Every leader at some time in their life faces a challenge. Several years ago I had a supervisor that told me I cared too much about my team. I was told my weakness was leading from the heart. His words: “you will never be successful”. Words that struck hard at the core of what I was taught and the things I valued. It was a challenge to my belief in myself. It was a message, that I clearly received.
The human instinct of survival kick in and I tried to change. I spent days trying to fit the mold of what he wanted his leaders to be. I sent a different type of email, held meetings in a different tone, and store visits became less engaging. My one on one conversations went from me listening to me talking. I went from being a leader to being a Manager. In reality I had stopped being me and I failed.
What I Learned
The key to being a better leader is to learn. I learned that leadership and being a Servant Leader is first about being yourself. It is about what is inside: your thoughts, your beliefs and your heart. We all must listen, learn, be agile, and adapt to new situations. Yet we must build around our core, not replace what makes us an individual. Leading is about people. It is about building trust, engaging in honest conversation, developing accountability and teaching the leaders of the future. That can only be done by believing in yourself. It cannot be done by being someone else.
Moving from Manager to Leader
I have been asked many times by Assistant Managers what it would take for them to become a General Manager. My answer always focused on how their relationships with people would change. I tell them “Your challenge will be to move from being a Manager to being a Leader. A person in leadership needs to realize they serve two customers: the external customer and the internal customer. Although their needs are different, in order for them to follow you they must know you are interested in their success. They must trust you. You must earn their respect. And you need to be available to them. Most importantly is that you listen, ask good questions, hold yourself accountable and be yourself.
It Comes From the Core
Every person and certainly every leader should strive to improve, make better decisions and get better results. Moving from good to great should always be the goal. Much like getting physically fit, it all starts with your core. Your core of values, of beliefs and attitudes. A leader I respect told me once that “your attitude seeps out of every pore of your body”. To take that next step, your leadership should be apparent in every interaction and fuled by what is in your core. Believe in yourself and lead from that foundation. That in the end, will define your success.