10 Tips To Take Your Leadership To The Next Level

It’s Top 10 Week here at timmilburn.com. Check out the first two lists here and here.

Mark Victor Hansen gives great wisdom when he says, “Don’t wait until everything is just right. It will never be perfect. There will always be challenges, obstacles and less than perfect conditions. So what. Get started now. With each step you take, you will grow stronger and stronger, more and more skilled, more and more self-confident and more and more successful.”

In this post I want to encourage you with 10 nuggets of leadership wisdom that, if acted upon, will raise your level of leadership influence and ability.

1. Do what you do best.

Today is the best day to be the most authentic version of yourself. You are packed full of potential and possibility. There’s a reason others follow you or look up to you or are drawn to you. Take the time to figure out where your strengths lie and then invest yourself in those areas. While there will always be times when you have to do “weakness” work (stuff you’re not good at but is a natural and necessary part of your role), you will add the most value to others and your organization when you find ways to do what you do better than anyone else.

What can you do that only you can do and you do it well?

2. Focus on a few things.

My favorite illustration of this principle is juggling. I can juggle three balls. If you watch me juggle three balls you would think to yourself, “Wow, Tim is a pretty good juggler.” I can do different techniques. I can keep those balls moving. But…throw in a fourth ball and the whole exercise comes crashing to the floor. It’s instantaneous. Watch me try to juggle four balls and you’ll think, “Tim is a horrible juggler.” What’s the principle? I would rather do three things that measure an 8 (on a scale of 1-10) than eight things that measure a 3.

What is the one thing you need to focus on today that will cause others to stand up and take notice?

3. An event’s not over until everything is put away and everyone is thanked and you’ve evaluated your experience.

This is all about learning to lead after the important moment is over. You may have planned a presentation, you might be in charge of an event, or you have led a group of people through a process of change. Whatever your situation, afterwards is as important as during. In my work with student leaders, we will often put a lot of energy into pulling off an event. When the event is over, I want our leaders to know that their job isn’t done. Putting everything away brings closure and actually is preparation for the next event. Gratitude shows others that you clearly can’t do this thing by yourself (nor do you want to). And evaluation makes you a better leader for next time.

Do you have any unfinished business to take care of today?

4. Communicate in such a way that people don’t just hear you, but they actually respond to what you’re saying.

There’s a difference between talking at someone and talking to them. A message that’s delivered with no need of a response is a monologue. A message that elicits a response is called a conversation. Your most effective communication will invite people to respond to what you’re saying.

Does your communication help others know how to respond or how to act?

5. If you do it all yourself, then you’re not leading anyone.

It’s not rocket surgery folks (I love that line). If you are in a position that doesn’t require the assistance or presence of any other person, you are not leading. While I will admit that you have to lead yourself first, that only serves as a pre-requisite to actually leading others. I know it might be easier to do it yourself, it might take less time to do it yourself, and it probably goes a little smoother if you do it all yourself. But then…you’re limited by what only you can do…and you’re not leading.

Look around…is there anyone with you?

6. Integrity is not a personality trait.

Beyond strengths tests and aptitude training and finding the perfect fit for your skill set – integrity is not something you find out if you’re good at. You either have it or you don’t. A leader’s character will be tested in a variety of situations. You can’t delegate your integrity to someone else. You can’t make an excuse for a lack of it. Your integrity is all on you. It takes a long time to develop it and it takes one moment to ruin it. The only test to determine the level of your integrity is life itself.

Besides integrity, what are some of the “must have” characteristics of a good leader?

7. Sometimes you meet your expectations, so keep them high.

I love what Ralph Marston has to say about expectations: “Don’t lower your expectations to meet your performance. Raise your level of performance to meet your expectations. Expect the best of yourself, and then do what is necessary to make it a reality. “ If you don’t set your own level of expectation, someone else will. If all you want to do is get by and get through, then you’ll set your expectations at the level of the lowest common denominator. You’ll settle for average and mediocre. But if you want to do your best, strive for excellence, be a leader that others truly want to follow – you’ll set your own expectations…and they’ll be higher than what others set for you.

How high have you set your own bar today?

8. Be on the lookout for someone to take your place.

The best leaders are always on the look out for other leaders. They see potential in others. They find a way to work themselves out of a job. They develop others to fill their shoes. They find opportunities for others to shine. One of the best measurements of effective leadership is one in which an organization or group of people continue to thrive and grow when the leader steps away.

Two words: who’s next?

9. Your greatest opportunities to lead may lie at the point of someone else’s frustration.

Leaders are problem-solvers. Where others may shrink from a challenge, a leader will stretch to the challenge. You can tell which people are the leaders in the room – they’re the ones who are willing to take on and accept the responsibility for solving the problems in your organization. They look for ways to serve by meeting the needs of those around them.

What is one problem that you can start to solve today?

10. The ultimate failure is the failure to finish.

Everyone loves to start something. My bookshelf is full of books that I’ve only read the first chapter. There’s a lot of excitement at the start. Everyone wants to get on board. At the start of a sports season, every team is undefeated. At the start of a semester, every student has straight A’s. But something happens once the excitement dies down, the problems seem bigger than the solutions, or the reward doesn’t feel like it’s worth the risk. People quit. The challenge is to see it through. To do your best to the very end. To get up when you’ve gotten knocked down. To finish.

What will it take for you to see this thing through to the end?

Love to hear your comments on this post. Which one stood out to you the most?

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