There’s a lot of information available on leadership. A quick Amazon search reveals over 60,000 books on the topic. Type the word leadership into Google and you find “about 2,570,000,000 results.” It can be beyond overwhelming. So, if you want to be a better leader, where should you start? What is the secret to becoming a successful leader?
To me, the best place to start is with yourself. At its most fundamental level, leadership is about influencing others. That influence starts with consistently being your best. In part, being your best requires a strong sense of self-awareness. Are you clear on your strengths and weaknesses? Do you recognize the things that trigger your negative emotions? Do you have a sense of humility to accept other people’s ideas when they are better than your own?
This self-awareness helps us develop solid relationships. Those solid relationship are then built on trust, which opens people to your thoughts, suggestions and feedback. Trust is comprised of competence, integrity and benevolence – all of which are key characteristics of successful leaders.
Competence. Competence means that you possess expertise in your field. That being the case, a question to reflect on is, “Am I continually developing my skills?” An easy checkpoint here is to look at your calendar and see where you’ve dedicated time to your growth. You can argue that you learn a lot by doing (and I’d agree), and we can learn more when we devote time to study what worked well in a specific situation versus what didn’t and adjust accordingly. This study can include seeking feedback from others.
Integrity. Integrity means honoring your promises and commitments. It means being honest. Beyond the occasional follow-up item that slips through the cracks, most people would claim to be of high integrity, and I’d certainly agree with that. A question to ask yourself which might be useful here is, “Do I give honest constructive feedback to members of my team?” Most organizations (including credit unions) aren’t feedback rich. Many leaders withhold corrective feedback for fear it will demoralize the employee.
Benevolence. Benevolence means that you work in the best interest of each person on your team. That can take many forms, but important ones include individualizing your approach to each employee, involving each person in the goal setting process, providing coaching and creating development opportunities. Can you point to examples where you have done each of these things consistently with each employee?
To sum it all up, the fundamental secret of successful leaders is to lead from within. Work on your self-awareness so that others will recognize that you are competent, full of integrity and benevolent…in other words, show your trustworthiness. The rest will come to fruition. And if you feel overwhelmed with all the information on leadership and how to go about your leadership journey, just remember:
Be My Best Me
Build Trusting Relationships
Joe Bertotto has more than three decades of experience helping leaders improve their workplace cultures. He is the chief culture officer at Vizo Financial Corporate Credit Union and a Gallup Certified Strengths Coach. In 2014, Joe was named a Credit Union Rock Star by Credit Union Magazine. He also recently published his book, Pick Up the Gum Wrapper: How To Create a Workplace That Increases Performance While Improving Lives, which credit union leaders have been using as a guide to increase the effectiveness of their leadership skills and overall culture.