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Chris LoCurto

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April 18, 2012

4 Questions You Should Ask About Your Leadership

April 18, 2012 | By | 73 Comments

The decision to become a leader should be considered carefully. So many people see a position and a title and believe it’s exactly what they want to do. The problem is, leading is so much more than telling people what to do.

In fact, if you want to know if you’re a leader, turn around. If nobody is following you, then by definition you’re not leading anyone. You see, we have become so confused with this term “leader.” For some reason we think being a leader is all about control, conquest and status.

If that is why you want to be a leader, you’re going to find yourself spending most of your time frustrated, upset and confused about why nothing is going the way you want it to. Leadership is not about you. I believe a leader’s job is to make his team successful, not the other way around.

Unfortunately, I know and coach so many “leaders” who don’t understand that concept. To them, they should be the one getting all the attention. But really, a leader should spend his time focused on the needs of his team. He makes them better and causes them to succeed. Then by default he succeeds as well.

Some questions you should ask before, or even now that you’re a leader:

  • Do I like people? - If not, why do I want to be a leader? If you don’t get excited to work with your team and know their dreams, passions, fears and kids names, then why would you want to lead them?
  • What are my strengths? - In Why You Must Discover Your Strengths  I discuss why working in your strengths is vital. A huge mistake so many companies make is putting team members in leadership roles when they don’t belong there. A classic example is taking the top salesperson and making them sales team leader, because surely, if they can sell that well they can lead. Who said they could lead? If leading isn’t your strength, you’ll be miserable. Why spend one day doing something you’re not strong at instead of spending your life doing what you love?
  • Do I have influence? - Quite often I am asked about the first steps of leading from people who have recently been put in a leadership role. The first rule of leadership is influenceAs a leader, you must be able to influence your team. Without influence, who’s going to listen to you?
  • What is my real reason? - Many young, high D-type people see leadership as a pinnacle. A ladder that must be climbed if they’re going to be somebody. If that’s you, then you need to reevaluate your reason for wanting to be in leadership. Leadership is a responsibility that should not be taken lightly. The more people I hired, the more I felt the weight of their need to feed their families and put a roof over their heads. If that doesn’t enter your mind, then it’s all about you and not your team.

Am I trying to deter people from leadership? Well…yes! If you’re not called to it, then I think you should pass it up. The time you spend in leadership discovering that it’s not your strength could be some of the most stressful years…or weeks of your life.

Question: Have you ever seen someone in leadership who just didn’t belong there?

  • http://www.heirloombeds.co.uk/ wooden bedroom furniture

    I started a charity club at my school, but before I did that, I asked my friends to be leaders of the club and they all agreed. I was okay with that, except that slowly they are leaving me out simply because I cannot hear (deaf).

  • http://www.heirloombeds.co.uk/ wooden bedroom furniture

    I know I’ve asked many questions related to this topic and should have asked in other sections, but please answer as I need your mature answers.

  • LouiseThaxton

    Yes, I have seen MANY people in leadership positions – only for the “position”.  But true leadership – as you so welll wrote it – is servant leadership.   
     
    And I think the “why” question should come first – WHY do I want a leadership position?  Just so I can be in charge?  Or so I can help people – and lead them in a great effort and cause?  
     
    Leadership is hard – it takes a lot of work – and it is many times lonely.  

  • http://www.ginasmom.com/ ginasmom

    Timely and precise.

  • http://uma-maheswaran.blogspot.com/ uma_maheswaran

     
    – Am I adding value?
    – Do I serve the overall purpse?
    – Is there a better way of doing this?

  • http://specializingintheimpossible.wordpress.com/ Laura Johnson

    Thanks for this post!
    I’m a newbie in the world of leadership…
    I want to be a leader so I can help people, influence them in a direction that benefits them and ultimately leads them to the greatest leader–Christ.

  • http://twitter.com/osborne Lance Osborne (@Osborne)

    Incredible insight, Chris. This post has been on my mind since reading it yesterday. You’ve put into words the actions (or inaction!) most of us have seen in leaders who could/should do better – including ourselves! 
     
