The Ferrari LaFerrari is one of the fastest cars in the world. It boasts 950 horsepower and a top speed of 227 mph! But this powerful car can move nowhere unless its driver actually steps on the gas. Without intentional action, it will sit at the starting line forever with that incredible potential and power trapped inside. And so will your company. The executives and managers you equip can be aspiring leaders full of passion, vision, talent, and great ideas. They can learn how to be a leader —and should—but if they want to be more effective, they will need to step on the gas—and do something!
A lot of younger leaders are hesitant to act because they’re afraid of failing. But in Herminia Ibarra’s new book, Act Like A Leader, Think Like A Leader (Harvard Business Review Press, 2015) she challenges leaders and their supporting teams to take a different approach:
The only way to think like a leader is to first act: to plunge yourself into new projects and activities, interact with very different kinds of people, and experiment with unfamiliar ways of getting things done.
In times of transition and uncertainty, thinking and introspection should follow action and experimentation–not vice versa.
For your leaders and your organization to move forward, their thoughts and actions must work together within a proven framework. In his book Thinking for a Change, our founder John C. Maxwell connects the intentional process that unites thoughts and action: “If at first you don’t succeed—think—then try again.”
Your company leaders and managers have to start from where they are, jump in, and start getting things done. Only then can they engage in reflective thinking, evaluate the experience, and try again. Even if they fail on occasion, at least they will be failing forward.
Many potential leaders let success pass them by because they are waiting for someone to grant them influence. Entire teams and organizations can drift into unproductive chaos because everyone is waiting for someone else to give them permission to act.
But it doesn’t work that way.
Influence doesn’t come from having a title, the same way that sitting in a Ferrari doesn’t mean you are traveling at 227 mph. As John says, “The position does not make the leader; the leader makes the position.”
So how can you prepare your managers to make the most of their leadership positions while shifting out of a positional mind-set? Share these three ways to be more effective:
1. Stop Relying on Position to Push People. There is nothing wrong with having a leadership position. That’s the starting place for most leadership. However, there is everything wrong with having a positional mind-set. While it’s easy to pull rank in order to push people, it isn’t always effective. The truth is, if you have to tell people that you’re the leader, you’re not. Good leaders stop bossing people around and start connecting with them.
2. Trade Entitlement for Movement. Leadership isn’t a right; it’s a privilege and must be continually earned. Entitlement will always work against you. Good leaders don’t take anything for granted. They strive to keep the people and the organization moving forward towards its vision. Let a vision for making a difference lift you and your team above the status quo. Forget your “leadership rights.” Focus on your responsibility to make a difference in the lives of the people you lead—and start moving.
3. Leave Your Position and Move towards Your People. Leaders are initiators. Greek philosopher Socrates said “Let him that would move the world, first move himself.” People who rely on position often mistakenly believe that it is the responsibility of the people to come to them for what they need and want. Good leaders understand that it is their responsibility to move towards their people. Make it your job to learn who your people are, find out what they need, and help them and the team win.
Your company’s executives will forever remain at the lowest level of influence—positional leadership—if they’re unwilling to act, to step on the gas and risk failure in order to move forward.
Equip them with the knowledge that the only way to learn how to be a leader is to think like a leader—then act like one!