Friday, March 18, 2016

To Be a Leader, Adopt the Leader Mindset

a cartoon of a "leader-making" machine--ordinary people jump in and business leaders march out

Unfortunately, there is no leader making machine except in cartoons. To become a true leader, you need the right set of leadership skills, the right leadership attitude and the right level of leadership commitment. It takes work to develop your talents to a point where people have faith in what you can do, are inspired to follow your lead and commit to the goals you establish. Do you have what it takes to be an effective leader?

Action learning for leadership development is a great way to decide if you are willing to put in the time and energy to become a leader. Though we all think we’d like to be the final decision maker, try it and you may not like it. Leadership requires hard work, tough decisions and courage. You have to be willing to analyze the details and yet keep the big picture in mind; to gather input and yet make the final choice; and to persuade and motivate others that your goal approach is worthy. 

One example of a great leader is Geoffrey Canada. He has done what many tried and failed to do. He observed the need for social, medical and educational help for New York City’s poorest. He believed that if he could improve the lives of newborns in just a 24-block area, people in the area would notice and upgrade their expectations of what could be accomplished. The experiment was a great success and now covers over 100 blocks. How did Canada demonstrate a leader’s mindset? He was open to new ways of attacking an age-old problem. He had the conviction that his idea could work. He persuaded others to invest in and support his vision.

Another example is Wendy Kopp. As part of her college senior thesis, she proposed the creation of a teacher corps that would expand educational opportunities in underfunded public schools. The movement went national and is called Teach for America. Her mindset was to solve the problem of inequities in our educational system. She matched talented college grads’ need to do something meaningful with the need to improve the schooling in poorly funded schools. She, too, believed so completely in her idea that she soon had a following and the necessary funding to realize her dream.

To decide if leadership is for you, see how well you can adopt the leader mindset and see where it takes you. If you are a small cog in a big wheel, try to expand your vision. Do more than what is asked of you. When given an assignment that is part of a large project, think beyond your specific contribution. How does each task fit into the big picture? What is the overall goal? Who are the stakeholders?  Check in with colleagues and dig deep into the issues so you understand what really needs to be done. You may well come up with suggestions that will make the project more successful. This is the leader mindset.

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