Being an influential leader means that you have the ability to enable others to reach their greatest peak of influence as well. For many leaders this idea produces mixed results. New leaders do not want to give over control to staff members, insecure leaders fear that a team member may exceed them in knowledge and abilities and authoritative leaders take on the burden of every decision and action until they are exhausted. Influential leaders realize that leadership is not a position, it is an earned title awarded only to those who lead through the brilliance and strengths of their people.
The book, The Leadership Pipeline, discusses the growth process for new leaders. Many leaders believe that when they are promoted they are given the gift of greater power and freedom. The opposite is true, a title does not make people follow you and without good leadership skills leading can be hard, like pushing a boulder up a hill.
Leaders who decide to become a person that others want to follow find leadership a much easier journey. It is build upon an environment of distributed work, accountability and collaboration. Think of a mentor or coach you once had, did they lead with authority or did they cheer you on, watch you grow and inspire you to be at your personal best?
The greatest gift a manager can give to themselves and their staff is to give them the power to stretch and grow and to reach their fullest potential even if it means exceeding that of their leader. So how to do you empower others to reach their full potential?
1. Know your people, know their baseline of knowledge, skills and abilities, strengths and desires.
Not every employee is going to mirror your talents and abilities, instead recognize the talents and strengths that they have to offer and think of how to leverage them to maximize their potential. Identify gaps in their personal and professional develop and together develop a plan to meet those gaps. Really look at the gaps you have identified. Are they truly gaps in your employees performance abilities or have you identified a gap that simply shows the difference in your abilities and theirs?
Remember you were promoted to manager, they were not, and therefore it is not unusual that your staff members do not have the same abilities as you did prior to your promotion. Instead identify what skills, abilities and knowledge they need to do their job well (and to feel personally satisfied) and develop those skills and abilities. Also know that as you develop your people and one step removed from learning current technologies yourself that your staff members may indeed exceed your abilities. Don't be threatened by this, instead pride yourself on helping them to succeed.
2. Know that it is your job to empower your staff members.
Is an employee falling short in performance? How are you reacting as their manager? Feeling ready to fire an employee or tired of their lack of compliance? As an influential manager you also care about the well being of the organization you serve. Did you know that the cost of hiring and training a new employee far surpasses the cost and time of offering to modify the performance of an existing team member? In today's economy is this something you can afford? Remember why you took the leadership role in the first place, to create success in the organization through the work of your people. If someone is not performing, don't put them down further by complaining about them or threatening to fire them. Anxiety and negatively never builds good performance. Instead focus on what is working well, allow them to use their strengths while they are learning to modify the skills needed to excel in performance. Reward them for positive actions, let them know you support them through the learning. Most parents would not raise children to adulthood if given the option of discarding them for poor behaviors at any time, commit yourself to the role of leader as you would of that of a parent with patient guidance, direction reinforced with positive regard.
3. Give your team member permission to succeed in their unique style.
Most employees interact with customers in some manner. Many are successful due to their personal integrity, others due to their ability to strengthen relationships and rapport, still others due to their technical expertise. You want your customers to be happy, does it really matter how that occurs? Enjoy the uniqueness of your staff members and the gifts they personally have to offer. Recognize them in front of others. Model recognition and praise so your team members embrace using this skill with others as well. Inspired enthusiasm is contagious, let is spread like a virus from employee to employee and to your customers and industry. Let your team members know they work for a company that allows them to be authentic.
4. Model being a cheerleader.
Become a cheerleader, enforce their success though verbal praise and recognition. Yes when it comes down to it we are as simple as Pavlov's dogs, we will always work toward the prize.
Without permission to succeed in their way and without recognition you will simply drain the excitement, commitment and joy from your team members, making your job harder. Isn't it easier to praise briefly than to spend meeting after meeting trying to serve as an enforcer only to end up dismissing an employee you spent months trying to modify? What happens to the moral of others? An entire team can be brought down by the lack of support of one of its team members. When you model helping an employee to be successful other team members emulate this behavior as well and together they each support one another's success.
5. Hand over the authority wand.
Management expert Peter Drucker asserted "No executive has ever suffered because his subordinates were strong and effective." People become strong when given the opportunity to make decisions to initiate action and to solve problems. The Boeing 777 was developed with 2000 Boeing employees were placed in an airplane hanger and asked to identify what the company should do next. Teams work better together when they get to decide what good performance looks like and identify specific goals and actions and measurement to access their success. Treat your team members as adults and use their collective intelligence to allow them to make decisions that best serve the interests of the organization. Make life easier on yourself, leading does not mean you have to manage it all, hand over the authority wand and see the magic happen.
6. Allow others to lead.
Leadership is not a title or a place where you sit. Leadership takes place at all levels. Employee engagement raises radically when staff members are allowed to lead in place. Have a team member who is a bit more opinionated than others, that can somehow gain the alliance of the remaining team quickly and easily? Feeling like a mutiny may occur and wish this person would just sit quickly and listen to your authority? Why not use the abilities of this leader to delegate, challenge and motivate your team. Leaders bubble up to the top from all areas, allow them to lead from where they are and not only will their performance excel but they will also positively impact those that follow.
A position does not make for a leader, having people that follow because they want to follow makes for an influential leader. Activate these six strategies to empower your people and you will find that you are a sought after leader, mentor and guide who not only positively impacts your organization but is influential in expanding the lives, confidence and abilities of the people you serve. Now doesn't that feel better?