What are the initial steps to becoming an effective leader?

One of the first steps in becoming an effective leader and arguably the most important step is understanding why you want to be a leader. Having this conversation with yourself is an ongoing dialogue that will ebb and flow throughout your life as a leader. Ask yourself, “Why do I want to do this?” “What about leadership is attractive to me?” Many leaders that are changing from being a self-leader to team leaders or people transitioning from team leaders to organization leaders may initially think if they have more control of what is happening around them or whom they work with, they can get more done on a day-to-day basis.

I have learned that the most effective leaders of organizations are the ones that can let go of the steering wheel, much like a musical conductor must believe in the capabilities of their orchestra. Imagine what might happen if the conductor of the orchestra stepped off the podium, put down his baton, and grabbed a horn from somebody to show them how to play it. Of course, that wouldn’t work as an organizational leader, if you are focused on controlling the people you oversee, they will only be as good as their leader, if that. If a leader can let go of control, they can focus on bringing out the best in each of their subordinates, then the organization becomes better than just any one person.

Part of being A Leader Worth Following is the ability to diagnose yourself and others around you and the tasks being completed. As a leader, you must ask yourself if you can delegate with the confidence that others will complete tasks the right way. The beauty of a high-functioning team and a high-functioning organization is that everybody knows what they’re supposed to do, and the leadership is coaching and helping people understand their jobs. Much like the best athletes need coaches that can see the whole picture and make small changes that make a great impact.

If the leader assumes that everybody is fully competent and they’re an expert in what they’re doing, there will be so much friction on that team, and nothing will ever get done. Being an effective leader requires you to know your team and each person’s competency level with whatever task they are responsible for. This could be a widget task, a communication task, or a writing task. Knowing your team is vital to being the kind of leader you want to be. It also gives you the knowledge of how much support you should be giving each of the members of your team. Sometimes if you throw people in the deep end and expect them to figure it out and they are not proficient at whatever you are asking of them then you are giving them the wrong type of leadership for their needs. As a leader, you should be adaptive to your team, for example setting the groundwork for success by having them complete certain steps and then reviewing their progress with you. Diagnosing their competency level and setting them up for success will allow them to become self-leaders without getting discouraged or frustrated. Using phrases like “Did you have any trouble? Is there anything I can help you with?” Is a way for us to better understand the people we work with but also gives us opportunities to grow as leaders, and how we can better coach this person in the future. Being a leader that supports those around them versus telling them what to do will help keep the grit out of the gears and allow for a more high-functioning team.