How do you know you are a leader?

Leadership Memo 2021-1

Happy New Year! As we start the first week of the new year, new hope and excitement bubbles. However, we’re not that quick to forget the volatility, uncertainties, complexities and ambiguities (VUCA) that we all experienced in 2020. The turn of the new year doesn’t magically wipe them out. As an agile leader, how do we lead amid this VUCA world? To answer that, I would like to ask another question first: how do you know you’re a leader?

“Management is about persuading people to do things they do not want to do, while leadership is about inspiring people to do things they never thought they could.” – Steve Jobs.

“Leadership is not about titles. It’s about influence. He who thinks he leads and has no one following is merely taking a walk.” – Paul Sheppard.

Here’re some essential things that I would recommend any agile leaders do:

  1. Set clear expectations
    • Do whoever you’re leading agree that you’re the leader? 
    • It’s not about titles or having the authority to tell people what to do.
    • Inspire them, make them believe in themselves. That starts from setting clear expectations.
  2. Inspiration
    • Bring the energy.
    • Bring BHAG (Big Hairy Audacious Goal).
    • Set high achieving targets / goals that people feel inspired to reach for.
  3. Humility
    • Avoid being an agile nazi.
    • Be flexible.
    • Listen and learn every day. You’ll never finish learning, so be humble.
  4. Accountability
    • Leaders are accountable. You have to have skin in the game. You cannot say, “they are responsible for this”, but instead, “we are responsible for this”. In other words, if they fail, you fail.
    • Hold the team accountable. This means having occasions for difficult discussions. 
    • It’s not about being liked.
    • If they break the values they agreed to, it’s time for difficult discussions, and that includes the managers.
  5. Work Ethics
    • Work hard with the team. Remember, having skin in the game? 
    • At the same time, train someone up. After some time, you step back and let that person do it. You then watch and give recommendations and advice.
  6. Relationships
    • Leaders are busy building relationships. You cannot be a seagull leader, fly in, crap on people and leave.
    • You’re always connecting, working, laughing, crying, drinking and eating with your team (virtually or in person)
  7. Craft
    • Leaders know their craft.
    • It’s not about certifications. It’s about the craft that you know.
    • If you’re going to lead Sales, go learn it, sweat it before you lead. 
  8. Exit
    • Figure out your exit strategy.
    • Why? Because part of a leader’s job is to build great leaders, inspire them to be the best that they can be (and you have to bring them there).

So, how many of these essential things are you doing? Perhaps these can be part of your new year resolutions.

Latest Happenings:

  1. If you’re curious how you can build relationships in an online world, join me on 6th January at 10am Pacific / 19.00 CET / 7th January 7am New Zealand time when I’ll be hosting a New Year mixer (not in Zoom). Register here.

2. On 19th January, I’ll be speaking in Agility Leadership Network meetup, specifically about performance management and reward & recognition. Hope to see you there. You can register here.

3. On top of talks and workshops, blogs and newsletters, I’ve added podcasts on my website. Check them out!


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