Google the word “leader” and you will find millions of articles that describe an effective leader and suggested actions to improve your role. After all, a leader without any followers is just a guy taking a walk.
So what is an upside down leader? It can be described many ways – servant, humility, “level 5”, – each of these adjectives describes someone who leads from an unconventional perspective; not one of given power or authority but one who yields results through effective influence. This leader is upside down to conventional wisdom. So what does that look like?
They recognize and admit they don’t have all the answers.
Pride is the enemy of most leaders. While a level of competence has likely helped them move into leadership, it is that competence that can be their downfall. So answer these two questions 1) do I feel like I “have” to have all the answers; and 2) am I willing to say “I don’t know”. If your answer is yes, then keep pondering the questions. Why do I feel this way. Guess what, your team already knows you don’t’ know everything. Your acknowledgement of that makes you a real person to them – a leader they can relate to.
They never need the fame or glory.
An upside-down leader is humble above all else. He has the team (or organization’s) goals at heart above any personal attention. In fact, when good work is done the credit goes to the team. Human nature makes this one tough. A humble spirit doesn’t come naturally unless we intentionally strive for it.
They get out of the way so the team can perform.
We are sometimes our own worst enemy. Are you hindering the work of your team because you are in the way? If you are micromanaging there is a strong chance you are holding back progress. So consider this, if you have capable people, why aren’t you letting them do the job you hired them to do. In fact, aren’t you contradicting yourself if you don’t trust the very people you hired? If your team isn’t capable, then address the deficiency. Get the right skill in place so you don’t have to manage the details.
If only you could gain these characteristics by simply standing on your head. “Upside down” is a lot easier said than done. So here’s to a little acrobatics in your leadership growth. I think we can all use a little stretching. Who is with me?