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THE 360° LEADERDeveloping Your Influence from Anywhere in the Organization
By JOHN C. MAXWELL
Nelson ImpactCopyright © 2006 Maxwell Motivation and JAMAX Realty
All right reserved.
Chapter OneThe Myths of Leading from the Middle of an Organization
List three leaders who have had a great impact on their organization or environment:
1. 2. 3.
Maybe you thought of William Wallace leading the charge of his warriors against the army that would oppress his people, Winston Churchill defying the Nazi threat as much of Europe collapsed, Mahatma Gandhi leading the two-hundred-mile march to the sea to protest the Salt Act, Mary Kay Ash going off on her own to create a world-class organization, or Martin Luther King Jr. standing before the Lincoln Memorial, challenging the nation with his dream of reconciliation— these are all classic pictures of leadership.
Each of these people was a great leader. Each made an impact that has touched hundreds of thousands, if not millions of people. Yet these pictures can also be misleading. The reality is that 99 percent of all leadership occurs not from the top but from the middle of an organization. Usually, an organization has only one person who is the leader. So what do you do if you are not that one person?
I've taught leadership for nearly thirty years. And in just about every conference I've ever taught, someone has come up to me and said something such as: "I like what you teach about leadership, but I can't apply it. I'm not the main leader. And the person I work under is, at best, average."
Is that where you live? Are you working somewhere in the middle of your organization? You may not be a follower at the lowest level of the organization, but you're not the top dog either—yet you still want to lead, to make things happen, to make a contribution.
Believe it or not, you do not have to be held hostage to your circumstances or position. You do not have to be the president or CEO to lead effectively. And you can learn to make an impact through your leadership even if you report to someone who is not a good leader. What's the secret? How do you do it? You learn to develop your influence from wherever you are in the organization by becoming a 360-Degree Leader. You learn to lead up, lead across, and lead down.
Not everyone understands what it means to influence others in every direction— those you work for, the people who are on the same level with you, and those who work for you. Some people are good at leading the members of their own team, but they seem to alienate the leaders in other departments of the organization. Other individuals excel at building a great relationship with their boss, but they have no influence with anyone below them in the organization. A few people can get along with just about anybody, and their coworkers love spending time with them, but they never seem to get any work done. On the other hand, some people are productive, but they can't get along with anybody. But 360-Degree Leaders are different. Only 360-Degree Leaders influence people at every level of the organization. By helping others, they help themselves.
At this point, you may be saying, "Leading in every direction—that's easier said than done!" That's true, but it's not impossible. In fact, becoming a 360-Degree Leader is within the reach of anyone who possesses average or better leadership skills and is willing to work at it. So even if you would rate yourself as only a five or six on a scale of one to ten, you can improve your leadership and develop influence with the people all around you in an organization—and you can do it from anywhere in the organization.
Fill in the following organizational chart:
Leading in all directions will require you to learn three different sets of leadership skills. But before we get into those, we need to get some other things out of the way, beginning with seven myths believed by many people who lead from the middle of an organization. That is the subject of the first section of this workbook.
The Position Myth:
"I can't lead if I am not at the top."
Answer the following questions as TRUE or FALSE:
1. My position within the organization limits my ability to lead others. _____
2. The opportunity to lead will come only when I'm at the top of my organization. _____
3. My influence with others is directly related to my title. _____
4. It is "out-of-line" to try to influence those above me, and I resent it when someone who reports to me tries to influence me. _____
If I had to identify the number-one misconception people have about leadership, it would be the belief that leadership comes simply from having a position or title. But nothing could be further from the truth. You don't need to possess a position at the top of your group, department, division, or organization in order to lead. If you think you do, then you have bought into the position myth.
Because I have led volunteer organizations most of my life, I have watched many people become tied up by the position myth. When people who buy into this myth are identified as potential leaders and put on a team, they are very uncomfortable if they have not been given some kind of title or position that labels them as leaders in the eyes of other team members. Instead of working to build relationships with others on the team and to gain influence naturally, they wait for the positional leader to invest them with authority and give them a title. After a while, they become more and more unhappy, until they finally decide to try another team, another leader, or another organization.
