In this series, we have touched on many of the major issues of developing leadership skills. To continue our discussion on the journey to leadership, I would like to take a moment to discuss some of the little things.
A leader in any organization is open to intense scrutiny. Everything you do is subject to examination. People will look at it through a microscope. Some things will look like they are being nit-picky, but they see it as an affront to their position. I was once called to task because I created a document many years ago of the company officer’s contact information. It listed the chiefs, then the captains, and then the lieutenants. Unfortunately, I had put a double space between the captain and the lieutenants. They saw it as insult and thought that someone looking at the document could assume that there was some separation of power and anyone referencing the document should not call a lieutenant. This was not intended and could not have been further from the truth, but that was the way some saw it.
In my defense, the document was produced on a typewriter without the benefit of computerized “print preview.” Even if I had noticed it, I may have let it go, because it would have taken an hour to correct. Back then, my typing skills were not what they are today; not that they are great now. Besides, who would complain about a double space?
The point is the devil truly is in the details. So, in this article, I am going to enlighten you on some of the bumps that I have hit in the road to that might knock you off into the ditches.
Prioritize – For every leader there will be challenges for their time, whether it is at work, church or home. My thanks to Chief Arthur Golden for clearing that up for me and setting me straight! Sorry just an inside joke. But when you are in charge, you have a list of duties and this is no time to tell “authority having jurisdiction” that the dog ate my homework or it isn’t done because I had to cut the grass.
You may have many commitments for your time at home, but you are still in charge and you have to get it done. Family is important and you have to work to live, not live to work, but you still have to respect the commitment you made to lead. When you swore the oath “to the best of your ability” it didn’t mean when you feel like it! You will need to have a balance. This is where the support of your family is important. I did say no great leader got there on his/her own. This is yet another example of the people who support you along the way.
Be a teacher – We have said that every leader has to plan for his replacement. This often means that the leader must be a teacher. When you are instructing your people, don’t read to them from the book or from Power-point slides. It will do nothing to express your knowledge of the subject or your experience. As a matter of fact, it will undermine any credibility you had and just become story time for you members.
Be patient – Not everyone came down the same road of life (I think I heard that somewhere). Not everyone will grasp concepts as quickly as others. Their skill sets may be different. Working with tools or tying knots may not be their forte. Give them time to learn. Getting visibly upset with them will only increase their anxiety and slow the learning process.
Know who they are – As a leader, you first need to know who your people are. Be able to recognize them and know their names (and how to pronounce them). People can be very offended when their name is mispronounced. This ties in with team building and saying thank you, but if you can’t get passed knowing who they are and what they do, how can you make them part of the team or recognize them for their effort?
If their names are going to be part of a printed document and you are going to be responsible for the content, proofread it yourself. This might sound like micromanaging, but if you are taking the heat for the mistakes, wouldn’t you rather see it beforehand. If you see it, you can correct it. If not, then you know what’s coming and you can take the high road and apologize for the mistakes instead of casting blame on others.