Throughout life, it’s common for people to rush headlong towards a goal and then once they get there be at a loss for what to do next. Finishing school, getting married or arriving at a vacation spot are, some examples. But perhaps there is no more sought after destination where the “now that I’m here what do I do?” anxiety takes hold than when one arrives at a new leadership position. Yes, despite all the striving to rise through the ranks and get into leadership (arriving at a place) all too many people once earning a leadership, position fail to act as leaders. They ambitiously seek leadership but then fail to shift from position to performance and actually lead. One reason people in leadership positions don’t lead effectively is that they never shed the baggage that comes with the position of leadership. It may sound odd to read that leadership comes with baggage, but it does. Plenty of it. One’s motives can become corrupt, insecurities can create anxiety, and you can become intoxicated with self-importance, arrogance and more. In fact, to convert “leadership” (position) to “lead” (performance), one must lose the “ership.” The “ership” is the baggage, and only after you’ve purged the baggage that comes with leadership can you lead effectively.
If you consider the “ership” as an acronym, then the baggage one must lose to move from a position to performance looks like this:
- Entitlement: In order to lead effectively a leader must focus less on what he is owed, than what he owes. He must prove himself over again each day and not attempt to substitute tenure, experience or credentials for results. Entitlement creates a “this company owes me” mindset that corrupts a leader and marginalizes the worth he brings to an organization.
- Rights: Immature leaders believe that leadership is about rights and perks rather than responsibilities and duty. However, to lead with integrity and inspire followers to higher performance levels, a leader must put what is best for the team ahead of his own ambition, he must commit himself to a cause and not commit the cause to himself. Lead by personal example versus personal convenience.
- Selfishness: To lead well, a leader must develop an abundance mindset, versus a scarcity mentality. He or she cannot afford to believe that if someone else gets something (a bigger budget, more resources or greater responsibilities) that it means theirs is less for them. A secure leader avoids turf wars because he understands that in a strong culture there will be just rewards and plenty to go around for everyone doing an outstanding job. Leading unselfishly also means that the leader stops focusing solely on how far they go and how much they get personally, and commits to bringing others across the finish line with them.
- Hypocrisy: A credible leader leads with integrity. His words and deeds are consistent. He or she walks their talk, even when it is not easy, cheap, popular or convenient. They are a living embodiment of company core values, and would never ask someone else to do something they would not do personally.
- Insecurity. Astute leaders understand that the key to becoming more powerful is not hoarding power, but is in giving it away to those in a better position to use it than they are. These secure leaders are not threatened by ideas that oppose their own, or by people who are smarter or more talented in areas than they. Their own strength of character, competence, consistency and commitment to personal growth helps creates an internal confidence that makes them secure in their abilities and position.
- Pride: Pride is the number one cause of management failure, and an inflated ego is the largest obstacle to growing one’s self or a team. Thus to lead effectively, wise leaders cultivate humility. Only humble leaders see their role as one that serves their team and finds ways to add value to them. Humble leaders seek out feedback, admit mistakes, give away credit, and shun the “been there done that,” know-it-all arrogance. On the other hand, humble leaders don’t confuse humility with timidity. While humility is a virtue, timidity is a disease. The humble are strong, the timid are doormats.
As someone in a leadership position begins to shed leadership’s baggage so that they can lead with strength, they move miles ahead of those who believe that a title makes them a leader, or that they’ve been somehow made more competent by virtue of a change in position. The leaders who give up baggage in order to grow up in leadership help convert subordinates into followers, jobs into causes and forecasts into campaigns.
Entitlement, rights, selfishness, hypocrisy, insecurity and pride. Audit yourself and then others on your team. Then determine how much of this baggage is weighing down your ability to lead well. Then resolve to step up and give it up so that you and the team can continue to grow up. And the sooner you do this the better, because make no mistake about it: your leadership baggage affects everyone’s journey.