How does a leader lead?
The best definition of a leader, in my opinion, is a person who has a vision and can communicate that vision to organize followers to help him or her reach that vision. To be a leader, you must:
1) have someplace to go (your vision),
2) have followers, and
3) organize those followers to help you reach your vision.
I believe leaders follow a five step process. These steps are as follows.
Step 1. Have a vision or dream. You cannot lead someone if you do not know where you are going. Your destination must be clear in your mind and you must be able to define or describe it clearly in few words. You must be completely committed to the realization of this dream or the obstacles you encounter will de-rail you. It must be your dream and not someone else’s dream or something you think is a “good idea.”
Dreams can be like acorns. They must be nourished until they can grow into mighty oak trees. Please see my blog post on this subject. (hcurley.wordpress.com)
A person in a position of authority but with no vision MAY be a manager, but is not a leader. Please see my blog post on the differences between leaders and managers.
Step 2. Communicate your vision to attract like minded individuals. People will step forward to help you reach your vision only if they know about it. Therefore, communicate your dream clearly and frequently in venues where like minded people are likely to listen. Do not get into arguments, (a man convinced against his will is of the same opinion still), but put forth your vision clearly and strongly.
If people present issues you have not considered, or for which you have no answers, work on being able to answer these issues in the future. If people present issues that divert you from your vision, ask yourself if this is really your dream.
Step 3. Surround yourself with people who see your dream. You will need the following groups with each group of a size determined by the size of your dream.
To lead your self, use your head. To lead others, use your heart.
Master mind group – Your Board of Directors, mentors and other guiding individuals that you meet with at least weekly.
Other leaders – Your lieutenants who will lead others toward your dream in your absence. These lieutenants may be in charge of different aspects of reaching your vision (such as fund raising, media relations, government relations, etc), in other geographic areas or covering different shifts. Strong managers may also fill these roles.
Strong followers – These are people who will do your bidding because they believe in you or your cause, but cannot or will not train or guide others. These are the people who go door-to-door to spread your ideas, for example. Managers may also fill these roles.
Other followers – These people will perform non-leadership or non-management tasks but do not have the strong understanding of your dream. These are the people you would use to stuff envelopes, for example.
Do not be afraid to use people who are smarter, stronger or more aggressive than you; they will make you smarter, stronger and more aggressive.
Step 4. Communicate your vision to keep your followers on track. This is a never ending process. Use posters, meetings, e-mail, web-broadcasts, etc. to keep your people focused. The most important communication is through a good example.
If you notice that steps 2 and 4 are both about communication you have discovered that the most important function of leadership is communication: first to find people with similar direction to you and then to keep them focused.
Step 5. Follow the mechanics of leadership. You can learn the mechanics of leadership from Toastmastes, college courses, leadership books, books on leaders, observation, and trail and error.
A partial list of mechanics of leadership is: communication, delegation, follow-up, develop/train followers, action and persistence.
Planning is probably a leadership role, implementing the plan is probably a management role.
As you study leadership and are building your plans, at some point you must stop planning and start executing. Leaders believe “the sooner the better.” ACT NOW!