‘When was the last time that you upgraded your leadership, not regarding skill sets or credentials but upgraded the inner leader?’ I looked around the room as I opened up my talk at a company event in San Jose. In a room full of 135 executives, there were three hands raised in response to my question. We are in an age of Artificial Intelligence, disruption, and innovation. An era in which business is moving faster than ever. Most of the executives appear to have it all together from the outside and yet fall short when it concerns their ability to influence their team and drive results. As talent leaders, we advise our teams and organizations on what they should or shouldn't do but unfortunately find it difficult to give the best advice to ourselves. We see the best strategies to motivate the team but fail to bring up our own individual motivational level.
Unless we lean in to lead our self, the best of our knowledge, experience, and expertise will always fall short in delivering the required results. Also, companies will continue to spend millions of dollars on training employees on productivity, leadership, innovation, and creativity but will see a minimum return on investment. Great leaders and organizations understand that effective leadership of others begins with effective leadership of self, founded on a core power that each of us must build within our self to lead others. This power is called the ability to Take Charge.
Around the year 1998, just as I was getting ready to start my first day at work, my father accompanied me to the door of the house. Wishing me good luck he repeated the same two words that I had been hearing from him ever since I was a child. ‘Take Charge,’ he said as he kissed me on the forehead wishing me luck. I touched his feet (an Indian tradition of seeking blessings from the elders), and then I was on my way to work. During my commute, I dwelled on the two words - Take Charge. What did my father intend to convey when he said that? I had never been curious enough to ask, and he never explained it either. As I struggled to make my place in the corporate world, navigating through the blame game, professional grudges, corporate politics, backstabbing, project deadlines, meetings and climbing up the corporate ladder, is when the words “take charge” hit me to the core. It is then that I understood its deeper meaning and why it is so imperative for anyone who wants to lead.
Let me share with you an example of one of my clients, Linda. Linda is a program manager in a Fortune 500 company in Houston. She contacted me after I had completed a one-day workshop at her company, of which she was a part. Linda was keen on growing into a leadership role in her organization. On one occasion Linda’s boss entrusted her with a high visibility project. Linda was excited and expected this project to take her one step closer to a leadership role in the company. She worked tirelessly, built a global team and motivated her team to give their best. Finally, the project was complete and Linda had accomplished it before the deadline. Her boss was impressed and everything looked positive. Days turned into weeks and months. Linda did not hear back anything from her boss about the project and its impact nor did she see any leadership growth coming her way. Around eight months later, her boss handed her another high visibility project. Though Linda completed this project well in time, her efforts were average, and the results were mediocre. Since then Linda has been operating in this zone where she blames her boss and her work environment for her slow progress. She is always in search of another job and a boss who will appreciate her work and help her to advance. My question to you is: ‘who do you think is responsible for Linda’s slow progress?’ The answer is Linda herself. Most of us feel that just if we get that right boss, team, project and work environment we will thrive. We operate as victims rather than masters. We fail to take charge.
So, what does one take charge of as a leader? Take charge of your psychology, your biochemistry, your thought process, your emotions, your focus, your actions, your physiology, your work environment and results. Until we have learned the techniques to take charge, it's nearly impossible to become a leader who delivers massive results. The first step towards becoming a leader or continuing to deliver results as a leader is to start practicing the art of leading the self. Here are three powers when developed will increase your ability to take charge and self-lead.
Power of purpose
The business world today is a very competitive one, with a pressure cooker like environment. Everyone is striving to do better than everyone else. When company results fall short, Wall Street is unforgiving. Everything at work seems to be demanding your attention, and you get pulled in all directions. If you do not know the real purpose of your work and existence, you will be lost. It’s imperative to realize the deeper purpose so you will have a better sense of who you are and where you are going. You will be able to lead your team and company in a better manner.
Power of resourcefulness
Most of the time when failure hits or things are in a downward spiral, we blame a lack of resources. It's always the lack of company budget or the workforce. Leadership is all about being resourceful enough to generate the resources needed. There will always be a lack of resources, but there is plenty of resourcefulness within you. It’s easy being able to see beyond everyday solutions, not giving up when problems get complicated, and learning from mistakes along the way. You need to start to develop your resourcefulness.
Power of weight
Every person in the organization is tasked with making a positive impact. You are here to make a difference. Also, to do this, it is imperative to recognize the weight you carry each day. Do you travel light to work or with heavy baggage? Most of us come to work with negativity, professional grudges, bad work relationships, anxiety, tension, and stress. The heavier the weight on you the slower your growth and the slower is the company’s expansion. Leaders who check their baggage weight regularly, who toss in passions, teamwork, joy, happiness, can move faster towards growth, can take their teams ahead and lead the company to great results.
Remember, leadership starts and ends with YOU. Lead yourself well and leading others is bound to get a whole lot easier.