    Here’s the crux of it for me: “a leader’s job is to make his team successful, not the other way around.” Wow. If only more managers, supervisors, etc., would only GET THIS, we’d see many more true leaders with true influence instead of people who put their titles on parade.
     
    Obviously, we can all do a better job of realizing “it’s not about me” – it’s human nature to look out for #1! But paradoxically, it’s only when we consistently put others first that the whole becomes greater than the sum of its parts.

    • http://specializingintheimpossible.wordpress.com/ Laura Johnson

       @Lance Osborne (@Osborne) Agreed! “Leaders” don’t realize when they look out for their team, their team with perform better and look out for them….it benefits all! :)

  • http://uma-maheswaran.blogspot.com/ uma_maheswaran

    Thanks Chris~! That was introspective.

  • http://www.brandonhorvath.wordpress.com/ brandonahorvath

    Excellent insights and great questions for people to ask before/during experiencing life as a leader. I have worked for great leaders and I have worked for the world’s leaders and the less than excellent individuals would have greatly benefited from asking themselves these questions and would have realized that they are better off AND happier in another role. 
     
    Brandon
    http://www.brandonhorvath.wordpress.com 

    • http://ChrisLoCurto.com ChrisLoCurto

       @brandonahorvath Amen!

  • melissaoconnor11

    As a business management major I am surrounded by people who assume that they are going to be leaders in the near future, but should be looking into other options. I think these four questions are good measures of how successful someone will be in a leadership position and more should be emphasized about the fact that not everyone has to be a leader to contribute, sticking to what you are good at will provide the most value within an organization.

    • http://hardandsimple.blogspot.com Skropp

      @melissaoconnor11 Do you think part of the problem is that our society has taught us that you are successful ONLY if you are in a leadership position? So in an effort to achieve success everyone tries to be a leader, even if they’d be better suited and much happier NOT being?

      • http://specializingintheimpossible.wordpress.com/ Laura Johnson

         @Skropp  @melissaoconnor11 Good point!

    • http://ChrisLoCurto.com ChrisLoCurto

       @melissaoconnor11 Great point Melissa. I was talking to one of my friends this morning about how leaders aren’t the only ones who make things happen. If it wasn’t for the team, there wouldn’t be a leader to lead them. If they don’t do their part extremely well, then why do we need a leader? 

  • http://melissaaoconnor.wordpress.com/ Melissa O’Connor

    As a business management major I am surrounded by people who plan to be leaders in the very near future. I think these are good questions that people contemplating leadership should ask themselves because so many of the people in my classes wouldn’t answer them with the correct response. It needs to be better understood, and taught in school, that leadership isn’t for everyone and you can contribute without being a leader.

  • http://www.lifeofasteward.com/ Loren Pinilis

    Wow, I really appreciate your last point about evaluating why you want to lead in the first place. I think that’s something that we don’t really consciously evaluate, but we need to be servants of our teams and not the other way around.

    • http://ChrisLoCurto.com ChrisLoCurto

       @Loren Pinilis If they serve you, eventually they will stop serving and just do tasks. If you serve them, they will loyally serve and respect you. 

  • http://smokymountainfinancial.com/ Dale

    Everyone leads, whether they know it or not; whether they have a title or not.  If they are not leading correctly, in the way Chris has described, they will be leading people in another direction…which is frequently seen as “talent bleed” as the best and brightest flee a company or organization.  In my personal coaching, my question to my clients is, “As the head of your family, how are you teaching the next generations of it to behave: responsibly or recklessly?”  To me, the bigger the team (or family), the more you need those who can put correct coaching/teaching/mentoring into action.

    • http://www.bluebridgecomm.com/ JoelFortner

      Love this, Dale!  Couldn’t agree more.

    • http://hardandsimple.blogspot.com Skropp

      @Dale Awesome points Dale. I think it all comes down to the fact that we all have influence…some more than others, and some influence people to DO things, and some to STOP doing things. But we all have influence.

    • http://ChrisLoCurto.com ChrisLoCurto

      Spot on Dale!!

  • RicardoButler

    Amen!

  • epicenterone

    I totally get stressed out for the people who work with me. Right now our clients seem to be delaying payments on us left and right – can you say SLEEPLESS IN MEXICO CITY? This seriously keeps me up at night. 
     
