Here is the formula to be an effective, proactive leader – you need to look ahead, get ahead, and stay ahead. If you are able to put a strategy together that allows you to do all three of these things, you and your team will be in the best position for success.
I’m not going to do a long introduction for this one – let’s get right into it.
This is the discovery phase of a new leadership campaign. As a leader, you are starting at the start and bringing your team through the journey through the finish line. In order to lead, you must know which direction you are headed and for that, you need a vision and a plan.
Start at a high level by identifying the start and end points and lay out some milestones along the way. This begins to segment the journey into more digestible steps that you can continue to break down further. The level of detail is dependent on the intricacy of the mission, the number of people on the team, and the experience level of the team. This plan follows your vision for the end goal and will equip you with your own North Star, keeping everything aligned in the right direction.
This is also the stage where you start to identify threats to your success. There are likely going to be some obvious challenges that you will need to account for and now is the time to begin building strategies and tactics for those instances. These are your first steps at steering your team away from problems to maximize their efficiency and minimize their frustration.
Infrastructure is another consideration in this phase – what personnel, training, material, workspace are needed to achieve this goal? How are you going to get it? Cost? Time? Consider all of the things that are potential road-blocks and get yourself and your team setup early so they can hit the ground running.
The next course of action as a leader is to get ahead of your team. The prep work going into the beginning of a new project or pursuit sets the tone for the rest of the mission. The leader needs to put in the work up front to get ahead, remove hurdles for the team, and give everyone the best chance of success, including themselves.
You will be setting up responsibilities for the people on your team and building out the systems that your team will be using. Set this up early so that you can free yourself to do those other things that get you out a few strategic steps in front of the team. You can’t lead from the middle of the pack, strategically speaking – you need to be out of the weeds and keep your vision wide.
This is where the leader lives strategically – out ahead of the rest of the team. The leaders are the first thing that external conflict hits and they are the filter for what does and does not make its way to the team.
Leaders need to be aware that they are most effective when they are ahead of the team and can see oncoming problems as they materialize. When the leader gets buried in the weeds right next to his team, he is unable to effectively steer the ship away from the rocks. If he performs this part of his job well, his team should be none-the-wiser about all of the minor course corrections the leader implemented to avoid crashing on the rocks.
This step is also where a lack of discipline is going to show itself most to the leader. When a leader gets out ahead of the team and their deadlines, he needs to work to maintain this strategic advantage. This means that his deadlines are not going to be the same as the team’s deadlines. His actions are not going to be tied to any hard project deadlines that the team might be working to.
With this, the leader needs to be able to set deadlines for himself and be disciplined to meet them, else, he will fall behind and lose that advantage that he had worked to give himself. Again, you cannot lead when you are at the same strategic level as everyone else – you must work to maintain a lead.
As you are out in front of the team, you are scanning the horizon for any issues that are starting to form. This can be checking in with team leads, asking questions, or monitoring the industry. It is on you to keep your vision up and out just as it is your team’s responsibility to support the project schedule by contributing their parts. Don’t allow the lines to be blurred. A leader can and should help their team, but the divide between work responsibilities must be maintained in the leader’s head to ensure they have the ability to lead.
When a leader looks ahead, gets ahead, and stays ahead, the effects are felt throughout the team. Like mentioned earlier, the leader should be initiating small course corrections and/or interjecting occasionally to address the problems that they are identifying.
When a leader fails to look ahead and make corrections, the team feels the jolt of meeting a challenge head-on. The abrupt change of direction disrupts the team and damages productivity and workflow. More foresight leads to less re-work, less frustration, and better product.
The nuances of leadership are challenging, but this structure will set a leader to be effective and ready to lead their team.
Yours in strength,
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