Having been around many successful leaders in the military, in business, and being one myself, I am often asked by people how they can lead successfully. This triggers a rather lively discussion with questions such as, “Is it a particular leadership style?” or “Is it a particular skill set?”
In my experience, I’ve noticed successful leaders can vary dramatically. Some were authoritative, command and control types. Others were focused on collaborating with those they lead. Some had a high level of knowledge or expertise that helped them become successful. Others didn’t have a particular skill that set them apart, but they were charismatic and their colleagues were drawn to them. So to me, it’s not about a particular style or having a particular set of knowledge or skills.
When thinking about successful leadership, I naturally also thought about unsuccessful leaders. For me, something that is universal about the traditional hierarchy is that they “lead from their title.” When I think about titles, their purpose should be to define a person’s position in an organization, their compensation, and some perks they may receive. A title should not be used as a source of power, affect how you treat people, and ultimately, how you lead. Leading from your title may get people to do things, but they will never reach their maximum potential because they’re focused on staying in line.
Understanding how you view titles and leadership is crucial. When I think about leadership, it always comes back to the question, “If they take away your title, will they follow you?” The answer I come back to is, “If you’re an authentic leader, then yes they will.”
What I mean by being authentic is remaining true to who you are. People can tell if you’re being authentic. Just as leading from their title is often a trait of unsuccessful leaders, authenticity is a common characteristic of successful leaders. As an authentic leader, people will follow you out of respect. Even if you make a decision they may not like, they’ll still follow you and do their best, because they’ll believe your decision comes from an honest place.
To me, authenticity is why coach centric leaders are successful. Coaching starts by focusing on your core, or who you are. If a person leads from their core, their values are intact. Their focus is not clouded by a selfish need for attention, praise, or the limelight. In addition, authenticity allows you to develop the individual leadership style you’re most comfortable with, because that style reflects who you are. By leading from their core, not their title, coach centric leaders use their authenticity to motivate and inspire others to maximize their potential.
So, for anyone wondering how they can lead successfully, the first question you may want to ask yourself is, “If they take away your title…will they follow you?”
Managing Partner, Corporate Engagement Services
Institute for Professional Excellence in Coaching (iPEC)