I don’t know what last year brought your way, but as the saying goes: all new beginnings are hopeful. I believe that’s true when it comes to leadership effectiveness as well. Wouldn’t this be a great year for some meaningful strides? If you haven’t thought much about it, I’d like to share some of my leadership themes for the new year.
Steven Sample shared this concept in his landmark book The Contrarian’s Guide to Leadership as an encouragement to resist making a critical thinking judgment sooner than necessary. It’s easy to draw conclusions quickly. We don’t like a certain business approach. We should allocate more money for a particular project. We may be right, but it’s often extremely valuable to postpone the judgment until later when possible – especially when we are in a new environment.
Be a “Kamerman” Teammate
I’ve never forgotten what FBI Executive Assistant Director Janet Kamerman told our consulting team several years ago. She said the FBI needed leaders who were “good at making other people look good.” If that’s good enough for the FBI, it’s good enough for me. I suppose you could call it a “Cliff Paul” teammate as well – being someone who looks to set a teammate up for a slam dunk whenever possible. That’s the kind of teammate I want to be because that’s the kind of teammate I want around me.
Value Personality Differences
I’ve worked with colleagues with near identical personality traits as mine as well as others who were strikingly different. The natural tendency is to assume that my “way” is always best. It’s not. Differences complement – and can add extra spice to relationships. But they also require patience.
Did you ever stop to think that people prefer to work with people they like? Guess what? In a large way you are responsible for your public image. The more you need to collaborate with others to get your job done, the more important it is. Don’t be the person who builds a lousy image and then expects others to partner with you.
I participated in a talent review once where the consensus on one leader was that he had an entitlement complex. He felt he deserved a promotion while management felt he needed more time to prove himself in his current role. Unfortunately, he didn’t make it with the company much longer. The sad thing was that he had the knowledge and skills to succeed. It was his attitude that held back. Make your contribution your #1 concern.
When was the last time you did something for the first time? As a young professional, everything is new. But as we gain experience, we start to operate from habit rather than creativity. It’s extremely self-limiting. I’m challenging myself to try to learn and grow (not just my skills but also my capacity) as much in the next five years as I have in the past five – but it will require a focused learner’s mindset.
It’s easy to get so busy with our agenda that we forget why we even lead. I’ve had to stop many times to remind myself that I serve at the pleasure of the people writing my paycheck and work for the good of my internal and external customers. If what I produce doesn’t work for them, it shouldn’t work for me either. Leading and serving ought to go hand in hand.
Humble + Hungry
You’ve probably been encouraged to “stay humble and hungry” a time or two. Sometimes it’s hard to balance ambition and contentment, but this theme seems to fit right in the middle of the two. Be humble enough to put others first and hungry enough to put yourself out there.
Perspective is a powerful tool. Sometimes I have to pinch myself to realize how good I have it – a sentiment that is often lost in the long meetings and complicated project planning. That’s why the discipline of gratitude is so important. I’m truly blessed – and so are you.
Blessings in the new year!
Nathan Magnuson is a leadership consultant, coach, trainer and thought leader. Receive his new ebook Trusted Leadership Advisor by subscribing to his website or follow him on Twitter.