Everyone knows that leadership is important for an organization to do well. That much is clear.
What most people struggle with is how to actually practice leadership. What exactly do you do if you want to be a leader?
Like so many other things in business and in life, the most important thing in leadership is your mental game. If you want to be a leader, your head needs to be in the right space.
What do you care about?
More than anything else, leadership is what you care about. This is what I mean when I say leadership is a mental game. To be an effective leader, you truly need to care about this right things.
In any company or organization, there are four things that you can care about as a leader:
- Your company
- Your company’s mission
- Your company’s people
I’ve listed these in order of increasing usefulness for demonstrating leadership. I’ll tackle each of them below.
Caring about yourself
Well, of course you need to care about yourself as a leader. You’ve got a life and a career and bills to pay… it’s important to care about all that.
But, as a leader, it’s important that YOU be last on your list of things you care about. The other three things have to come first.
Why? If the people you lead get the sense that your top priority is your own success and not that of the team’s, then you won’t have very many followers for long. Leaders cannot be selfish.
Caring about your company
Being oriented towards the success of your company is good. It’s certainly better than putting yourself up on a pedestal as the top priority. This is what transformational leadership theory suggests leaders should be motivated by.
The problem with making your company the top priority is that a company can be pretty impersonal. It’s hard to motivate yourself about a corporate entity, and it’ll be even harder to motivate others to care about it. Public support for big corporations isn’t exactly at an all time high at the moment.
Caring about the mission
Caring about the mission is, in my mind, far better than caring about the company. Why is that?
For one, the company itself should already be oriented towards its mission. There should be no disagreement between you and your organization if you’re motivated by the mission.
Secondly, having a mission greater than yourself is extremely motivating. Think about it. What’s more motivating, to work for ACME Motor Co.’ success, or to fulfill it’s mission to “Improve the mobility for North America’s poorest 25%”? The mission is always more motivating (as long as the mission isn’t something like “Maximize shareholder value”…)
If you care about the mission, your followers will see that and will also be motivated by the mission. This is the sign of a strong leader.
Caring about people
This, to me, is where leaders need to be in terms of headspace. They need to care deeply about the people they lead. This is what servant leadership theory is founded on. When you care about people, those people become healthier, happier, more productive, and will move heaven and earth to get things done.
Of course, I believe you also need to care about the company’s mission, the company itself, and yourself as well. I just think the single most important thing to to prioritize the people your lead. Everything else is secondary and will fall into place if you care about people first.
What do your leaders care about?
Think about the people who are leaders in your organization. What do they care about? Are they strong or poor leaders? Tell us about it in the comments section below.