We’ve discussed the 5 Levels of Leadership at length and in another recent post we highlighted the importance of not getting stuck at Level 1. To move to Level 2, you must ask yourself, “What is it like to be led by me?”
It’s important to remember that your team as well as everyone else around you are watching your behavior and determining if they should give you permission to influence them. And that represents the chasm that exists between Levels 1 and 2: At Level 1, they follow you because they have to, but at Level 2 they follow you because they want to.
This decision for those you lead begins with the simple question: “Does my leader care about me personally?’ The only way to know what people see in you and how they will evaluate the answer to this question is to try and see yourself as they do.
Leader, know thyself
If you have ever asked yourself what it would be like to be led by you, you won’t likely give yourself a completely honest answer. The truth is that we judge ourselves based on our intentions, while we judge others by their actions.
We call it the intention versus perception (IP) gap, and it’s every leader’s responsibility to close that gap. It’s one of the most powerful conversations you can have with yourself, when you start to gain insight on where you are as a leader and how you can improve on the deficiencies in your leadership that negatively impact how you are perceived.
Reveal your blind spots
One of the best ways to gain insight into how you are perceived by others is to take a leadership assessment. We call it the Maxwell Leadership Assessment. In the HR world it’s often called a 360 assessment, but the common core value of these assessments is to survey your opinion of different aspects of your leadership style and then compare that to the responses of others on your team. The Maxwell Leadership Assessment goes farther by mapping the results directly back to your current level of leadership and identifies IP gaps that can be holding you back from progressing to the next level.
As you work to understand how you’re perceived as a leader, one of the best methods of improvement is to stay consistent in your values and how you display yourself to others. It can be helpful to take a pause when receiving negative news, so you do not appear erratic or overemotional. The “steady ship” approach is reassuring and will increase your influence and level of trust with those around you.
You should be consistent in high-profile actions such as the direction that you’re leading your team, but also in simple things such as timeliness. If you’re over-committed, then you’re not going to give those around you your full attention before moving onto the next meeting. If they do not feel like a priority, then why would they allow you to influence them?
Leading yourself can be one of the hardest leadership challenges, as it means facing hard truths about yourself. But if you are willing to discover who you really are as a leader, it’s the first step towards taking all those other steps on the path to Level 5 in the 5 Levels of Leadership.