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Discover Yourself as a Leader: Part Three - Emerging Leader

by Jeet Kumar

The second phase you will go through on your Leadership Journey is Phase Two - Emerging Leader (aka Manager)

*Be sure to check out the parts one and two this series*

At this phase in your discovery, you have mastered the art of working hard. Most commonly known as a manager, you know your tasks and have begun the inner work to show up powerfully in your life. Not only do you know your tasks, but you have started creating a strategy for the future of the team or company. You probably have a team of people you are responsible for leading. These people come to you for work problems and sometimes life problems. You are beginning the hard work of shifting your listening and having deep and meaningful conversations. Things are really moving forward in your department or team; goals are being set and met, morale is up, productivity is up. Other people are starting to notice, and they are curious about how you are doing it. You are now the person the outstanding individual contributors are coming to for guidance. 

When in this phase, you have two options:

1- Continue to be an Emerging Leader

-or-

2 - Close the gap and become an Inspirational Leader

At some point, you may have faced a situation you did not know how to handle. Maybe there was a conversation that ended poorly, or you had a breakdown on your team. You might feel like you are not connecting with the people you are leading in a meaningful way. It is in these moments you realize you don’t currently have the skills and tools to lead in an inspirational way. It is time again to close the gap. 

  • Step one - Find a coach: Similar to step one in Phase one, you need to find someone who is doing work you want to be doing and pick their brain. Find someone who is really making a difference in the lives of those around them, someone who you and others see as powerful and inspirational, and then be courageous enough to share. Tell them what you see from them and express your genuine desire to learn from them. If this person is in your current social circle, talk to them in person. If they are not, find a mutual connection (LinkedIn is a great place to start) and ask for an introduction. I promise the people who are doing these types of things in their lives are happy to connect with someone else who is interested in a similar path. 
  • Step two - Learn and practice: Once you have a coach to work with, a deeper level of learning needs to happen. This is truly the start of hard work or, said another way, heart work. The difference between phase two and phase three is a relentless love for other humans. You started to look at yourself and why you are the way you are to become an Emerging Leader; now it is time to look at others and appreciate who they are and how they got to be the way they are. This will take practice. You will not be a master immediately. Start with your closest friends. Share with them what you are doing so they know you will be practicing new skills. Ask hard questions during conversations. If a friend is complaining about their marriage or another family member, ask them what responsibility they are taking for the breakdown. Dance in the conversation with them as they explore. 
  • Step three - Let go of looking good: This can be a difficult step to take because humans naturally want to look good so people will like them. They are afraid that if they look bad, they will not be liked. But to become an inspirational leader, you must be willing to make mistakes -- and clean them up -- because it will happen at some point. As you practice, you may try something that doesn’t go over well or leaves someone else feeling bad. You may also give your word about something that you are not able to keep. These types of situations call for a clean up, and cleaning it up means swallowing your pride. Pride doesn’t exist in the next phase. Simply acknowledge the impact you had and commit to a new path going forward. You must also be willing to ruffle some feathers because the people you are leading don’t know what they don’t know and it will be uncomfortable for them to confront certain things as you coach and mentor them; they may not always like you for that.
  • Step four - Improve your listening: Stop listening for yourself and start listening for others. When you listen for yourself, you are only hearing what you want to hear and not truly connecting with the speaker. Pay attention to the whole human — watch their body language, ask why, clarify intentionally vague statements, don’t accept “I don’t know” as an answer. This might make people uncomfortable at first, but it will serve everyone in the long run. You will begin to really get to the heart of the matter, and the humans, when you practice this kind of listening. 
  • Step five - Disappear yourself: Just as pride has no place in phase three, neither do ego or moods and feelings that don’t move the action forward. An important distinction to make when closing the gap from phase two to phase three is that you cannot show up as an inspirational leader if you are showing up for yourself only and not for others. As your listening improves, you will be thinking less about your own opinions and more about what is going on for the other person. But sometimes those opinions and reactions and feelings will still show up. When they do, notice if they are moving things forward (someone is growing, something is being created, etc), or if they are stopping progress (dumping complaints, making someone wrong, etc). If what is showing up is stalling the situation or growth, reflect on where those feelings are coming from and how you can take responsibility. For example, if you are working on a project and have a different opinion on how to execute, ask yourself if it is because you truly think that is the best way to do it or because you want to prove something. Once you have mastered control and awareness over your pride, ego, moods, and feelings, you are ready for phase three.  

*Don't miss out on the conclusion to our series tomorrow as we explore Inspirational Leadership!