Earning the right to lead

Experience, rank and title doesn’t automatically grant you the trust and respect required to effectively manage your colleagues and staff. The most successful leaders have learned that leadership requires a softly-softly phased approach, where connections, trust and credibility need to be established first. Leaders need to earn the right to lead. This pre-leading process is called pacing and in this article, I’ll break it down and outline how you can start to apply this essential skill to your management style right now.

Try to remember a time when you had a new CEO or leader join an organisation of which you were an employee. Did they instantly begin leading and have you and your colleagues follow their direction with gusto straight away? Chances are you felt some skeptisism and even resistance to them to begin with. It’s natural to feel this way to change after all, and if they were a skilled leader they would be acutely aware of this. Did they take time to converge into the organisation, talk to others, gain insights, seek feedback and develop relationships before taking to effectively setting direction and leading? If they wanted to be successful in their new post, you can bet they did take that approach. It is essential to focus on building your relationships within the company to pave the way and it’s really up to your employees to grant you the green light to switch into effective leadership mode, once you have earned it.

How to pace yourself effectively to earn the right to lead

Before you can lead, your primary focus ought to be on building trust and strong connections with your team as a whole, and individually. Pacing can be seen as a set of these three behaviours;

  1. Ability to build rapport
    There are plenty of ways to build rapport effectively that I have explored in previous blogs, including effectively listening to your staff, acknowledging their efforts and developing a flat management structure where you can be seen as easy to approach and talk to. If you genuinely want to get to know your team and can establish some shared interests with them, proving consistently that you genuinely appreciate the work they do, then you are setting yourself up to gain their trust and respect.
  2. Social awareness is defined as being aware of the problems that your staff face on a day-to-day basis and to be conscious of their difficulties and hardships. Being in touch with others’ feelings is an essential ingredient in effective leadership. Get it wrong and you’ll be seen as uncaring or insensitive. Set structed and unstructured conversations with them, whether it is striking up conversation at the water cooler or having regular weekly catch ups, providing the opportunity to interact is crucial.
  3. Self-awareness
    This goes hand in hand with social awareness and requires you to be conscious of your capabilities and shortcomings. Without being in touch with yourself and your interactions with others, you can’t really develop a good rapport and build trust. Effectively being able to express your own vulnerability, can also fast-track your human connections. As humans we naturally want to help others who are vulnerable, be it uncertain, worried or scared. If you are able to show others your human side, they of course will be able to identify with you and it might help them express their own vulnerability to you.
  4. Ability to support others
    Trust can’t be established without others knowing that you support them. It is important that your staff feel they can come to you with their concerns and problems and that you can help them and support them. If someone is struggling with their workload, offer to help divide the load or give them extensions and reassure them that you can help eleviate the pressure. If two colleagues are not working well together set up a meeting to help understand the issues and facilitate a better working relationship.

Recognise the crucial moment when you can switch from pacing, to leading

An effective leader needs to recognise when there has been a shift in the relationship, where they have earned the right to start leading, to start effectively setting direction. This requires the ability to tune in to others and to read the signals. You will be employing all the skills outlined above to do this. One crucial signal is when your team can comfortably express uncertainty in front of you.

It’s important to note that this process of pace and leadership is ongoing, in fact you can use this two-phased leadership approach in all your interactions. Even as a trusted and established manager, you can still approach every one-on-one catch up, every conversation, every group meeting and every phone call with a pace and lead approach. Listen, acknowledge, respect and show you understand feedback and thensuggest the direction in a way that people will engage with.

Could you and your leadership team do with some leadership training workshops tailored to the unique needs of your organisation? I’d love to share my experience and fool-proof leadership techniques with you. Don’t hesitate. Get in touch today.

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