    And yes I do know people who have the title of leadership, but have no idea how it’s done. Iove John Maxwell’s levels of leadership – have you ever read/heard of these? His first level is positional. It says: I’m a leader because sign on the door says I am. Lowest level and weakest! 
     
    In the companies where we give our courses, we see this kind of leadership all the time. The employees under these kinds of leaders only follow for as long as they are on the clock. They aren’t inspired, they’re intimidated. We’re actually thinking of ways we could work with their HR people to try and get some workshops going on the matter – this sort of leadership is killing them. (In the last 3 months, they’ve been bleeding talent like mad.) 
     
    Learning to develop leadership skill and ability is so vital for everyone. 

    • http://www.lilykreitinger.com lilykreitinger

      @epicenterone Sleepless in Mexico City ha ha. So pollution, overpopulation, crazy traffic have nothing to do with that? :) (To clarify, that’s my hometown, so I’m allowed to joke about it). Love your insight and you trying to help your clients. Wow!

    • Domerskee

       @epicenterone I manage a department that runs 24/7/365.  The biggest thing I have learned is that if I cannot be an effective leader I will try and do it mostly all myself.  That doesn’t work for the department, the people in it, the people we serve, or myself.  
      Chris’ questions are not only a great way to evaluate up front but also as reminder points along the road.  A good way to evaluate where things may be and if changes/ adjustments may need to be made.

    • http://www.bluebridgecomm.com/ JoelFortner

       @epicenterone Do you believe a relationship exists between the ways these companies treat their people and not paying you on time?

      • epicenterone

         @JoelFortner Joel – that’s a great question. Never thought about it before, but there could be something there. A lot of the “leaders” there are ‘me first’ I think. That could for sure play out to getting around to paying the suppliers/service providers whenever they have free time. (That and not caring that your decision to not sign that payment today will mean that somebody’s family gets to yank their belts a bit tighter tomorrow, or fall behind on their gas bill.) 
         
        The lesson I am learning here: I WILL NEVER BE THAT GUY to the team of people who decide to throw their heart and soul in with me. 

        • http://www.bluebridgecomm.com/ JoelFortner

           @epicenterone The theme I picked up on is “unhealthy.”  And when leadership is unhealthy, the organization is unhealthy and bad stuff occurs. 

        • epicenterone

           @JoelFortner You sure got that right man! The oil starts at the head, runs down the beard, and covers the body. Leaders make or break their organizations. 

        • http://www.bluebridgecomm.com/ JoelFortner

           @epicenterone Precisely, hence, you’re not getting paid. Just a hunch but I wouldn’t be surprised if it’s not far off.  Keep scrappin!

        • http://specializingintheimpossible.wordpress.com/ Laura Johnson

           @JoelFortner Totally agree with the direction you two are going here! Course I could be a little biased :)  I mean hey, when you’ve had a boss (not current) who comes to you…when you and your coworker won’t be getting either of that month’s paychecks until the end of next month….and tells you to write a $70 check to his daughter for spending money….uh yeah. I think there’s a much stronger relationship between a company’s treatment of its employees and it spending habits than most realize.
          Don’t mean to be too negative here… :)

    • http://hardandsimple.blogspot.com Skropp

      @epicenterone How much of the leadership problems do you think can be tied to not budgeting hires and beig rushed into finding someone to “fill the spot” as a manager rather than methodically and purposefully going through the process of hiring or promoting a manager?

      • epicenterone

         @Skropp  Budgeting hires….well may be part of their issue – but more than anything their leadership has been in crisis since 2010. Since that time, they’ve axed a large majority of their leadership team (including their CEO, HR director, CFO, and a bunch of managers and other workers.) Their internal people strategy just doesn’t exist. Fear is rampant (We get to know the people who take classes with us quite well, and all they worry about is: am I next? ) And well…it’s just a hard place to be in. 
         
        We even had their new HR director (Referred to as ICE woman – when spoken of nicely..) ask us for thermometer readings on their people. WE KNOW THEIR EMPLOYEES BETTER THAN THEY DO. 
         
