In my free e-Book on the 6 Keys to Leadership the first characteristic I mention is: Vision.

If you can identify the way forward and set it out for people, you’re on the road to leading them there.

As I’ve quoted before John Maxwell says a leader is “someone who knows the way, goes the way and shows the way”. Knowing the way, or setting a vision, is the very first step.

The word “Vision” is often used in a grandiose sense. Think of the “visionary leader” who brings forward entirely new ideas about how things should be done, and casts them in vibrant words that carry people into a brighter future for all humanity. This is wonderful. But very rare.

Most people trying to lead don’t have to change the whole world to make a difference. But you do need a clear sense of where you’re trying to get to, and a way to describe it that shows people how they fit in to the plan.

It doesn’t matter whether you’re at the very top of the tree, responsible for a large branch, or just minding the business in one small cluster of leaves. Cut through the complexity, imagine a way in which your organisation would be better and tell a story about it that your colleagues can see themselves in.

As an exercise, try thinking about the following questions.

What is the barrier you and your team run up against the most? What would not having this barrier look and feel like?

What are you not delivering that your customers really want? What would providing it look and feel like?

What could you change in your corner of the business that would contribute powerfully to the new overarching strategy your boss has brought in? What would that mean for your team in their day to day work?

Where is the latest technology being adopted by organisations like yours? Should you be picking that technology up? Or deliberately retaining a human to human approach? How would that impact your team?

What are your team’s passions? Is your team working in its power zone? Or has it drifted into the market-expertise overlap? How could moving towards “passion” enhance what your team delivers for your organisation?

My point is… None of these questions are particularly esoteric or world-changing. But they will start you on the road to shaping a Vision for you and your team.

Leave a comment with answers to any of the questions above. 

Changing things to make things better…

…is a pretty good definition of the leadership task. 

In this post I provided the following picture of how leadership and management work together. 

Leadership is about identifying “opportunities to add value” and taking action to move things forward. Which inevitably means… Changing things. To make things better. 

So how do you find the opportunities to add value?

Ask some questions. Ask yourself. Ask your colleagues. Ask your customers*.

(*Customers might be people who actually buy things from you. And they might be the groups of people you serve elsewhere in your organisation.)

Where are your frustrations? What is the stuff that keeps getting in the way? Or the process that just doesn’t quite work right?

Where are your best customers? What are they valuing? What’s the most important thing you do for them and how well are you doing it right now?

Where are your competitors? What’s all the rage right now? Are you in on it? Should you get in on it? Or do something different to set yourself apart?

Somewhere in-amongst the answer to these questions are several things that would add value. 

Pick one. Move it forward. Repeat. 

Gender in Confidence vs Humility

Big thank you to those who have grabbed my FREE eBook – 6 Keys to Leadership.

In the book I talk about 6 key leadership traits and how some of them play off against each other. 

Two of the traits are “confidence” and “humility”. To lead well you need both and you have to balance them against one another so you’re doing both at the same time. I talk about this a lot in the book. Get yourself a copy by clicking here.

Extra special thanks to those who’ve taken the trouble to send me some feedback.

Including this great comment/question on confidence and humility. 

As a leader who happens to be a woman, I frequently encounter advice that women should never suggest that we might not be aware of everything, or use language that suggests humility. Whilst I dislike the stereotyping of leadership traits by gender and know plenty of leaders of both genders who could do with showing more humility, it might be good to show how your philosophy fits with this very prevalent view?

Ask clever people what they think and they’ll throw big issues at you. 

The point being made, I think, is that women are often (annoyingly) seen as “meeker” and “less dominant” than men. As such advice is often given suggesting women remove words like “I just” and “I may have overlooked something” in professional conversation. Or in other words, dial back the humility a bit. Add a little confidence.

I think my answer to this has two parts. One is about your natural “confidence vs humility balance”. The other is about the nature of your environment (and the people in it) in terms of how “confidence vs humility” is viewed and the extent to which “typical gender stereotypes” are ingrained.

I’ve known plenty of women leaders who don’t need to add any confidence. They never say “I just” anything. And I’ve known plenty of men who are WAY too humble in a leadership sense. 

Everyone has a natural confidence vs humility balance. A tendency to lean one way or the other. The stereotype, of course, leading to the advice mentioned above, is that women tend to lean on the humility side. Whether that’s true for you or not, whatever your gender, reflect on this balance a little. What’s your natural tendency? Do you need to shift it a little to have more impact?

And what’s your environment like? In terms of how it handles gender issues AND how it handles confidence vs humility? 

If your workplace is already really gender-aware and sensitive to these things, you’ll need to do less correcting for the biases of your colleagues.

If your office is full of strongly confident people and confidence is necessary to make an impact, and you tend towards humility… consider dialling up the confidence. 

When you’ve figured out your “general state” the trick is noticing when you need to dial up your weaker component a bit and dial back your stronger one.

There’s some advice on that in the eBook.  Do go get a copy. And post a comment here to tell me what you think about gender vs confidence vs humility.