Leadership can be scary but so can a lot of things in life such as raising a family, going on a first date or skydiving. As scary as those things can be, there's no shortage of people willing to take on those challenges.
I believe that at its core leadership is a great opportunity to make a difference in someone's life. So why is it there are so few leaders in the world?
It's simple. Leadership is scary and only a few people are willing to go through the discomfort, pain and many challenges required to lead. The uncomfortable, gut anguishing, heart pulsating sensation is actually what drives me. Often I refer to those feelings simply as growth and development. It's how you chose to overcome those challenges that make being a leader special.
Think about it for a moment:
- It’s uncomfortable to speak in front of total strangers.
- It’s challenging to be faced with new obstacles everyday.
- It’s hard to keep moving forward when your ideas challenge the status quo.
- It’s difficult to make changes while sharing a vision that doesn’t exist yet.
- It’s hard to keep pushing boundaries and inspire your team to greatness.
For me, leadership begins when one is able to rise above the discomfort or uncomfortable situations that will come. With our team at Roma, I believe my number one role, as leader, is to have our team members challenge their conventional thinking and help push them out of their comfort zones. Steve Jobs once said, "My job is not to be easy on people. My job is to take these great people we have and to push them and make them even better."
In order to push a team and have them reach new professional heights, a leader must be able to perform three key functions:
1. Create an environment of trust. Trust is one of the major pillars in leadership and without it you're dead! Trust is something that takes time to build and to flourish. However, trust is like a forest, while it takes a long time to grow, it can be burned down with a single match. As a leader, it requires putting in time, effort, love and consistency to gain and keep the trust of your team.
2. Allow people to fail. The truth is we all make mistakes, every one of us! If we're not making mistakes that means we aren't trying anything new and staying in our comfort zones.
"The only real mistake is the one from which we learn nothing."
This quote by Henry Ford personifies the importance of trying new things. Mistakes give way to new ideas, new pathways and allow us to move outside our comfort zones. Some of the world's best-known inventions came from mistakes, such as the light bulb, Post-it Notes, penicillin, microwave ovens and the classic chocolate chip cookie! Mistakes are not failures; they are simply the process of eliminating ways that won't work in order to find ways that will.
3. Listen, listen and listen. Leaders often get caught up trying to fix things or give unsolicited, yet well-meaning advice. In many cases, people simply want someone to listen to what they have to say without any coaching.
"Most people do not listen with the intent to understand; they listen with the intent to reply."
Stephen Covey's quote reminds us about the importance of being present in the conversation with our team members. Since people are your greatest assets, it's important to make time to listen carefully to what is being said. Listen without authority, listen with curiosity and listen because you genuinely care. A leader who listens with care is a leader who builds influence.
Together, let's build more leaders. What do you do to build leaders within your company, community and teams?
A version of this column previous appeared on RomaMoulding.com.
Tony Gareri is the CEO of Roma Moulding, the world's second largest picture framing manufacturer with offices in Toronto (Woodbridge), Atlanta, New Jersey, and Los Angeles. He is also a master designer, renowned culture enthusiast, public speaker and other.