The First Step to Becoming a Great Leader

May 31, 2011 | By | Add a Comment

When I work with top teams I am helping the team become more aligned and effective and I am helping the team members be better leaders of the teams they lead. The two goals are interrelated because the first step to becoming a strong leader is being a strong team member.

Team members who lack relational and conflict resolution skills or who are not accountable to others make lousy teammates and weak leaders.

Do your own self-assessment of your team-play skills? If you were on Survivor, how quick would your team vote you off? Do you step into conflict consistently and with empathy and vulnerability? Do you do what you say you are going to do? What do you do when you break your agreements-i.e., how do you convey you care about others? Do you take the time to include others to enlist their feedback, debate and support? Do you answer all these questions on your own or do you get honest feedback from others on how well you do these things?

I have had to work on my teaming skills. I didn’t play a lot of team sports, was so ambitious and competitive as young bank trainee that I ran over my peers, and I often felt I was above my teammates and didn’t need their input. I flew solo and saw the leader role as not really being part of the team.

What saved me in the past was that I hired a lot of people with strong teaming skills and experience who worked really well together but I often felt like an outsider. The truth is, my limited team player skills limited my ability to lead; I was more of a benevolent dictator than a caring, inspiring steward.

What helped me improve my team player skills has been being more expressive and engaged, especially if I don’t agree with others, cheer leading others even when they are performing at the level I expect them to, and being more vulnerable by admitting when I am outside my comfort zone. I no invest in building a relationship with all my teammates versus seeing them as objects or just investing in those who I like.

When doing your self-assessment first determine what team you are on. These are your peers and sometimes your direct reports and sometimes your bosses. Often you are on multiple teams. If you are the CEO you are part of the team that is the board and the team of direct reports you lead.

How often do you complain about your team members? How much do you trust and respect them and what do you do to earn their trust and respect? How honest and balanced is the feedback among team members? How well do you cheer each other on? Is it time to invest more in these relationships?

Develop your team skills and your leadership skills will follow.

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About the Author (Author Profile)

Executive coach, top team facilitator, author and speaker. I work with individual leaders and their teams to help navigate personal and professional transitions and to increase leadership capacity and improve communication and relationship skills. I founded my coaching firm in 2001 following 12 years asa CEO. Check out more on me and my coaching process in my book “The Business of Wanting More: Why Some Executives Move from Success to Fulfillment and Others Don’t”

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