So, you’ve found a new leadership guru you want to follow! Excellent. Maybe you had a powerful transformation at a seminar, or read a mind-blowing book about active listening or team-building strategies to empower innovation. Avoid the trap of enthusiastic failure! Use these three simple steps to Integrate, Test and Apply what you’ve learned about leadership.
(See Who am I now? for the first step in making everything go more smoothly along the way.) Then try this: follow the leaders who inspired you with care! Only you know enough about your organization to turn jargon into jewels, theory into practice.
If you want to become a greater leader — take it slow! Don’t just follow the leadership guru — connect with your followers and colleagues! Integrate, Test and then Apply your new knowledge.
1. INTEGRATE your KNOWLEDGE: Go over your notes, write a summary or outline of how the new strategy applies to your specific situation, and have an enthusiastic conversation over coffee or dinner with an equal colleague who can really listen and give honest feedback about your thoughts and plans. Then, draw your plan of action.
2. BEFORE YOU ACT, TEST THE WATERS: Study the leadership chart (otherwise known as the roles and responsibilities chart) and identify five key players in your organization who will be helping you implement whatever changes you’re imagining as a result of your idea. Have a meeting, identified as a brainstorming meeting, and share the key ideas with them. Get their feedback. Find out what questions they have, how they respond. Look at their body language as part of the listening — remember, they’re following you, so they might hold back on their criticisms and doubts. Make this meeting a learning opportunity for you, and an empowering opportunity for them. Then, edit your plan of action accordingly.
3. APPLY IT! FIND A COLLEGIAL WAY TO LET PEOPLE KNOW WHAT IS CHANGING: Use the company newsletter, work with HR, meet with department heads. If any policies, meeting procedures, or professional boundaries are changing, make those changes crystal clear! If it’s a leadership style you’re putting into practice, make sure you can explain the theory in a meaningful way — i.e. Why is it important for the success of your company?
If you follow these three steps, you’ll (mostly) avoid the disconnect between theory and practice that causes eyes to roll at the water cooler, and resistance at every other desk. We’re all hungry for good leadership, and new leadership strategies can be really transformational — if they’re practiced in a grounded, connected way specific to your skills and your company’s needs.
It’s simple — but not easy! But as you move step by step, your new leadership can follow new principles in a way fun, professionally rewarding, and profitable.