Best known for his internationally best-selling book The 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership, author and leadership expert John Maxwell writes that your leadership ability is the lid on your level of effectiveness and success. To reach a higher level of effectiveness, you have to raise your leadership lid.
Successful people are those who can lead others along the journey of life, but equally so are those that are willing to lead themselves. No one is successful without sometimes taking bold new chances and betting on themselves. If we aren’t willing to go on a bold new path once in a while we will end up just blindly following others instead of carving out our own unique path.
Being a leader isn’t always the easiest thing. Leadership can be a prestigious title, but it’s more important to be aware that there needs to be action. In order to be an effective leader you must act – and that means bringing out the best in those around you by encouraging them to think with you. Too often, we look at leaders as someone who sounds confident or has a great appearance. With that being said, never confuse confidence with results or actions behind their words. This is one of the best ways to test your leadership skills and help you become truly proficient when it comes to leading an organization.
You don’t have to be the loudest person in the room or one who’s constantly being called on to get things done. We’re so accustomed to looking around for whom we assume will become the leader of certain groups or situations, but keep in mind that it’s possible for someone to rise as a true leader even if they prefer to stay quiet or take a back seat more often than not. Ultimately, what matters most is the quality of their actions — so rather than assuming you know who will make an excellent leader, see if you can point towards someone who leads by example in all aspects of their life.
But in order for us to become good leaders ourselves, we should start by focusing our attention on actions rather than appearances. Do not think of your progress towards raising your leadership lid as being a matter of prescribed steps and you’re there like following a recipe or instruction manual. Instead, think of these actions as things which you must do regularly like brushing your teeth, exercise or going to the gym.
Be Alert To New Possibilities
We believe that luck and timing can play a role in the success of those who achieve great things. You’ve no doubt heard the saying “being in the right place at the right time”? Well I’ve been in the right place at the right time and still missed opportunities. You see, it really is “being in the right place at the right time with the right awareness.” While it may be true that there are people who become successful through seeking out opportunities that some may call being in the right place at the right time, but if these individuals hadn’t had the courage to take advantage of their circumstances, then where would we be?
There’s a saying by Wayne Gretzky: “You miss 100% of the shots you don’t take.” So if you keep yourself open to new ideas and look for the opportunity in every challenge, then also make sure you’re always taking action of those new opportunities whenever they arise.
Leaders Are Learners
As your company grows, constantly seek to expand your horizons, externally and internally be continually learning. It’s important to remain a student of life. Make a concerted and continuous effort to increase the breadth and depth of your understanding, from exploring self-study methods such as books, courses, or social media to meeting & engaging with new people and learning about their experiences. Seek out new people and immerse yourself in social situations outside of your immediate circle. Making connections with new people and hearing what they have to say is not only a way of broadening our horizons by learning about different perspectives but also helps us in our understanding of others.
Learning a new concept or adopting a new philosophy is just as necessary as staying abreast of the latest technological updates and market trends. Seek out mentors and people who will continue to inspire you – be it someone you know personally or even someone whose work you admire. They can help show you new ways of thinking deeper and further than your vision has previously been.
Experience Is A Master Teacher, Even When It’s Not Our Own
One of the smartest tips a leader can employ is to always be watching, and learning from, those around them – past and present. Some leaders concentrate on finding the weak points of their competition only to exploit them, but that mentality will eventually spell your downfall when you find yourself at war with someone on equal or greater footing than yourself. Study them closely to discover how they may be an example for you to emulate. If you can’t compete on their level, try instead matching it by improving upon what gifts you do have at your disposal.
It’s something we’ve seen in business, and politics and even warfare since the beginning of time. Many times it comes down to a battle of wits between businesses who are trying to find ways to trump each other rather than finding strength in what you do best. If you want to lead others to a path of positive change, do not fall victim to petty rivalry. Instead, if you find a mistake someone else has made, avoid doing the same yourself. If you find a strength in your competition then try to strengthen your own qualities to match them.
If you see an opportunity then seize it with both hands and make sure not to go down the same route as your competitors but instead find out what makes them tick so that you can mix it up a bit and create something unexpected. A shrewd leader leads by example from the front after all.
Even A Fool Can Teach Us Wisdom
Look beneath the surface and constantly ask questions. Don’t be afraid to peel away the layers, challenge assumptions and question everything. It’s a part of this stage to seek new knowledge but also to seek knowledge that may seem unconventional or even opposing what you’ve heard about before.
Take nothing for granted. Try to understand the world through a lens of possibilities and diversity. Question everything from old norms and concepts that we take for granted to any other preconceived notions or biases that has imploded in our brains without us even realizing it was there. It’s important to read outside of your subject area because it reminds us that knowledge is ever-flowing rather than static and teaches us skills like lateral thinking and abstraction.
Leadership is a Series of Great Opportunities Brilliantly Disguised as Impossible Situations
When your back is against the wall and you know the pressure is on to do something, sometimes that’s what it takes to push you to actually do what it takes to solve a problem. Since necessity truly is the mother of invention, the challenge could bring out your best ideas for solving it instead of avoiding it.
Sometimes you need to take a more creative approach. Think outside the current situation or norms in order to weigh your different options before arriving at a positive solution. Remember that sometimes looking at a problem from another point of view can help us think about potential solutions that can end up being completely unforeseeable and brilliant. It’s important to let yourself be free to experiment and connect different ideas so you can find new ways to tackle any challenge thrown at you.
It is important to not settle for a solution just because you want to see results. Try out different ideas by changing things up every now and again so that you’re not letting yourself fall into a routine that may not be flexible enough to handle sudden changes down the road.
It is easier to become a leader than you think. You just need to have the ability to inspire confidence and the right skills. Leadership is a skill that is learned over time through years of experience. It is a journey, not a destination. Developing your skills is the only way to become a good leader. Look for Part 2 on Lift Your Leadership Lid Through Daily Actions in next week’s blog installment.
Read more on Lift Your Leadership Lid Through Daily Actions in Part 2
Learn more about how to develop your leadership skills: Effective Leadership
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