I recently received the opportunity to lead a team of six on a project to develop new ideas for ESSENCE. Now, I've always thought of myself as a leader since I'm known to speak up, offer new ideas – both big and small – and raise my hand when volunteers are needed to shepherd new franchises. What I hadn't anticipated was how scary it was. Here's what I learned about leading a team:
- Leadership requires that you have an original idea. Don't expect your team to have an overabundance of ideas when you bring nothing to the table. It makes you look lazy and foolish.
- Leadership is not a popularity contest; it's about making the right decision for the team even when everyone disagrees. And yes, this happened during our meetings and I got a little tight and so did they. The compromise? We listened, evaluated and executed and then I made the decision and we moved on.
- Leadership is about having a vision that's not built on sinking-sand; it's about building a solid foundation. If you start off on the wrong foot, you end up there, too.
- Leadership means you have to be a good listener. We all know that a good idea can come from anywhere. Challenge the quiet ones to speak up and ask the chatty ones to simmer down. That didn't really happen with my team, but I've been in plenty of rooms where the big mouths are just talking to take up space, while the brain trusts sit quietly with their hands folded. Stop expecting your team to change that dynamic. The change begins with you.
- Leadership is frightening! It wasn't the actual day-to-day role that knocked my confidence around. It was the constant refrain that what we had done wasn't enough. As a leader, you concern yourself with everything, which meant I had to go into my prayer closet a few times over the course of our project.
What I know for sure? A true leader has the vision, courage and fortitude to take their team into battle. I did.