting. There is, however, a difference between being timid/afraid to approach projects with confidence and understanding the corporate structure before risk taking. It definitely helps to know your environment and develop credibility before conquering the world, but good first impressions and a smile also go a long way as well. Being too timid can lead to a poor first-impression.
January 13, 2012 at 7:04 pm #149256
It sounds like – despite your climb up the leadership ladder – you’re still paying attention to that personal foundation. You mention your kids & the fact that you’re now helping others to focus on it too. Awesome!
January 13, 2012 at 7:18 pm #149254
I agree that there is a difference. I hope this discussion didn’t leave you with the impression that being a good follower is synonymous with being timid. In fact, I would argue the contrary.
I come from a military background. In the service, we all learn to follow orders – even if sometimes following an order leads to great personal sacrifice. Ever try calling a Marine timid? lol 😉
Beyond the somewhat obvious military example, I would suggest that it often takes great personal strength to follow well – even when we’re leading. Recognizing that there are many ways to skin the same cat and giving someone else my full support to carry out a task when it’s being done differently than the way I would do it – comes with the territory of delegation. When we delegate as leaders, we often have to follow the lead of the ones we put in charge of an area of responsibility.
Following never goes away no matter how far up the ladder we climb. Even the President of the United States follows… Following well makes us better leaders.
January 13, 2012 at 8:08 pm #149252
Ah no definitely not. Actually in my original post I pointed out that following isn’t a bad thing and differentiated it from “timid”, but I decided to streamline it because the sentence structure wasn’t acceptable to me lol. Every good leader listens and takes criticism, ever worked with someone who can’t? Being able to listen to those you lead and take their ideas into account breeds creativity and progress.
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