Scholar Skill: Leadership Traits and Processes

This week I was able to certify as a Total Force Leadership Development Facilitator.  I set this goal because I wanted to build my leadership skills, and one of the best ways to grow a skill is to teach it to others.  The lesson our team facilitated this month focused on six of John C. Maxwell’s Twenty One Irrefutable Laws of Leadership.

We selected three laws that focused on traits or characteristics of leadership and then taught three process that could be used to either improve those traits or enable them to enhance the teams you lead.  We started off talking about building connections, establishing trust, and empowering others and followed with using processes, setting priorities, and finally raising the lid on leadership.

1. Ability to Connect

Maxwell’s primary tenant with connection is that you have to build a personal connection with someone before you can ask them for help.  Our discussion focused primarily on the need to be approachable as a leader in order to start building these connections.  We also had discussions about the need for courage and fairness as a leader when it came to seeking out connections with our teams.

2. Building Trust

Trust is a combination of credibility and character.  Maxwell describes trust as a pocket full of change.  You get this change when you show you are a credible leader and person of upstanding character.  When you fail to follow through, or act immorally you loose some of the change you have built up.  One of the best comments our class discussed was the probability of showing up as the new leader of a team and already being in a deficit of trust because the last leader failed so badly, or because everyone had broken faith with the organization as a whole.

3. Empowerment

In order to empower others a leader must be secure in their own position and ability.  The challenge then becomes being secure as a leader which is best down by building connections and trust with your teams.  Empowerment also goes well beyond simple delegation, and is the actual transfer of power to a subordinate while maintaining the overall accountability for the mission, goal, or problem.

Remember, as a leader you can’t give what you don’t have so you must always be seeking ways to build your own positional power, referent power, and expert power.  Building up this power and then transferring it to those you lead will move them up and carry you up with them.

4. Using Process

We have a tendency to look at life as individual events, and not a series of interrelated actions and reactions.  Leaders use process to their advantage to focus a chain reaction of events that lead to success.  One way of doing this is by growing the leaders coming up behind you.  Event focused leadership development looks like a microwave, while process focused leadership development is more like a crock pot.

This is something I think the Military has historically done very well.  You might not even know it as you are progression through the ranks, but by the time you are finishing up a 20-30 year career you have lived and learned a tremendous amount of leadership lessons.

5. Setting Priorities

By now almost everyone knows the 80/20 rule, but Maxwell does a great job of describing how a leader uses this rule to their advantage by focusing on their top 20% to get 80% of their best results.  If you have too many requirements forced on you maybe it’s time to take a look at how well you are doing with empowering those you lead.

6. Raising the Lid

The basic principle of the Lid is a teams effectiveness is determined by your max level as the leader.  If, on a scale of 1-10 you are a 6 then your team will never rise above a 6 either.  Compare this to Bonsai trees, the tree is restricted in its growth by the limitations put on it by the gardner.  Your job as a leader is to learn were you you need to grow as a leader to make more room for your team to grow under your protection and guidance.  Maxwell emphasizes People Skills (like the ability to connect and build trust), the ability to build and execute plans, strategic thinking and vision, and the ability to secure results.

If you want to know more about The 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership you can check out the MoS Book Review.

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Want to discuss things a little further, check out our closed facebook discussion group to share your thoughts and join in the discussion. Or you can email me directly at Jon@masteryofskill.com.  If you are interested in further reading check out other Food for Thought articles and learn all about the Archetypes of Skill.  You can also sign up to receive The Friday Huddle, a short weekly email from me that gives you the tips, insights, and musings that have gotten me through the week.

Live Skillfully!

-Jon

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