All leaders can learn to lead differently and move up the levels of leadership if they’re willing to change the way they lead. How do you make the most of your leadership position while shifting from positional to permissional leadership?
1. Stop Relying on Position to Push People
There is nothing wrong with having a leadership position. That’s the starting place for most leadership. However, there is everything wrong with having a positional mind-set. If you have to tell people that you’re the leader, you’re not. If you continue to rely on your position to move people, you may never develop influence with them, and your success will always be limited.
You have to rely on people skills, not power, to get things done. It treats individual followers as people, not mere subordinates. If you want to become a better leader, let go of control and start fostering cooperation. Good leaders stop bossing people around and start encouraging them. That is the secret to being a people-oriented leader, because much of successful leadership is encouragement.
2. Trade Entitlement for Movement
Good leaders don’t take anything for granted. They keep working and keep leading. They understand that leadership must be earned and established. They remain dissatisfied in a way, because dissatisfaction is a good one-word definition of “motivation.” Good leaders strive to keep the people and the organization moving forward its vision. They recognize that organizations can sometimes be filled with appointees, but teams can be built only by good leadership.
You may have been appointed to a position, but you will have to lead yourself and others above it. You must be willing to give up what is in order to reach for what could be. Let a vision for making a difference lift you and your people above the confines of job descriptions and petty rules. Forget about your leadership rights. Focus on your responsibility to make a difference in the lives of the people you lead. When you receive a position or title, you haven’t arrived. It’s time to start moving—and taking others along with you.
Leadership isn’t a right. It’s a privilege. It must be continually earned. If you possess any sense of entitlement, that will work against you. If you’ve thought in terms of position, change your focus. Instead, think about your leadership potential. What kind of leader do you have the potential to become? What kind of positive effect can you have on the people you lead? What kind of impact can you make on the world? Rewrite your goals to embrace a non-positional mind-set. It will make a difference in your teachability and the way you treat your team members.
3. Leave Your Position and Move toward Your People
People who rely on position often mistakenly believe that it is the responsibility of the people to come to them for what they need and want. Good leaders understand that it is their responsibility to move toward their people. Leaders are initiators.
The Greek philosopher Socrates said, “Let him that would move the world first move himself.” If you want to move up in your leadership, you need to get out of your territory. You need to stop being king of the hill, get down from your high place, and find your people. You must move beyond your job description, both in terms of the work you do and the way you interact with your people. You must make it your responsibility to learn who they are, find out what they need, and help them and the team win. In order to do anything new in life, we must be willing to leave our comfort zone. That involves taking risks, which can be frightening. However, each time we leave our comfort zone and conquer new territory, it not only expands our comfort zone but also enlarges us. If you want to grow as a leader, be prepared to be uncomfortable. But know this: the risks are well worth the rewards.