People who follow this pattern don't understand how effective leadership develops. If you've read some of my other leadership books, you might be aware of a leadership identification tool I call "The Five Levels of Leadership," which I introduce in Developing the Leader Within You. It captures the dynamics of leadership development as well as anything I know. Just in case you're not familiar with it, I'll explain it briefly here.
Leadership is dynamic, and the right to lead must be earned individually with each person you meet. Where you are on the "staircase of leadership" depends on your history with that person. And with everyone, we start at the bottom of the five steps or levels.
That bottom (or first) level is position. You can only start from the position you have been given, whatever it is: production-line worker, administrative assistant, salesperson, foreman, pastor, assistant manager, and so forth. Your position is whatever it is. From that place, you have certain rights that come with your title. But if you lead people using only your position, and you do nothing else to try to increase your influence, then people will follow you only because they have to. They will follow only within the boundaries of your job description. The lower your stated position, the less potential authority you possess. The good news is that you can increase your influence beyond your title and position. You can "move up" the staircase of leadership to higher levels.
If you move to level two, you begin to lead beyond your position because you have built relationships with the people you desire to lead. You treat them with dignity and respect. You value them as human beings. You care about them, not just the job they can do for you or the organization. Because you care about them, they begin to trust you more. As a result, they give you permission to lead them. In other words, they begin to follow you because they want to.
The third level is the production level. You move to this phase of leadership with others because of the results you achieve on the job. If the people you lead succeed in getting the job done because of your contribution to the team, then they will look to you more and more to lead the way. They follow you because of what you've done for the organization.
To reach the fourth level of leadership, you must focus on developing others. Accordingly, this is called the people-development level of leadership. Your agenda is to pour yourself into the individuals you lead—mentor them, help them develop their skills, and sharpen their leadership ability. What you are doing, in essence, is leadership reproduction. You value them, add value to them, and make them more valuable. At this level, they follow you because of what you've done for them.
The fifth and final level is the personhood level, but it is not a level one can strive to reach, because reaching it is outside of your control. Only others can put you there, and they do so because you have excelled in leading them from the first four levels for a long period of time. You have earned the reputation of a level-five leader.
Disposition More Than Position
When potential leaders understand the dynamics of gaining influence with people using the Five Levels of Leadership, they come to realize that position has little to do with genuine leadership.
You can lead others from anywhere in an organization. And when you do, you make the organization better. The bottom line is this: Leadership is a choice you make, not a place you sit. Anyone can choose to become a leader wherever he is. You can make a difference no matter where you are.
TRUE or FALSE Review:
If you answered True to question 1 or 3, consider the following:
Do individuals have to be at the top of the organizational chart to develop relationships and persuade others to like working with them?
Do people only work with you because they have to? How can you develop appropriate relationships with the people on your team or in your organization?
Do people need to possess the top title to achieve results and help others become productive?
What has a coworker—besides the president or CEO—taught you in the past year? What unique skills do you possess that you can pass on to others?
This week, try to find an opportunity where you assist a coworker on your level in a project. You may even have an opportunity to teach that person a new skill or another way to approach a challenge.
If you answered True to question 2 or 4, consider the following:
Where do leaders get their start? William Wallace and Winston Churchill weren't the top-ranking officers in the first battles they fought. Mary Kay Ash didn't own the first company she worked for. Martin Luther King Jr. started his ministry as an assistant pastor.
What would happen if you began to think and act like a leader in your current position? Would you approach your job differently? Would you approach the people you work with differently? Explain.
Did Wallace, Churchill, Ash, and King wait until they were given a title or top position to influence others?
How do you express your leadership potential to those around you?
What could you gain by considering the ideas of those who work for you?
This week, do more than just what is expected or required of you. Look for opportunities to step up and take responsibility for a project. Be open to the ideas of others. Approach your team with the attitude that you or someone who works for you could be the next "great leader."
