With good and bad leadership on full display these days, I have been thinking a lot about what separates good leaders from bad ones and how good leaders become great. One word keeps coming to mind: maturity.
Mature leadership combines experience and knowledge with self-awareness, self-control and the ability to put others’ needs before your own. Mature leaders forego the allure of short-term impulses for long-term gains. They understand themselves and are masters of their emotions, knowing how to adapt to what the situation requires. For example, sometimes you need to be a leader who is cool, calm and collected, and sometimes you need to be a leader who slams his or her fist on the table. Mature leaders understand the collective is far more powerful than the individual and believe in building strong teams.
All too often, we defer to leaders who blame others, deflect responsibility, put people down and place personal interests in front of the collective. This type of leadership can create divisiveness, resentfulness and fear — all of which are destructive to living a fulfilling life. We need solid, grounded leadership more than ever. We need mature leaders who can bring people together to resolve the biggest challenges we face in politics, business and life across all corners of the globe.
Here are seven ways you can develop the maturity needed to take your leadership to the next level:
- Cultivate patience while pursuing strategic vision. Mature leaders know the importance of having a clear, strategic vision and can withstand the pressure of “short-term” thinking. Execution takes discipline and time. Jeff Bezos summed it up well in his 2006 letter to Amazon’s shareholders: “Planting seeds that will grow into meaningful new businesses takes some discipline, a bit of patience and a nurturing culture.”
- Care about the details. While leaders must avoid being sucked into unimportant minutia, the best leaders understand that details matter. Why? Because they care about execution, and execution is in the details. Important insights and ideas also come from the details. They don’t sweat the small stuff, but they are very much in tune with it.
- Build a great team. No leader creates success on his or her own; it takes teamwork, cooperation and mutual trust. Mature leaders look at the world through the lens of “us” instead of “me.” They spend time developing the people across the organization, helping strengthen the team at all levels so the company can operate seamlessly.
- Address conflict effectively. Mature leaders seek to understand before reacting to conflict, first identifying differing perspectives and motives. They address difficult situations directly and rationally, looking for ways to collaboratively resolve problems. They approach conflict with a deep understanding that people are messy, which allows them to be both compassionate and firm in resolve.
- Be a great listener. The very best leaders are masters at asking questions and listening to what’s said and, more importantly, what’s not said. They actively seek feedback and are genuinely interested in what people share with them. They are mindful of people’s fear of speaking up and break down barriers by being thoughtful, active listeners.
- Give credit to others. Giving credit where credit is due strengthens bonds with employees and creates a culture where people know their hard work will be acknowledged and rewarded. Mature leaders never take credit for company, departmental or team wins. Instead, they go out of their way to showcase their teammates’ efforts and show appreciation for a job well done.
- Admit your mistakes. Great leaders understand admitting mistakes is not a sign of weakness but a sign of strength and maturity. They always take responsibility for their screw ups and can laugh at themselves. This helps create an organization where taking risks and making mistakes is accepted, even encouraged.
Leadership is a journey with no “final destination.” No matter how successful you become, stay humble, curious, and in control of your words and emotions. Doing so will allow you to mature into the best version of yourself and become an inspiring leader worthy of followership.
For more information, contact Kerry Siggins at firstname.lastname@example.org. To read her blog, visit www.kerrysiggins.com/blog.