Axiom #1: Leaders Step Up, not Out

Lessons about LeadershipInspired by The Book of Even More Awesome, my goal is to spend a few minutes every couple of days and write about various leadership lessons that I have learned over the years.  Are you ready for the first one?  Here goes!

Leaders step up, not out.”  That’s it.  Short and to the point.  Leadership is not just an idea; it is an action.  When there is need for clear and effective leadership in your life or your organization, do you step up or do you step out?

At various times in my career, I have found myself in secondary leadership roles at a point when the organizations needed someone to step up into a primary leadership role.  The context was often different – a supervisor on vacation, and realignment of the leadership team, the sudden resignation of the senior leader – but the need was the same.  For the sake of the organization, I needed to step up into a new leadership role.

Stepping up can look different depending on the context, but its essence can be distilled to two key elements: attitude and action.  Do I stay in my safe office and hope no one notices me, or do I step out of my office and talk with others and get a feel for what is happening within the leadership team?  Do I hope that things stay as there are, or do I offer new solutions?  Do I notice that there is a need for increased leadership, or are my areas of interest so limited that I am not aware of what is going on around me?

In times of uncertainty or transition (whether planned or unplanned), there is often a need for increased leadership.  How can you and I become leaders who step up, not out?

If you are (or want to be) an emerging leader:

  1. Learn to notice the leadership context around you right now.  Don’t wait for problems to arise.  Prepare yourself now.  Read leadership books.  Talk to your current leaders and ask where they need help.  Prepare your own mental list of where leadership is needed in your organization, and come up with solutions, not criticisms.
  2. Ask your supervisor to assess your leadership ability and potential.
  3. Take on challenging and skill-stretching tasks within your organization.  Become a dynamic contributor, not a static fixture.  If there are no leadership opportunities within your organization, volunteer in the community.  Push yourself to grow.
  4. When something happens in your organization that highlights the need for increased leadership, volunteer to get involved.  If you can have a conversation with a supervisor, offer your assistance.
  5. Leadership is not dictatorship.  People follow who they trust so pay attention to, and nurture, healthy relationships.
  6. Follow through.  Don’t offer leadership unless you are prepared to put in the extra effort to make the leadership become reality.

Leaders step up, not out.  If you want a litmus test of your own leadership, this might be it!  🙂  Step up, take on the challenge, and experience personal and organizational growth!

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