Your ability to:
- show others the way
- ask the right questions
- challenge others’ thinking
This is the stuff of leadership – and it has nothing to do with the title that comes after your name or power to force people to act.
It has everything to do with what is in your heart.
An Inside Job
Your influence flows from how you lead yourself and these 7 questions provide a solid core from which to influence others:
1) What do you really want?
In the middle of a leadership crisis, nothing provides clarity like this question.
What do you want to happen as a result of your leadership in this situation? Sometimes you’ll find that you’ve been acting from an entirely different set of motivations than what it is you want deep down, where it matters.
Eg: many leaders lose influence because they act out of a desire to be “right” – to prove something, but deep down what they want is to be effective and accomplish the mission.
2) Do you know (and are you working out of) your values and personal mission?
Self leadership begins when you know your own values and understand your purpose – what make your heart sing and come alive in the universe. When you work from this energy, it’s naturally attractive to like-minded team members and you motivate almost without knowing it. If you haven’t done this work, I strongly encourage you to find a coach or mentor who can help you explore what matters most.
3) Are you choosing problems or trying to avoid problems?
Solving problems is central to meaningful leadership, but many leaders fall into a trap of trying to avoid problems. We don’t get to choose whether or not we’ll have problems…but often we DO get to choose which set of problems we’ll have. Effective leaders don’t spend time trying to avoid problems. Rather, they put their energy into working on the right set of problems – the ones that get them closer to their vision.
- Do you want the discomfort of learning how to address poor performance or do you want the discomfort of a team with poor morale and worse results?
- Do you prefer the pain of changing your strategy or the pain of discovering your team is no longer relevant?
- Do you risk vulnerability and apologize for mistakes or do you avoid taking blame and lose credibility?
4) Do you really want things to get better?
In question #1, you looked at what you really want, deep down.
Now it’s time to look at the cost.
If you’re going to change things, it’s going to include risk, discomfort, being misunderstood, sacrificing other goals, etc. Are you willing to accept the consequences of pursuing your vision? If not, you can’t possibly expect your team to come along with you.
5) Are you working for your team or yourself?
Time to take a hard look in the mirror…no one will truly know the answer to this one but you.
When your decisions are in your heart and your head, before you’ve given them a voice…are you filtering them through what’s best for you or best for your team? Are you saying “I”…or “we”?
It’s okay to include your own well-being in your decisions (you are one of the team after all!), but if your team isn’t at the core of your leadership decisions, your credibility will quickly erode.
6) What can I do to bring about the results I want to see?
I love this one: it moves us from victim to leader.
When you find yourself frustrated at circumstances, upset that people “just don’t get it”, or discouraged that things didn’t go as you hoped, you’ve got a choice:
- Bemoan the unfairness of the universe (which inspires no one!)
- Or look at the situation and see where you can take action. Just asking the question completely reframes the situation and can transform a gloomy attitude in seconds.
7) Are my people better off as a result of their time with me?
This is what James Hunter calls “the ultimate leadership test”.
If the answer is yes, keep going. If the answer is no, examine the reasons why.
Do you need to improve your skills? Do you need to wrestle with some of the earlier questions on the list?
I use these 7 questions regularly to help me “course correct” and refocus when my leadership is blunted or confused.
What questions do you use to lead yourself and maintain your influence?
David M. Dye
Photo by telmo32