        So I see a unique position here: we could have the possibility to speak into this situation somehow. In fact, we are developing a minii workshop proposal to throw their way to try and help them a bit. But yeah….the people in that company are hurting. Showcase of how NOT to lead a company is going on right there. 

        • http://hardandsimple.blogspot.com Skropp

          @epicenterone Wow. Sounds like you’ve got your work cut out for you! Leadership model of 100 years ago! Hopefully the extent to which they’ve fallen will allow them to see the value of what you’re offering!

    • http://specializingintheimpossible.wordpress.com/ Laura Johnson

       @Aaron Nelson Been reading through those Maxwell books! Good stuff there! :)

  • wesory

    That’s good stuff.  I will use this when looking for promotions from inside.

    • http://ChrisLoCurto.com ChrisLoCurto

       @wesory Thanks!

  • unknownjim

    Chris, where does having the “heart of a teacher” come into this equation? I know I’ve heard Dave mention this many times, but can you elaborate on it? Thanks! 

    • http://www.jonahenry.com/ Jonathan Henry

       @unknownjim 
      Heart of a salesperson: “I’m need to profit and am in this short-term.”
       
      Heart of an expert: “I know what I’m talking about, but I can’t help but be condescending until you know what I’m talking about.”
       
      Heart of a teacher: “You need to make informed decisions, and I will help you however long it takes to make those decisions.”
       
      Try looking at it from the follower’s perspective. I like following people, but I also think I’m pretty smart in who I follow. Great leaders make me look good, because they make me even smarter and do better for myself. Great “heart of a teacher” leaders take a long time and commitment to making me smarter and do better. Because — let’s face it — I can do some pretty stupid things. 

      • unknownjim

         @Jonathan Henry Thanks for sharing that Jonathan. I really appreciate it. As I think about it, I know I’d sure rather be in the teacher category than the salesman or expert categories myself. 

        • http://www.bluebridgecomm.com/ JoelFortner

           @unknownjim Likewise! It’s much more rewarding!

      • http://www.bluebridgecomm.com/ JoelFortner

         @Jonathan Henry Great stuff!

    • http://ChrisLoCurto.com ChrisLoCurto

       @unknownjim If your leadership is all about your team, you will have a heart of a teacher. If it’s all about you, there won’t be much teaching. 

      • http://hardandsimple.blogspot.com Skropp

        @ChrisLoCurto @unknownjim There won’t be much teaching OR leading. Just a lot of vanity and frustration on the leaders part and resentment and frustration on the teams part. Bottom line is, unless your company is a supplier of frustration, you aren’t gonna be real profitable or productive!

  • http://www.lilykreitinger.com lilykreitinger

    Yes, I’ve seen someone in leadership who didn’t belong: me!  Being a high S/C, conflict management and delegation are areas I really need to be very focused and intentional about.  My goal was for  ”all of us to get along” and I worked hard on the relationships, leaving tasks and goals behind.  It was never a power trip for me, but a source of anxiety, feeling very responsible for my team. Thanks to all I’m learning with EntreLeadership, next time I will be much better prepared.  As far as bad leaders go, I’ve been blessed to have great ones except for the “horrible boss” who I’ve told you guys about before… the one who called my parents after hours to ask where I was… UGH!

    • Jonathan Henry

       @lilykreitinger I’m an outrageously high S/C type (well, a low D type is more accurate… there is a 60 point gap between D and the other three). The best thing I learned about delegation actually came from the Strengthsfinder evaluation, where a description for the theme “Ideation” states that I’d rather see my ideas handed off to others than work on them myself, like a surgeon who has a resident stitch up a patient after an extensive operation. I think the same should be true for the S/C side: We can do the hard part — thinking in a deliberate, controlled environment while making sure we have all the information to make a decision. We’re good at it, but if we want our team to thrive, we’ll learn to pass the decision off on others, right? (Not trying to use this as an excuse to not work, just so you know).

      • http://hardandsimple.blogspot.com Skropp

        @Jonathan Henry @lilykreitinger Isn’t it amazing that when you get down to it, none of us can be a one person leader? We all have strengths and weaknesses and to be truly effective we really must have a leadership team, ideally, each member working in their areas of strength.

