Saturday, January 21, 2012

What kind of leader are You? Part Three

Learning about leadership through the teaching of John Maxwell

In the last two posts we covered valuable information from author John Maxwell, a leading expert on leadership.  This post will summarize additional leadership strategies from Maxwell's book The Five Levels of Leadership.  Maxwell talks about how habits often get in the way of communication, business, relationships and ultimately, success. I have seen this first hand in training and team building sessions, teams have habits of communication that are positive but also that get in the way of effective dialogue.  Maxwell suggests that leaders explore their own leadership habits. For example, deciding how you will organize yourself. How you will communicate during challenging times. How you will check for understanding. Determine how to maximize your time. Determining what you will do the moment you arrive to work (e.g. escape to your office, greet staff, etc.), decide how you will treat people, and what your work ethic will be. Essentially, Maxwell says that you will and should choose your leadership path, because, leadership is not what you are- it is WHO you are being!

Growing through the leadership levels: To grown and transform as a leader, Maxwell suggests that leaders must move through each level, and progress to the next.  In level one, leaders can focus more on potential, instead of positions. Pursue their own professional growth, leadership development and training and move from the priority being on rules to the priority being relationships. Maxwell states it is critical that at this level that leaders learn to ask questions, ask for help, say “I don’t know” when they don’t know and to build and maintain contact with others. When leaders can master this, I have seen them create an environment where staff take the risk to ask for help (which is important).
As leaders transform to leadership level two, they will want to focus on relationships, listening, and valuing others. It is important for leaders to learn and practice seeking out other’s strengths and assets and appreciating the unique differences within the team. Leaders must act with integrity, as trust results from integrity. Make sure you are attention, be what Maxwell calls the “chief encourager” and act with care and candor. As a trainer I have seen the benefits of leaders who recognize and appreciate the differences in their team. They facilitate innovative thinking, energy, and respect.

In Level three leaders must focus on authenticity, which means you simply cannot fake your way to this level or through this level because you are either producing/creating results or you are not. People can see right through insincerity, and I have seen that challenge or decrease trust levels.  Lead by example, deliver results, communicate the vision to the team frequently and live the vision. Results are inspiring. Maxwell suggests that as leaders are developing their team they should focus on the following formula and train people in such a way that: 80% is in their strength zone, 15% is in their learning zone, 5% is outside their strength zone, and 0% of the work is in their weakness zone. Often this is the level where leaders get stuck and do not progress and transform to the next two levels. I would say that this level takes a lot of humility, willingness to be uncomfortable at times, and a desire to grow.

In level four, production is not enough; developing people must become a priority. Maxwell suggests you develop individuals, and the team. Some of the leaders I have met are masterful at this. Their commitment to growing the people is evident, and their attitudes and words are focused more on others, than themselves. Grow leaders and champion the corporate vision. Be the team member you want others to be and focus 80% of your time on the top 20% priorities. Solve issues and do so immediately, don’t let them fester and become bigger issues, and of course, be approachable. Another author, Ken Blanchard says “it’s not what happens when you are there, but when you are not there”; this is the real challenge for leaders. Transfer the work, delegate to those who actually execute the work, as this helps create an environment of trust, and ownership. Continue learning, training and developing. one of my corporate clients saw his role, as a seasoned leader, to foster his team stepping into their skills in a much bigger way.

At level five, leaders are empowering team members to grow and lead larger. There is a focus on people’s strengths, and who they could become (not who they are now). Succession planning is essential at this level, as is leaving a legacy! Be humble, maintain the company’s vision, develop leaders and make room for them at the top. Succession planning is so important yet I have met few non-profit organizations who have a plan, and many small business owners that do not take the time to create one because they are too busy being in the business instead of working on it. Succession planning is key... it will help you create systems and processes so that the business can run in your absence and at the same time fosters growth and responsibility in the team.

This week identify ways that you can share the corporate knowledge with others. Consider your legacy...what is the legacy that you want to leave behind in your team or business? And, what can you do to take action today?

John Maxwell is a masterful leader. To read his book, and learn more about the many other leadership programs he offers, check out: