Lead From Where You Are

Lead From Where You Are

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“People use the terms Management and Leadership interchangeably. This shows that they do not see the crucial difference between the two and the vital functions that each role plays.” – John Kotter


In general, there is a strong focus on Leadership at the start of an Entrepreneurs’ journey. Leadership is about being future directed and aligning action to an inspiring Vision. The roadmap of entrepreneurship starts with a great idea of a desired future state.

Unfortunately, and in general as the stressors related to a desire to perform or to preventing failure increases, the prevailing tendency is to over focus on the day to day operations at the expense of future direction.

Related: Women Who Lead: Bonnie Cooper And Esna Colyn On Wearing The Mantle Of Leadership

Your venture as an entrepreneur gradually becomes more and more exposed to the risk of becoming irrelevant when you over focus on day to day operations as you neglect to avail yourself of changes in the industry, developing a sustainable culture, and fail to offer an inspiring future direction and strategy to your team.

Leadership is not management. Both are needed to meet the ever challenging and changing business environment in which we operate. Most companies are over-managed and under-led resulting in a strong focus on analysis, performance management, the here and now, and less time spent on inspiring the workforce towards a desired future state.  For sustained success both Leadership and management is required but the focus should shift to strong Leadership to remain valid.

The visible proof of a team being over-managed and under-led usually is the result of a team being de-motivated by a constant focus on tasks and performance evaluations yet rarely being exposed to and engaged in a motivating and energetic environment.

Leadership is not a title or a position. By your actions, you either give a title meaning or by not living up to your title you take away the meaning of it. Having the title of CEO, COO, or whatever it may be does not imply that you are a leader, by your actions you demonstrate if you are worthy of your title and being called a leader or not.

The wrong internal dialogue, for example, “I cannot be a leader because I am just a cleaner”, or “I do not have the charisma to be a leader”, stunts your growth as a person and makes it impossible to lead. When a person comes to the realisation of the fact that anyone can lead irrespective of their position or title and acts accordingly, the wonderful journey to the actualisation of their potential has started.

Leadership is future directed towards a common and mutually desired Purpose and Vision. Leadership is the ability to create more leaders and inspiring them through your own actions as a Visionary.

Related: How To Be A Great Leader When Leadership Doesn’t Come Naturally To You

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The writer asks the reader to challenge the voice saying: “I cannot Lead” by asking: “Who told you so?” It is ourselves entertaining and then believing such negative talk, we are to blame. Leadership starts with a firm decision to be a leader followed by consistent action congruent with the term leadership.

Leadership and culture are two sides of the same coin. True Leaders spend a vast amount of time on creating a positively challenging environment wherein people feel worthy and validated and eager to face the challenges at hand.

What do the great leaders do? They create energy by inspiring others. They act bravely and venture outside of their comfort zones to show to others that it is possible to do so. They stay level headed in times of crises, and sincerely praises the team in times of peak performance.

True Leaders act with integrity according to the values of the company. They are excited by and cannot mention the Vision and values of their company enough.

Leaders tend to notice those “small wins” achieved, that collectively and over time can result in “big wins” and celebrate it. Visionaries are not afraid to ask for help or be mentored as they know that nobody can achieve something amazing and lasting totally by themselves.

Leaders never stop learning and growing. True leaders coach and mentor others in a sincere way and leave other leaders behind. When you act on the above you are a leader irrespective of your position.

Management in general is a focus on the daily operations of the business. Constantly analysing the key metrics of the business and aligning processes and the behaviour of the team to improve the results of the business. This is a very necessary function and cannot be underestimated. Even when a great leader is present but poor management processes and systems prevail, the leader will most likely fail.

Can you be a Manager and Leader at the same time? The answer depends on the situation but yes, it is possible to both be a Manager and Leader. Both Leaders and managers are as successful as their team members are successful.

Related: Sorbet’s Ian Fuhr: Servant Leadership Personified

The above is merely theory. The following is offered as practical steps to grow the leadership capabilities of team members.

  • Deliberately analyse your team members’ leadership capabilities and potential every quarter.
  • Create an internal Leadership training program or ensure that there are training opportunities to develop the Leadership capabilities within your team. Do extensive research on this and ensure that your team has access to high quality Leadership training, coaching and mentoring.
  • Make it your mission to find ways to inspire individual team members. This can be very challenging especially in larger organisations where people can easily become a number. Train your managers to find ways to inspire others.
  • Ensure that there is always an element of inspiration contained within meetings. What stops you from starting a meeting with a short yet very inspiring video? What stops you from sharing an inspiring story during a meeting?
  • Inspire others during your presentations with great story telling and true examples of great leadership behaviour.
  • Share your passion for the Vision and values of the company and behave accordingly.
  • Remove the sole focus on numbers in your company newsletters and start focussing on culture, inspirational success stories, and this great Vision that you hold so dear.
  • Always ask yourself after meetings- How did I make my team feel after this meeting? Before meetings always ask: “What can I say and do during this meeting to inspire my team?
  • Ensure that the day to day management of your business does not suffer due to an over focus on Leadership. At the same time ensure that your team does not become de-motivated by an over focus on management and lack of inspiration. Slowly but surely find this balance.

All the above should not be the final steps nor the only steps that could be employed to ensure a stronger and sustainable servant leadership culture. Your strategy and culture must be scrutinised regularly and the right questions must be asked to assess if you are on the right track.