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Bruce Holland

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10 Practical things you can do to think like a leader

My last Strategic Snippet, "Most Leadership Comes From Middles Not Tops" (see Quick Link), was about how to release the frustrated energy in middle managers who know they can contribute more and want to.

I suggested that some of the problem is with the Tops who even though they are often frantically busy don't seem to want the Middles to help, however, it's not all the Top's fault, Middles are to blame too.

Middles are to blame too

Sometimes Middles do things (or don't do things), that reduce the confidence of Tops, that they can lead.

This Strategic Snippet gives some simple practical things Middles can do, to fill Tops with confidence that they have leadership potential and should be given a go.

You can choose to become a leader wherever you are by learning to develop your influence by leading up, leading across and leading down. See the Quick Link, How Middles Can Develop Their Leadership Skills.

The most important thing you can do is to stop focusing on yourself and start focusing on your boss and the organisation. Become a giver, not a taker. Think, "What can I give?" not, "What can I get?"

The Laws of the Universe suggest that you are more likely to win when you strive for the top of your game, not the top of the organisation; work to reach your potential, not necessarily the corner office; and change your thinking from, "I want a position that will make people follow me, to, "I want to become a person who people will want to follow."

Practical things you can do to begin thinking like a leader

So, what do you do if you are not at the top, or in the Top Team? You need to move beyond management to leadership, broaden your mindset and begin thinking like a leader. Use this as a checklist to see where you need to keep growing:

  1. Know your strengths, know your boss's strengths. Use yours to make your boss successful. Herrmann's Thinking Preferences is the best tool I know for this. See the Quick Link on Herrmann's Thinking Preferences.

  2. Understand the business, how it works, trends, risks, opportunities, market/sector and strategies. What you talk about, the words you use and the questions you ask are important. Here's a few questions to get you started: How does this align with the strategy? How will it build our capacity for the future? Where is the market moving? What are we doing that we should not be doing? How can we keep our options open? What is the cost, benefit return? See the Quick Link on How to Think Strategically.

  3. Learn systems thinking. Think longer term. See within the larger context of how something will impact those above and beside you. In my experience, systems thinking is one of the most limited resources, even near the top of the organisation. If you show an apptitude, people will take notice. See the Quick Link on Systems Thinking

  4. Ask questions. Don't pretend you have all the answers. In my experience the ability to ask good questions that help people see things in a different light or see options they had not previously considered is a critical leadership skill. And it's scarce. See the Quick Link on The Power of Questions.

  5. Understand and focus on what matters. Emphasise intangibles such as culture, relationships, motivation, momentum, leadership, customer service, and branding. I don't mean that you should become an expert in these areas (if you try, you'll probably stand on someone else's toes), but, people should be in no doubt that you've thought about how your job impacts on these things. See the Quick Link on What Really Matters.

  6. Push boundaries to find a better way. Whatever it takes. Do more than is asked for. Stand up for your boss. Stand in for your boss whenever you can. Take on the tough jobs. Do things that matter, not just because they will get you noticed, but because they matter. See the Quick Link on Trust.

  7. Communicate with your boss. Managers are supposed to keep themselves up-to-date with what their staff are doing, but in fact managers are poor at this. They make assumptions that simply are not true or, worst still, they try to find out at the worst possible time when something has gone badly wrong. Tell your boss what they need to hear, not what they want to hear. Ask for advice. In the end integrity always pays off because it builds trust. See the Quick Link on Trust.

  8. Make your manager look good. Many people have difficulty with the concept of making their manager look good, however when you view yourself as a supplier it becomes common sense. The objective of most suppliers is to ensure that the customer receives credit for what the supplier did. This is simply good business. For example, if a shopper, with the active assistance of the shop staff, purchases a new outfit and later receives compliments they generally reflect the recognition back to the store where they made the purchase. Just keep saying: "When they win I win, when they lose I lose. They are my source of reputation, my word of mouth marketer." See the Quick Link on Managing Your Manager.

  9. Become known as the person who comes with solutions, rather than problems. Be an agent of change. Leaders want more than just to see progress - they want to make it happen. If you have the willingness and the capacity to lift their load when they need it, they will come to rely on you. When you do this try to think outside the square. Rely on intuition. Trust your hunches. They're usually based on facts filed away just below the conscious level. See the Quick Link on Creativity.

  10. Look for good people and invest in them to the point where they can be released and empowered to perform. See people as they can become, not as they are. Catch them doing things right, encourage them and you'll be amazed how they respond to you. See the Quick Link on Irresistible Leadership.

If you want your people to behave like a leader, give me a call.

I am available to come and talk to you and your management team.

Think BIG,

Bruce Holland Virtual Group Business Consultants email:

Bruce works with large mature organisations who what to get their people out of silos, working together, rather than fighting each other over resources and power. As a result customers get a seamless service.

He calls it, "Liberating the human spirit at work".

Key words: Leadership, leadership development, leadership management, leadership training, leadership program, leadership skills

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