I’ve been running a workshop on team leadership this week, so the topic has been on my mind.
One of the most challenging aspects of leading any group is meeting people where they are. What does that even mean?
Leaders are supposed to lead, aren’t they? Chart the course to a bright, new future. Meeting people where they are feels like going backwards.
OK. Maybe so. Answer this then: How does a leader get people to want to go toward this shiny future?
You’ve got to bring them along in your thinking. Show them what you see and how you came round to seeing it. They haven’t been living with your vision (quite literally) for as long as you have. They have no idea what you’re so excited about, so you have to take them on the journey you’ve been on and let them see and feel it for themselves.
No matter the situation, if you are called to step up to a leadership role, you’ll be asking people around you to start doing things differently. To make a change. Whether we’re talking about a 3 month project to put a new section in your website, or a reorganization of the entire company, the issue is the same.
What’s the best way to make this happen? Speak their language. Connect to what is important to those you want to follow you. And to do this, you need to begin by listening. Ask questions and then pay attention to the answers.
A scholarly piece I read recently on conversation said that speaking is the art of listening to the listening. I like that. A lot.
These actions may not feel like leadership in the same way that rallying the troops or whipping people into a frenzy does. That’s because everyday leadership is so much more than that. Even if the situation calls for rallying and frenzy-making, there are some other things you’ll have to do first.
Build trust, treat others with respect, and help people to find the courage they will need to go in the direction you’re pointing them. This earlier post had a little something to say about how to do these things.
Whether you like the idea of leading from the front, from behind, or from the middle as your preferred position, you still have to get into the hearts and minds (especially the hearts) of those who would follow you. Otherwise, no one’s going anywhere.