The 3 Dysfunctions of Building Leaders


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The BIG “L” Word
(Leadership that is).

Leader & Followers

Just because you have the word leader or manager in your title or job description does NOT make you a LEADER.

A manager’s job is to plan, organize and coordinate work versus a leader who inspires and motivates. You become a leader because people CHOOSE to follow you. Notice the word choose.

They choose to be lead by you, be developed and work those extra discretionary hours if you ask. Many people have to follow their managers but a leader and a manager are 2 different breeds. Leaders inspire. Managers guide and direct work.

Leadership: Love or Hate it?

Some people are natural leaders. Many are not. Many individuals struggle with the shift from being an individual contributor to leading others.

My Story: Leadership = Love it!

My favorite part of my job is leading or influencing others. Over a year ago, I made a career shift from leading a 40+ person team to working in a small oil and gas company. When first joining, I was an individual contributor and had no direct reports. At first, I was shocked at how free my calendar was! I didn’t have 7+ direct reports to meet with on a weekly basis, plus team meetings, plus managing strategy or conflict within a large team.

I thrived in managing my own calendar and own work but then a few weeks in, I realized I missed being a leader. I missed having those mentorship meetings, setting goals, giving feedback, and helping grow someone’s career.

As my new role grew, so did my influence, and so did my team. I’m back to a balance of leading others and doing individual contributor work – and I love it.

I’ve also expanded my personal definition of leadership from managing others to also being an influencer with others leaders. I manage only 1 direct report but I help shape leaders across the organization on a daily basis.

My experience taught me some key tips about promoting & growing leaders:

The 3 Dysfunctions of Building Leaders:

1. Don’t Force Employees into Leadership

  • Understand what they like about their role – is it the technical work or is it mentoring/interacting with others?
  • Protip:

    Don’t fall into the assumption that the only way for employee’s to grow is through manager roles. Create specialist and leadership career paths. Help employee’s self identify the path that is best for them. Build your business model to support both paths if possible.

    2. Don’t Assume a Standard Definition of Leadership

  • Create competencies (with observable/demonstration-able traits) of being a leader at your organization. Potentially create multiple competency lists if you have multiple levels or leaders in your organization (i.e.: Supervisor, Manager, Director, VP etc)
  • Train senior leaders to give feedback to their direct reports who manage people based on these competencies (i.e.: Communication, mentorship, etc )
  • Ensure that senior leaders collect feedback from a supervisor’s direct reports to ensure the leadership competencies are being demonstrated both UP and DOWN.
  • Protip:

    Just because someone was a leader at another company does not necessarily mean they fit your leadership model. Interview against your competencies & reference check like crazy to make sure they fit your vision.

    3. Don’t Assume Employees are Natural Leaders

  • Give employees training to support the transition
  • Give them regular feedback
  • Protip:

    Ensure senior leaders (especially those managing new leaders) are modeling strong leadership traits

    By understanding these 3 dysfunctions, you can conquer poor leadership in your organization.

    Employees don’t quit companies, they quit leaders.
    A poor supervisor is the #1 reason employee’s leave organizations.

    Anyone can call themselves a leader; however, they need people who want to follow them for the title to actually be true.

    Leadership Proof = In The Followers :

    To demonstrate my point, I love the below Ted.com talk by Derek Sivers for emphasizing the importance of followers in creating leaders. Though the talk focuses on creating movements, I love the message about the importance of followers.

    “The first follower is what transforms a lone nut into a leader.”

    Watch it HERE:Leadership & Followers in Creating Movements

    Create a movement in your organization of awesome leaders!

    Your Tales of Leadership :

    I would love to hear examples of great or not-so-great leadership and how they shaped YOU as a leader below.

    Chelsea Newton
    Chelsea is known as a dynamic and engaging talent consultant and professional speaker. As a Certified Executive Coach, she is extremely passionate about helping people realize both their goals and full potential. Chelsea has worked in 12 countries around the world helping Fortune 500 companies recruit, train, develop, and motivate top talent using cutting edge communication techniques and social media. She is currently developing top talent in the oil sands and speaking across Canada as the founder of Talent Formula.

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    • Danica

      Love these two points “You become a leader because people CHOOSE to follow you” and “Just because you have the word leader or manager in your title or job description does NOT make you a LEADER.” ……. Solid article!

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