It affects how you lead!
Leadership involves making decisions.
Getting a team to move towards fulfilling its goals involves numerous decisions.
But right from the get-go, there is one important decision that a leader needs to make. This decision will shape the leader and the team in a profound way. It will affect how he or she leads, how the team interact with the leader, the culture of the team, etc.
When I first started leading a team, it took me no time to realise that my responsibilities go beyond just making sure that my team delivers. I was responsible for the team’s direction, plan, budget, tasks, morale, discipline, motivation, development, internal relationships, external relationships, etc.
I could not possibly do everything, even though I was responsible for them. My strengths and personality allow me to do certain things well but would struggle at other things. When I looked at other leaders, I begin to realise that leadership looks different on different people, and I can’t just copy what another leader does.
If I want to lead well, I need to make an important decision.
The Most Important Decision of a Leader
Technically, it is not one single decision. It’s several related decisions that seek to answer one major question.
And that major question is:
Who are you?
I don’t mean who you are in general. I meant who you are, in the context of your team. No doubt, who you are in general affects who you are to your team, too.
You are the Team Leader!
Yes, that’s true. But what do you mean when you say, “I’m the team leader”?
Are you the boss? Lord, master, wielder of all powers? General, shepherd, steward, caretaker, captain?
Let’s say you are the captain? Great! But what is this captain responsible for?
Making sure the team does what it’s supposed to do? Taking care of everyone on the team? Setting direction? Motivating team members? Being a friend to team members? A coach, a mentor?
There are probably countless ways you could answer that question.
What is the most important thing that you are responsible for?
I’m sure a lot of responsibilities are important, but which of them is most important for you?
Whatever responsibilities you think you have, could someone else do any of them on your behalf?
What is the most important value that you, and only you, can offer to your team?
What values or principles define you, or your leadership?
A captain may decide that he wants order and discipline above all else and runs a tight ship.
A leader might decide that profit is his most important responsibility.
He might decide that building camaraderie is his most important responsibility.
Or, she might feel that her job is to take good care of every team member.
A leader’s decision, about who he is and what is most important for himself, is neither good nor bad in itself (except if he thinks he is like a god to the team). But it will definitely shape how he or she prioritises, makes decisions, and relates to the team. It will shape the team’s culture and affect how the team functions. It will also determine the type of people the team would attract.
“Who you are shapes how you will lead!”
I’ve known leaders who are all about the tasks, where getting the job done is more important than feeling good. I’ve known leaders who are about making sure everyone feel happy and cared for, and the team takes a long time to arrive at its destination. I’ve worked with leaders who feel they need to be in control of everything, and leaders who would gladly let every team member do whatever he or she feels right.
A leader cannot be all things to all people. He might try, but the results will be disastrous.
He has to decide who he is and then focus on living it out.
Because of who he is, certain responsibilities become more important than others. Some leaders are capable of juggling various responsibilities without compromising his most important focus. For those of us who can’t (which is most of us), we can always enlist the help of others on the team.
After thinking long and hard about who I am, I finally decided that I was (still am, actually) the empowerer! While I care about the team’s mission, I care more about the team’s development and fulfilment.
Frankly speaking, that decision wasn’t crystal-clear right from the start; it was something I needed to keep thinking about as I led, and as I took on different teams along the way. I might have decided on different variations of who I was; occasionally even different notion of who I was to my team. Yet as I continued to try and lead well, I found myself gravitating towards being the one who empowers. And that shaped my leadership!
What about you?
How would you describe who you are to your team?