In your current leadership role, have you thought about how you’d like to be remembered once you move on to your next challenge? What is the legacy you will leave behind? Will it what you wanted, something to be proud of, or was it disappointing? Only you can decide what that should be and how you will determine how to achieve it.
Many leaders I’ve worked with had no specific goals for themselves or their team. They were busy dealing with the day-to-day, fire-fighting or working on projects and initiatives they’ve been given. Yet, all of them wanted to grow and had high aspirations. Unless you give time now to work on your future plans and strategy, it will just be a nice dream!
Not only you are going to be leading the change for your team, you will also be facing different personal challenges. You will be on a steep learning curve which needs you to maintain self-awareness and confidence to push forward. So, plan to regularly spend time to understand how you feel at each stage, what have been your successes, what hasn’t gone so well and can be learnt from.
Once you’ve give yourself a period of review and research, some goals and objectives will be obvious and some even urgent and some will need more time to establish. Ensure you build in the flexibility to learn as you go and longer term goals are directive rather than set in stone until confirmed as part of your strategy. Ensure goals are clear and measurable and tie into the medium and long-term vision that you decide you are working towards.
Only you can decide on what you want to be remembered for and whether that’s something you’ll regret or something you can be proud of. So, what do you need to do today, to achieve what you really want to be remembered for in the future?
If you wish others to remember you as a great leader when you are no longer there, here are a few things you must do every day:
Make others feel safe to speak-up
You must be able to deflect attention away from yourself and encourage others to voice their opinions. You must be an expert at making others feel safe to speak-up and confidently share their perspectives and points of view. You must use your executive presence to create an approachable environment.
You must be an expert decision maker. You either facilitate the dialogue to empower their followers to reach a strategic conclusion or you do it yourself. You focus on ‘making things happen’ at all times – decision making activities that sustain progress.
You are a great communicator and this is especially true when it comes to ‘performance expectations’. In doing so, you remind your followers of the organisation’s core values and mission statement – ensuring that your vision is properly translated and actionable objectives are properly executed.
Challenge followers to think
The most successful leaders understand their followers’ mind-sets, capabilities and areas for improvement. They use this knowledge/insight to challenge their teams to think and stretch them to reach for more. These types of leaders excel in keeping their people on their toes, never allowing them to get comfortable and enabling them with the tools to grow.
Be accountable to others
Successful leaders allow their followers to manage them. This doesn’t mean they are allowing others to control them – but rather becoming accountable to assure they are being proactive to their followers’ needs. Beyond just mentoring and sponsoring selected employees, being accountable to others is a sign that your leader is focused more on your success than just their own.
Lead by example
Leading by example sounds easy but a few leaders are consistent with this one. Successful leaders practice what they preach and are mindful of their actions. They know everyone is watching them and therefore are incredibly intuitive about detecting those who are observing their every move, waiting to detect a performance shortfall.
Measure and reward performance
Great leaders always have a strong ‘pulse’ on business performance and those people who are the performance champions. Not only do they review the numbers and measure performance ROI, they are active in acknowledging hard work and efforts (no matter the result). Successful leaders never take consistent performers for granted and are mindful of rewarding ‘them’.
Provide continuous feedback
Followers want their leaders to know that they are paying attention to them and they appreciate any insights along the way. Successful leaders always provide feedback and they welcome reciprocal feedback by creating trustworthy relationships with their followers. They understand the power of perspective and have learned the importance of feedback early on in their career as it has served them to enable workplace advancement.
Properly allocate and deploy talent
Successful leaders know their talent pool and how to use it. They are experts at activating the capabilities of their followers and knowing when to deploy their unique skill sets given the circumstances at hand.
Ask questions, seek counsel
Successful leaders ask questions and seek counsel all the time. From the outside, they appear to know-it-all – yet on the inside, they have a deep thirst for knowledge and constantly are on the look-out to learn new things because of their commitment to making themselves better through the wisdom of others.
Problem solve, avoid procrastination
Successful leaders tackle issues head-on and know how to discover the heart of the matter at hand. They don’t procrastinate and thus become incredibly proficient at problem solving; they learn from and don’t avoid uncomfortable circumstances (they welcome them). Getting ahead in life is about doing the things that most people don’t like doing.
Positive energy and attitude
Successful leaders create a positive and inspiring organisation culture. They know how to set the tone and bring an attitude that motivates their followers to take action. As such, they are likeable, respected and strong willed. They don’t allow failures to disrupt momentum.
Be a great teacher
Many subordinates in the workplace will tell you that their own leaders have stopped being teachers. Successful leaders never stop teaching because they are so self-motivated to learn themselves. They use teaching to keep their followers well-informed and knowledgeable through statistics, trends and other newsworthy items. Successful leaders take the time to mentor their followers and make the investment to sponsor those who have proven they are able and eager to advance.
Invest in relationships
Successful leaders don’t focus on protecting their domain – instead they expand it by investing in mutually beneficial relationships. Successful leaders associate themselves with ‘lifters and other leaders’ – the types of people that can broaden their sphere of influence. Not only for their own advancement but that of others.
Genuinely enjoy responsibilities
Successful leaders love being leaders – not for the sake of power but for the meaningful and purposeful impact they can create. When you have reached a senior level of leadership – it’s about your ability to serve others and this can’t be accomplished unless you genuinely enjoy what you do.
In the end, you, as a successful leader, should be able to sustain your success because such little things we discussed above would allow you to increase the value of your organisation’s goodwill – while at the same time minimize the operating risk profile.
(Lionel Wijesiri, a corporate director with over 25 years’ senior managerial experience, can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org)