Myth #2 The Destination Myth:
"When I get to the top, then I'll learn to lead."
Answer the following questions as TRUE or FALSE:
1. To learn leadership skills I must first be in a position of leadership. _____ 2. It's too risky to emerge as a midlevel leader. If I make mistakes at my current level, I'll never be given the opportunity to move up in the organization. _____ 3. There is no need to prepare for a leadership position that I may never reach. _____ 4. I'll have time to learn about leadership when I'm placed in a position of leadership. _____
In 2003, Charlie Wetzel, my writer, decided he wanted to tackle a goal he had held for more than a decade. He was determined to run a marathon. If you were to meet Charlie, you'd never guess that he is a runner. The articles in running magazines say that at five feet ten inches tall, a distance runner should weigh 165 pounds or less. Charlie weighs more like 205. But he was a regular runner who averaged twelve to twenty miles a week and ran two or three 10K races every year, so he decided to go for it.
Do you think Charlie just showed up at the starting line on race day and said, "Okay, I guess it's time to figure out how to run a marathon"? Of course not. He started doing his homework a year in advance. He read reviews of marathons held around the United States and learned that the Chicago marathon—held in October—enjoys great weather most years. It utilizes a fast, flat race course. It has a reputation for having the best fan support of any marathon in the nation. It was the perfect place for a first-time marathoner, so that is the race he picked.
He also started learning how to train for a marathon. He read articles. He searched Web sites. He talked to marathon runners. He even recruited a friend who had run two marathons to race with him in Chicago on October 12. And, of course, he trained. He started the process in mid-April, increasing his mileage every week and eventually working his way up to two training runs of twenty miles each in addition to his other sessions. When race day came around, he was ready—and he completed the race.
Leadership is very similar. If you want to succeed, you need to learn as much as you can about leadership before you have a leadership position. When I meet people in social settings and they ask me what I do for a living, some of them are intrigued when I say I write books and speak. And they often ask what I write about. When I say leadership, the response that makes me chuckle most goes something like this: "Oh. Well, when I become a leader, I'll read some of your books!" What I don't say (but want to) is: "If you'd read some of my books, maybe you'd become a leader."
TRUE or FALSE Review:
If you answered True to question 1 or 2, consider the following:
Good leadership is learned in the trenches. Leading as well as they can wherever they are is what prepares leaders for more and greater responsibility. Becoming a good leader is a lifelong learning process.
How are you learning to lead? What opportunities do you currently have that could further develop your leadership skills?
If you don't try out your leadership and decision-making skills when the stakes are small and the risks are low, you're likely to get into trouble at higher levels when the cost of mistakes is high, the impact is far-reaching, and the exposure is greater. Mistakes made on a small scale can be easily overcome. Mistakes made when you're at the top cost the organization greatly, and they damage a leader's credibility.
How often do you volunteer to take ownership of a project or lead others? If you are doing only what is required in your position, how do you intend to stand out from your coworkers?
This week, try to find an opportunity where you can volunteer to take a leadership role on a project or activity. If you are not comfortable developing your leadership skills at work, find a place within your community to serve (i.e., coaching a little league team, heading up a church committee, organizing a large family or social event).
If you answered True to question 3 or 4, consider the following:
How do you become the person you desire to be?
What can you do right now to develop your leadership skills? How can you reshape your thinking and habits to better display the characteristics of a leader?
Hall of Fame basketball coach John Wooden said, "When opportunity comes, it's too late to prepare."
How does a person prepare to become a leader? What does a leader need to know?
On the next page, list at least three goals you will try to achieve this year related to leadership. Chart out the steps you will take to prepare yourself for leadership. Include the books you will read, the people you will attempt to learn from, and the opportunities you will seize to shape your leadership skills.
Excerpted from THE 360° LEADER by JOHN C. MAXWELL Copyright © 2006 by Maxwell Motivation and JAMAX Realty. Excerpted by permission of Nelson Impact. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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