I always wanted to be “the” leader. I wanted to be the one in charge. I worked hard to get in the position of leadership. I was always going to out hustle everyone else, even to the risk of injury because I wanted to lead by example.
On the sports field, I was not the biggest or strongest, but I was often the loudest; especially when it came to losing versus winning. I would often let others know how important I was to the win and how important they were to the loss.
I’m not proud of some of my actions or behaviors from those days. I can say I have made some apologies along the way. What I have come to learn is leadership is a profession- not a position, a title or anything else.
When I was in the U.S. Army and promoted to lead others, I had a great leader who said “Mike, you have potential to lead, and your assertiveness is what got you here. But you need to grow into a leader who can gain respect and influence, and not rely on fear and authority.”
He gave me two books to read, one was 7 Habits of Highly Effective People by Stephen Covey and the other was John Maxwell’s Developing the Leader Within You.
This began my journey of leadership growth and soon an understanding that leadership is a profession and not a position. Up to that point in my life, I had never read a full book. I wanted the cliff notes, I wanted the easy way to do things. I wanted the quickest way to leadership.
In the profession of leadership, there are no shortcuts.
What do I mean when I say leadership is a profession?
Leadership is like any other profession. Position doesn’t make you the best; but those who never stop learning and growing and adapting become the real pros. Doctors are constantly training and learning new techniques and medical advances to help their patients. Lawyers are constantly studying so they can perform better for their clients. Soldiers always training and preparing for the call they may get in the middle of the night when danger comes.
Are you a professional leader or are you a positional leader?
Not to over generalize with this statement, but many leaders I now work with as a professional coach and trainer are not professionals. They have been promoted along their career path due to experience, technical skill or tenure…they have been put in charge of others’ lives as a leader, but are often leading from their technical skill set and position of being an expert in their field.
Technical skill does not make one an expert leader.
Professional leaders need to develop these 5 qualities.
Character - WHO you are. Your values as a leader and how you treat people. This is the most important quality to develop. Who you are, determines how you lead!
Communication – The most dangerous thing for a leader is to think communication has occurred. Always be developing this skill. Everyone on the team needs to hear from you.
Collaboration – John Maxwell’s Law of Significance tells us “one is too small a number to achieve greatness.” In today’s world, working with others is a must to get everything done and done well.
Coaching – Great leaders are great coaches. Not tellers, not managers, but coaches who can pull more out of their employees than they think is possible.
Creator – As a leader you are either a thermometer or a thermostat. One controls temperature, the other tells the temperature. You are the creator of your culture and environment, do not leave it to chance.
I have read hundreds of books, invested thousands of dollars to learn from people like John Maxwell, Stephen Covey, Peter Drucker, Zig Ziglar and many more leaders past and present.
Professionals never stop learning, growing and testing new things. In the U.S. right now as summer is winding down, football is right around the corner. Fall training camps have opened for the professional football players.
Why do they need a camp if they are pros?
Professional leaders understand that they can never stop learning and growing. New teammates will challenge us. New changes coming will challenge us.
A professional leader can’t rely on yesterday’s skills to lead today’s workforce.