6 Things True Leaders Do
"Now that I’m a leader, I fear people will find out I’m a fraud." Many leaders with varying degrees of experience share this sentiment. At the heart of this dilemma is the transition from being a "doer with expertise" to a "leader with vision." This shift, which is rarely easy, differs depending on the company, position and the amount of responsibility you have within your organization. As you assume leadership positions that take you further away from day-to-day tasks, this feeling can become increasingly pronounced.
Early in your career, your self worth is frequently tied to individual accomplishments -- you make your mark by being a doer and delivering results. There are outputs you can point to with pride, and you’re able to leave at the end of the day feeling a sense of accomplishment.
When you transition into a leadership role the value you provide isn’t as obvious. Your work often doesn’t provide the same tangible results, which can create internal tension and insecurity. It’s not uncommon for people in leadership positions to leave at the end of the day wondering, "What exactly did I do today?"
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Because being a leader requires that you spread your attention across a wide variety of business issues, it’s impossible to be an effective leader and a full-time doer. Therefore, it’s essential to reset expectations of where you can add value.
Below are six strategies for making the transition from doer to true leader.
1. Define what success looks like for your team and share it broadly and consistently.
Try writing down your definition of success on a 3x5 card. This will ensure it’s tangible, focused and easy for you and your team to remember.
2. Establish clear expectations for each person and position on your team.
This is an essential part of being a leader, but it is often overlooked. People crave a clear understanding of what is expected of them, especially employees who are new to the company.
3. Make peace with the fact that you can’t know everything.
The most underappreciated aspect of being a leader is that you don’t have to know it all. This should be a relief. The more comfortable you are relying on others and bolstering their areas of expertise, the stronger more and more potent your team will be.
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4. Support your team and colleagues by helping them solve problems.
Running an efficient business requires that your team is able to effectively and confidently solve daily problems that inevitably arise. The greatest gift you can give them is to make it clear you are available to be a steady, calm sounding board.
5. Ask smart questions that provoke insight and action.
It’s a common instinct to simply tell team members what to do -- after all, isn’t that what you’re getting paid for? But don’t underestimate the value of inquiring instead of demanding. By asking open-ended questions, you empower your team to improve existing practices and create innovative solutions.
6. Eliminate confusion by clearing obstacles.
While it’s not always glamorous, running interference to clear an open path for your team to succeed is a key component of the role. As a leader, part of your job is to anticipate potential problems down the line and create contingency plans so your team is prepared to handle setback as they arise.
Effective leadership is difficult to achieve; it’s hard to let go of your inner doer. However, the more you lean into the above leadership principles, the more value you can bring to your team and organization, the more satisfied you will be with your job and the less you will feel like a fraud.