    • epicenterone

       @lilykreitinger Totally identify with you here. I do need to be intentional about conflict and delegation as well – and to quote Dave: ‘to get up into people’s stuff’ when it doesn’t happen. 

    • http://ChrisLoCurto.com ChrisLoCurto

       @lilykreitinger Even the horrible boss has taught you how to be a better you!

      • http://www.lilykreitinger.com lilykreitinger

        @ChrisLoCurto Definitely! I learned what NOT to do.

      • http://www.indueseason.net skottydog

        @ChrisLoCurto @lilykreitinger A lot of experience I incorporated as a leader was by doing the exact OPPOSITE of some of my old bosses over the years. Sadly, that has served me well…in addition to “The Golden Rule”!

    • http://www.bluebridgecomm.com/ JoelFortner

       @lilykreitinger I understand this completely. I believe it’s very very common. 

  • http://www.bluebridgecomm.com/ JoelFortner

    Man, these are superb questions to ask.  And to answer your question, yes I have.  Plenty of them.  Leadership isn’t about you or getting to the top.  It’s about your team, which requires leading in the moment. 

    • http://www.lilykreitinger.com lilykreitinger

      Leadership isn’t about you… LOVE IT!

    • http://hardandsimple.blogspot.com Skropp

      @JoelFortner You’re absolutely right Joel. It also requires leading from the front. It sounds easy, but how many times have you seen a leader pass the buck, or expect the team to do things they, themselves won’t do? Or fail to paint a clear picture of the goals and vision of the organization?

      • http://www.bluebridgecomm.com/ JoelFortner

        I believe these are common mistakes especially the last one.

        • http://www.jonahenry.com/ Jonathan Henry

           @JoelFortner But, is it a leader’s responsibility to “paint a clear picture,” or to unleash the potential within the team to go out and create a painting filled with goals and vision? This is where talent selection comes to play… a leader is responsible for gathering the talent that has the greatest potential to do exceptional things.
           
          I’m sure we all know that very few companies live up to a plaque or tagline of their mission statement, so why should a leader repeat what we treat as garbage? On the other hand, if you have a pool of talented people and enable them to act on their talents, you allow your people to create a clear picture of goals and vision.

        • http://www.jonahenry.com/ Jonathan Henry

           @JoelFortner Look at it this way: your vision is guided by where your hands and feet take you. You need people to open doors (hands), and you need others that walk through them (feet). The leader might coordinate everything from the head, but in reality is carried along for the ride by the rest of the body!

        • http://hardandsimple.blogspot.com Skropp

          @JoelFortner And the thing is the team WANTS to catch the vision most times. And if the leader will paint the vision, and lead the charge towards that vision, if they’re doing their best, the team is likely to forgive many of the leaders short comings, but he HAS to paint the vision

        • http://hardandsimple.blogspot.com Skropp

          @Jonathan Henry @JoelFortner Great points. What I get from your thoughts is that a vision is like any other product. If you can’t sell it, and your team doesn’t buy it, it doesn’t matter how good it is, it’s useless. So having the right leader leading the right team is essential!

        • http://www.bluebridgecomm.com/ JoelFortner

           @Jonathan Henry I believe it’s the leader’s job to cast a vision and then build the right team to acheive it. 

        • http://www.bluebridgecomm.com/ JoelFortner

           @Skropp  I like you nailed it here! Amen!

    • http://ChrisLoCurto.com ChrisLoCurto

       @JoelFortner Amen brother!!

  • http://hardandsimple.blogspot.com Skropp

    Haha. Sometimes I think I’ve seen more people in leadership that DIDN’T belong there than people that did belong there. It seems people get management and leadership confused. They manage people, “do this, don’t do that, why aren’t you doing this?” rather than leading and inspiring them to be better professionals, spouses, parents, and people!

    • http://ChrisLoCurto.com ChrisLoCurto

       @Skropp You’re absolutely correct. I think that’s what inspired me to write this. 

      • http://hardandsimple.blogspot.com Skropp

        @ChrisLoCurto It seems most companies see leadership as a rite of passage…youve been here 10 years so you deserve leadership, or you’ve outlasted everyone else, so you must be the best person for the job