So, you say you’re a leader
Observances on leadership from someone who’s been in the creative business a wee bit of time
At what point do we feel successful enough to inspire, to lead others well? Is there a magical age we tack onto the image of a leader in our minds? Oh yeh, he’s getting to that age. He’ll be 40 soon. Or maybe it’s a particular level of skill- she’ll be able to lead when she can do this, or this, or this. Of course, both of those things (maturity and skill level) are relevant and absolutely useful, but they aren’t what make for a great leader.
I’ve witnessed the remarkable in an office where neither team members nor leadership have surpassed 30 years of age.
Our team is full of leaders. Some are given a title, and some have simply decided they’re going to spend their days in the office with intentionality. In many cases, it’s both. But the thing is, I don’t care— all I know is I want to follow them.
I was recently stirred by wise words of a client of ours,
“The best leaders are those that people naturally want to follow.”
So, what makes someone naturally want to follow? From my limited, yet telling experience, it’s two things.
As a leader, believe first in yourself, and then those around you.
1. Believe in yourself
Age old advice still holds true. As a leader, confidence is your most valuable weapon. If you’re struggling with this, it might be time to practice the visualize-and-it-will-be-so approach. Many recent studies have confirmed the idea that the way we talk to and visualize ourselves internally is exceptionally powerful. If you habitually criticize yourself with a torrent of “How could you have done this? You’re such a screw up!”, you’ll never believe yourself equipped to lead others.
Next time something goes wrong, be kind to yourself. Or if you’re going into a stressful situation, take a few deep breaths, and visualize yourself carrying out the task with ease. Outer battles (doing great work for a client, working with team members) are no more than a manifestation of the inner war on confidence. Believe in your ability as a leader, and others will do the same.
2. Believe in those around you
So, now you’ve mastered confidence in yourself. The voice inside your head is like an old friend or your sweet grandma baking cookies filled with encouragement. No more abusive yelling, or shoving you hard against a wall. That’s better.
All that’s left is a genuine belief in the team around you- in their ability and desire to do well. Equipping team members from a place of confidence goes a hundred miles, truly. When team members feel you rooting for them, they’ll do great work on a regular basis.
Things that tend to happen when leaders do those two things well:
Feedback (whether good or bad) is gladly received; even welcomed.
The stressful days aren’t all that stressful.
9–5 becomes warm with feeling and excitement.
Team members work longer, and complain less.
The quality of work steadily increases without pointed request.
Team members’ perspectives shift from follow well to lead well.
And so, the cycle’s begun and we “young ones” want to lead… Believe in yourself, believe in others…