How To Start Leading, Even If You’re Not Trained For It

The vast majority of the leaders I’ve worked with in the past decade have received extraordinary education and training in many professional fields: engineering, technology, medicine, finance, sales, accounting…just about every highly skilled area there is.

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Except leadership.

Almost nobody goes to school for leadership or trains for years on just leadership skills. Understandably, many of my clients are then somewhat hesitant to assume leadership roles and don’t actually do much to lead once they get there.

While management isn’t for everyone, we all have a chance to lead from any position. Here are four mindsets to have with for those who might not feel like they have the training to lead:

Recognize The Importance Of People Skills
Think about the best medical doctor that you’ve ever had. What did that doctor do so well that made them effective?

If you’re like most people who consider this question, you probably thought of things like this:

  • They were caring
  • Was a good listener
  • Kept me informed about test results
  • Knew something about me that wasn’t on my chart
  • Remembered my name
  • Made eye contact
  • Delivered tough news thoughtfully, but honestly

People do mention words like “brilliant” and “highly trained,” but rarely do those show up at the top of the list. What people notice and remember are the personal interactions and the people skills.

Study The Best Leader You Know
Stop here for 10 seconds and think about the best leader you ever had.

What did that person do that was so memorable? How did that person earn your respect? In what ways did they interact with you? What qualities did they have, they made them such a good leader?

If your answers are like mine, you probably didn’t think as much about their degrees, their certifications, or their accomplishments. Those things are incredibly important and present in many of the best leaders I know. Yet, most of us think of qualities like:

  • Trustworthy
  • Motivating
  • Did what was best for the team and organization
  • Admitted mistakes

What can you do this week to be more like the best leader you’ve followed?

Seek Good Questions, Not Correct Answers
Lots of people are paid well to find the right answers to tough problems. And, when they begin managing others, they often kill motivation on their teams by insisting on the “right way” to do something or micromanaging every aspect of people’s work.

Can leaders still help people find answers? Sure, but that’s not the primary role of a leader. Now your job is to help others discover the answers. That means a new focus on asking the right questions, so people can discover new and better ways to address complex problems themselves…perhaps even better in the long-run than you would.

Set Aside Your Need For Perfection
The most complex technical schematic is child’s play compared to the complexity of the human brain. Many leaders who’ve spent years making technical decisions assume that there are always right and wrong people decisions too. That’s rarely true. People are incredibly complex and messy.

Nobody ever gets “done” leading. Throw out your desire for perfection and strive to serve others in the best way you can. If your heart is in the right place, you’ll still make mistakes, but you’ll discover from others and yourself how to lead effectively.

What shifts in your mindset will help you lead more effectively?

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