Are You a Leader?

I remember sitting in an auditorium and hearing the speaker ask, “How many of you are leaders?” Surprisingly, very few hands went up. What holds us back from thinking of ourselves as a leader? Perhaps it’s the fear of failure or being accountable to ourselves and others. Or is it that if we are the leader we have to know all the answers? Whatever the answer, the reality is we are leaders. The purest definition of a leader is someone who influences others.

When you are a leader you become a role model and will undoubtedly be observed by others. Just because you are the leader doesn’t mean you will have all the answers or make all the right decisions. As a leader you will find yourself in new territory. Situations will arise that you haven’t experienced before. Decisions will need to be made, you’ll need to think on your feet and make the best decision possible with the limited information at hand. And you’ll need to take responsibility for your actions and decisions.

When you are criticized for a decision or questioned about why a requested action didn’t become a priority, you’ll need to take the high road and avoid reacting defensively. One of the best ways to know if you are on the right track as a leader is to ask yourself, “Am I demonstrating the behaviors I want our team to emulate?”

Recently I had a conversation with a colleague and she asked, “Do you really have to always take the high road? Can’t you sometimes fall short and give the person back just a small dose of the negativity they are throwing your way?” Even though these reactive behaviors are tempting and sometimes make us feel good for the moment, the reality is that by choosing any other option is destructive to you and to your team.

The next time someone let’s you know that you’ve fallen short, they disagreed with your decision or you offended them – take the high road. Instead of allowing them to get your emotions spinning, listen and respond by saying, “Thank you for letting me know. I appreciate you sharing that information with me. I’ll take your thoughts into consideration.”

It’s amazing how this technique diffuses the situation and encourages more openness among the team. This is exactly what great leaders do and with practice we can do it too!

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