What does it mean to be a leader? That's an interesting question to answer; A lot of times it means bearing the burden of another while teaching them to become stronger. Often times it involves providing the necessary supplies, elements or examples to help them succeed. Most of the time it is putting another before you. What I'm sure we can all agree on is effective leadership is no longer "Do it my way" and often times is no longer "Do it your way" either but rather a mix of "Follow me and let's figure this out together."
Think Long Term, Think Strategic- Leadership involves asking the question "If I do this now, how will it effect tomorrow?" While often times we want to fix the immediate symptoms; Stop the crying of a child, run and fix the issue of a fellow employee or go and completely redo the system we have to stop and ask first how is fixing the symptom going to solve the root of the problem? This past week my family and I dug up a garden that had been long over do. At dinner one night my wife said to me, we dug all those strands of grass out but I still saw a few new pieces of grass popping up, it really makes the concept of getting to the root of the problem visible. Thinking long term helps us not just see the strands popping up but the roots that are digging and creating solid foundations, as leaders that vision of pulling, fixing and preparing the soil must always be on the mind.
Leaders are Teachers- To become a teacher there must be some display of mastery. Teachers know when the time to follow is and when to grab the student by the hand and say let's go is. A key concept of leadership is the manner in which the teaching is done; parables, allegories, mnemonics and a bit of the old "I'm not sure" can be very valuable skills to gain and knowing when and where to use them can be even more valuable. These teaching styles can really invoke a pattern of deep thought and remembrance when used correctly. As a leader we often times don't see the immediate effects of solving problems for another right away but think back to the amount of time in your life was spent solving a problem for another and how much they could have learned by solving it themselves; Let them learn even if it hurts for a bit.
Follow the turtle but be kind to the Hare- Leaders often times may stop and take the time to fix problems as they go, they may get up and go and see what's going on, most likely they are slow to plan and yet quick to act but for sure an effective leader is the one who separates emotion, bureaucracy, and personal motives to accomplish what is best for the team. Even though you may be tempted to exhaust or try to keep up with the speedy rabbits or other organizations taking time to coach and develop others and support daily incremental improvements will surely win the overall race then a few key blitzes only to realize that nobody in your journey is left supporting the goal.
There are many elements to becoming a great leader including knowing when to lead and when to follow, by taking time to reflect on the elements of leadership that are most important for your organization you can be that much more effective. In short, we think of Lean and Continuous Improvement as a strategy; just as we do with those important initiatives we should also think of leadership as a strategy and improve everyday.