Three Questions that matter the most for a Leader

Questions that matter the most by Mukesh Gupta

When we look at all the aspects of leadership, there are three core and fundamental questions that matter the most to the people whom we intend to lead.

Do You Know What You Are Talking About?

The most important aspect of leadership, then is competence. Do we know what we are talking about? Do we know what the ground reality is? Do we understand the process enough to make sense? Do we know where we are going? And why? This competence creates a level of respect for us as leaders, without which there is no leading. If the people we follow don’t respect us and our competence, they are not going to follow us. We would have failed even before we got started.

Can I trust you?

Once they respect us as individuals and for our competence, next comes trust. Do we do what we say we do? Do we have double standards or gold standards? Do we live up the values that we expect others to live up to? Are we transparent about our intentions? Do people have to second guess everything that we say? Is there enough trust amongst both sides of the leadership equation that honest conversation about difficult topics can be had without any personal repercussions?

Do you care about me?

Once people respect our competence and trust our intentions, they need to see that we care about them and their needs. A leader who only cares about himself and his growth soon finds himself stuck and all alone. Leadership is all about people. Leadership and leading people is actually a misnomer. There can only be people following someone and not someone leading a set of people. Following is an act of independent will. Anything else, will not last. Anything else doesn’t matter. So, if we want people to follow us, we need to show them that we care for them and also show why it is important for them to go in the direction that we want to lead them towards.

Conclusion:

Irrespective of whom we want to lead (team at work, spouse and children, a community, a nation), the three most important characteristics that we need to develop in ourselves are competence (that gets us respected), sound character (that elicits trust) and learning that it is not about us but about those whom we intend to lead (to show them that we care).

The ability to communicate well, the ability to think big and every other leadership skill needs these foundational traits to work.

 

PBTO43: How to Lead without Authority 

In the future of work that we envisage, one of the key skill that would be needed for anyone to do well is their ability to influence people (upwards/side wards/downwards) with or without formal authority.

This is an ability that anyone can build provided one is deliberate about building the skill.

Here are four things that you need to work on in order to build up your ability to lead with or without formal authority.

Building trust – Your Track Record

One of the most important component of influence or lack thereof is the amount of trust that people have on you as an individual.

  • Do you always do what you say you will do?
  • Do you take action and accompanying responsibility to the result of the action?
  • Are you open, honest and transparent about your intentions to doing something?
  • Are you more interested in the work being done or in claiming the credit for the work being done?

Past track record always has an influence on the amount of trust people have on you. So, it is in your best interest to be trustworthy and build that rapport with people and be known as someone who is honest, transparent and fulfils his commitment. These are the kinds of people, whom we all like to follow, irrespective of their titles.

3E’s – Empathy, Energy and Enthusiasm

These 3E’s are critical for any one who wants to lead. No one wants to follow someone who sucks out the energy from around them or constantly complains about everything and put themselves front, right and Center in all situations; definitely not when they don’t have to.

Manage your energy. Eat healthy, have enough rest, exercise, stay positive and stop whining and complaining about everything. This will give you a lot of energy.

Empathise with the people whom you wish to lead or influence. Understand their world view, what they want to achieve and find a way to align that to what you want to achieve. Find the answer for the question – What’s in it for them? Don’t manipulate. Manipulation always works in the short run but can be fatal in the long run as nothing destroys all semblance of trust like finding out that we were being manipulated in doing something that we never wanted to do or being mislead.

As they say, enthusiasm is contagious. People want to be around people who are enthusiastic and full of energy and have a positive outlook.

Be inspired so you can inspire

The people who are inspired have the potential to inspire people to action. Newton’s first law of motion is as applicable in the case of human minds as physical objects. Every object will remain in its current state (motion or rest) until it is acted upon by an external force. The external force that can move human mind and spirit to wilful action is inspiration. THe reason why we put people like Gandhi or Martin Luther King or Nelson Mandela on a pedestal as great leaders is because of their ability to inspire people to action – sometimes, action that could potentially get them killed or injured.

Robin Sharma, author of “The Monk Who Sold His Ferrari” shares 22 ways to become spectacularly inspirational. As for me, you can’t be inspirational, unless you are inspired yourself.

Study & Understand behavioral Psychology

If we want to influence people and in a positive way, we should learn how people function. We are fortunate to live in a period where is a lot of  great work being done in this field so that we understand how influence works better. We can learn from the works of people like Daniel Kahnemann (Thinking Fast and Slow), BJ Fogg, Richard Thaler (Nudge), Robert Cialdini (Influence & Pre-Suasion), Nir Eyal (Hooked) and many more.

Conclusion

Each one of these abilities function like a positive spiral loop which reinforces your ability to build influence and lead people with or without any formal authority. None of these work in isolation as well as when we have all of these going together.