I was given the honor of being the speaker for an event hosted by an organization that I joined in college.(Phi Sigma Pi Co-ed National Honor Fraternity) They asked me to speak about effective leadership, so I took the word LEAD and turned it into an acronym for what I know from experience and research are some key components to being a great leader.
When you hear the word leader you may automatically think of a manager, supervisor, or perhaps someone in a political role, but leaders come in all forms. Whether you are an older sibling, a parent, a mentor, a teacher, or even someone who is dedicated to community service you are in a leadership role. If none of those apply, you are still the leader in your life. So I asked the audience to close their eyes and visualize some of the greatest leaders that they had encountered in their lives. I want you to do the same. What was it about them that made them so dynamic? What did they do? How did they communicate with you?
Here is my take on it…
The “L” in LEAD stands for “Listen”. In order to be a great leader, you must be an even greater listener. This doesn’t just mean hearing with your ears, but it means actively listening with your entire being. You must listen with your eye contact and body language. You must use silence by resisting the urge to cut off, jump in, preach, judge and offers solutions. You must remember what is being said to you and restate and repeat it to the person that you are speaking to in order to make sure that you have a clear understanding. Most importantly, you must turn off your internal talk. Internal talk is our tendency to be thinking about what we are going to say next while the other person in the conversation is still talking which usually means that we are not actively listening.
The “E” in LEAD stands for “Encourage”. Research shows that simply praising people with empty phrases such as “Good Job” can actually be detrimental. I don’t know about you, but I am a recovering Praise Junkie. This means that I used to look to external factors such as approval of others to measure my value and worth. Well, if we think about it, we know that this is not a healthy practice. We must find our own value in what we do thus determining our own ideas about what is and is not a “good job”. Even though the term “good job” sounds positive, it is still a judgment. It is important for us to tap into our own intrinsic motivation which means that we must do things based on the inside out, not the external factors such as praise, rewards and validation from others.
If you want to be more encouraging to the people that you lead, it’s as simple as giving detailed and specific feedback, modeling good leadership qualities instead of just telling people what they should do, work side by side with those that you lead, and don’t push too much. Encourage those that you lead to do more, but know when it’s too much.
The “E” can also stand for engaging people in the process. Someone told me a great quote that illustrates this. “Leaders don’t create followers, they create more leaders.”
The “A” in LEAD stands for “Ask”. Show those that you lead that you genuinely care by asking them open ended questions and actively listening to the answers. An open ended question means that there is no right or wrong or yes or no answer. This taps into their intrinsic motivation because you get them to talking about themselves and what’s important to them. Closed ended questions end the conversation and can even be intimidating if a right or wrong answer is required. Taking the time to ask and listen to the answer of open ended questions shows that you are invested in those that you lead.
The “D” in LEAD stands for “Delegate”. Delegation means that you divide up tasks and give everyone meaningful roles and responsibilities with a clear goal. As much as we all feel like we are super heroes, the truth is that we can’t do it all alone. When you delegate a meaningful task to someone it shows that you trust them. While we are on the subject of trust, two other key components of that include integrity and transparency. Integrity means that you are honest and you keep your word. You do what you say you will do and you do it with the utmost excellence and quality. Transparency means that you are real. You don’t try to hide or cover things up and you’re not afraid to admit when you make mistakes.
The “D” can also stand for “Dynamic” because you have to have that personality or energy that draws people to you. At the same time it is important to make sure that you are being authentic and true to who you are.
An effective leader listens, encourages, asks meaningful questions and delegates dynamically. Are you leading your children, staff, significant other, or the people that you influence in this way? This week I challenge you pull one thing from this message and try it out. Since today is Valentine’s Day, perhaps you’ll ask your sweetheart an open ended question like, “What was the highlight of your day today and why?” After which you will actually stick around and actively listen to the answer.
Once you begin to apply these principles you will see that it will make your life easier and it will help you and the people around you to grow and become effective leaders too.