Leadership training focuses on a variety of skills; communication, influencing change, coaching, building teams, stimulating collaboration and innovation, attaining goals and much more. Building these skills is important; which is one reason why so much time and money is invested in these efforts.
We have been proudly helping leaders and organizations build these skills for many years. It is the leader’s role to build these skills, but in order to build them successfully, they must first recognize an important fact:
Leadership isn’t about you.
Leadership isn’t really about the leader at all; it is about the people they are leading.
Leadership is About Others
Look at the list of skills I listed above. In each of these, the others involved are critical to success. Here are just three examples:
- The best communicators know that it isn’t just about what they communicate, but about ensuring that the other party receives the intended message.
- We know that we really can’t make people change, we need to help them see the need for the change themselves.
- While there are skills that will help us coach more effectively, they are all focused on the other person – it is the other person who will choose to make any changes after all.
Fundamentally if there are no “others”, there is no leader. Who would be following? For this reason, we must always remember that we are leading in the service of other people, always striving to have them choose to follow us.
There is something else important in the leader’s existence that also is outside of themselves . . .
Leadership is About the Outcome
Where are you leading people? What is your destination? Without a clear answer to those questions, what, exactly, is your purpose for leading?
Fact: the status quo requires no leadership.
Leadership is only required when there is a destination that is valuable and a distinctly different place than where we currently are.
As leaders, we have a responsibility to help define, describe and create the picture of the destination; to help people consistently and constantly see that picture; and to recognize that is our role. You can call it mission, vision, goals or objectives; regardless of your word choice, as leaders, our job is to move people towards that valuable and desirable place. We are called to use our skills to the best of our ability to help the team/group/organization we are leading reach those outcomes.
What About Our Ego?
Put in short – leadership isn’t about you; it’s about others and important outcomes. When you put it that way, there doesn’t seem like there is much room for our ego. . . which isn’t exactly true.
To be an effective leader (at helping others reach valued outcomes), we must be strong and have confidence. I have written about confidence often in the past including this. We do have a role to play in making all of this happen and we need a healthy self-image and ego to do that. Where ego gets in the way is when we make our focus inward and make the success of the team about us, our will, our skills and more.
No one wants to follow the leader with the inflated ego, but we all want to follow someone with confidence. And when that confidence is reflected on us and the goals in front of us, expect greater success for everyone.
Perhaps the great paradox of the work we do is that we must help leaders improve their skills while not making all of the effort, focus and attention be on themselves.