Leadership comes with power, but attaining and wielding power does not necessarily translate into success – at least not if you measure it beyond instant gratification.
To become an effective leader you need to be knowledgeable – in your area of expertise, in your ability to persuade people to your point of view and in your ability to inspire people to action. Where many get lost is in believing they have all the answers, thus closing themselves off to valuable input.
Ego comes with the territory – to be a leader you have to believe in yourself, but true leaders recognize the contribution of others is intrinsic to success. This does not mean simply surrounding yourself with minions eager to follow top down direction. It means being open to having your ideas challenged and tested – it’s only through this process that you grow and improve.
Not all commentary or criticism is valid. Some people will never agree with your efforts because they don’t share your goals. That doesn’t mean there isn’t value in what they have to say – there may be kernels of truth in why they disagree with your goals that, if addressed, will lead to greater success in your work. OR, listening to them may simply better inform you about what you’re up against.
Likewise, conflicting opinion from within your ranks does not automatically equate to disloyalty. It’s in this space of respectful debate that good ideas can become great. As a leader it’s your job to create an environment that facilitates constructive dialogue, open your door to outside perspectives, and then make clear decisions on how to move forward, thanking everyone for their input and bringing everyone together behind the most effective plan.
The key to successfully wading through the various perspectives to identify what strengthens your efforts is staying rooted in why you’re doing the work in the first place. Criticism is unpleasant for everyone – sometimes even painful. Whether we admit it or not, we want praise when we’ve worked hard. Criticism cuts to the heart of our egos and in that moment it can be difficult to listen. Staying grounded in why you do the work you do can help you set your ego aside, prioritize your goals and allow you to legitimately weigh the value of the input.
The next time you find your work challenged and your back starts to go up, take a deep breath. Remember that you’re where you are because you’ve earned it. From this place of confidence in yourself remember why you do this work and in this state of prioritizing your goals – listen. Do this and you are guaranteed better results.