Who will replace you? The answer to that question is the ultimate gift any leader can provide. No matter where they are in life. No matter how old or young. No matter how long they have been with the organization. Real leaders must have a succession plan in place for their organizations. Obviously, the longer you are with an organization, the better you will be able to train up a leader to replace you. Ideally, you will go out on top and pass the baton to a fully developed leader. This situation should be seamless. But you must plan for the worst. Because sometimes, succession is unplanned. Life happens. Unexpected events occur. As the organization’s leader, you must plan for the unexpected. If you do not have a succession plan in place that can be implemented tomorrow, you have work to do. Don’t wait another day. Start planning today.
There is always room for improvement. However, not everyone believes that. But in order to continue to succeed, in order to continue to lead, in order to continue to contribute to the effectiveness of the organization, the leader must continue to invest in themselves. This is not the time to rest. Yes, you have worked hard to reach this place in life. But it is not a destination. The biggest issue with leaders reaching the pinnacle of their career is the thought that they have arrived. Instead, you must work hard every day to continue to grow. There is always something else to learn. Always be willing to invest time every day to self-improvement, no matter where you are in your career. Read a good book, watch a good podcast, attend seminars. However you best learn, invest the time. Because when you stop learning, your career is done.
Great leaders develop the people around them. They assess everyone, looking for individuals who have the possibility of developing into the future leaders of the organization. Because great leaders understand a simple principle. The future of the organization lies with the people of the organization. So, great leaders focus their daily activities on mentoring and developing more great leaders. Without this ongoing leadership development, the organization will never thrive beyond the current generation of leaders. Great leaders know that they do not have all of the answers. And when a team member has an answer, great leaders give them credit. They understand that part of leadership development is recognizing the efforts of their team. They empower people to press on, knowing mistakes will occur. Most importantly, great leaders celebrate the success of everyone on the team. Put your people first. Invest your time in them so they can succeed.
Good leaders produce. And good leaders inspire and enable their team to produce through their leadership and example. Their production creates momentum for the entire team. As the production of the team increases, the team attracts other productive people. The team grows, attracting more highly productive people. The team produces, and the bottom line of the entire organization grows as a result of their growing efforts. A leader cannot fake being at this level of leadership. Either they and their team produce or not. Once a leader has developed deep relationships with their team members, they must show their team they can produce. If a leader cannot produce, their team will not produce to their fullest capacity. Leaders must set the example by working hard, by being dedicated to the organization and by developing their individual skills. If your team is not producing, then you are not leading.
The relationships you develop with the members of your team are built on trust. You build trust by being a person of integrity. You show your team you are a person of integrity by acting consistently in all situations. Regardless of the situation you are in, your team sees whether you are bound by your moral principles or if you allow the situation to dictate your reactions. Situational morality does not build trust with the members of your team. Strive to be consistent with your principles and predictable with your actions. This is the only way to become a great leader. With it, your team will learn to trust you. From this, your team will grant you greater and greater permission to lead them. Your team will lean on you when times are difficult. And when times are good, your team will work hard for you.
One common misconception about being a leader is expressed in the phrase, “It’s lonely at the top.” That may be true for those who rely solely on their authority to lead. Those that rely on authority create negative work environments. The culture of their teams develops into an us-vs.-them mentality. These leaders undermine team members who show talent and ability. Because deep down, these leaders are insecure about their ability to lead. So, they do not want others to succeed and advance. It is lonely at the top because these leaders strive to be the king of the hill. True leadership does not rely on authority. Instead, true leaders use their influence to advance the entire team. True leaders build relationships with the members of their team. They focus on advancing the entire team. They work with their team. And the entire team advances. True leaders are never alone.
Climbing the corporate ladder. Many new to the workforce envision this. And why not? Shouldn’t everyone show interest in their career development? Yes. But focusing entirely on your career will not ensure your success. Yes, you will get promotions and raises. But at some point, you will reach a situation where you are expected to lead others. If you do not understand how to lead, you will have reached your career limit. John Maxwell defines leadership as influence. It is hard to influence others if you do not build relationships with others. And it is next to impossible to build relationships with others if your primary concern is your own personal advancement. Whatever your position, focus on those around you. Show others that you want to work with them. That you want to help them. That you show interest in their development. Build relationships and grow your influence.