Congratulations! You’ve been asked to lead or chair an event, committee or project in your community. You eagerly accept. Now where do you begin?
You have interest in the project and you like the idea behind the cause but now that you’ve been asked to be in charge you don’t know what to do. Is this you? Sometimes we are eager to lead but realize that while we are not lacking in our passion we may be lacking in skills.
After all, leadership is a combination of experience, natural ability and skill.
You may not have the natural ability or experience but there are basic steps to leadership. To be an effective leader here 10 steps that you will need to take:
- Set the vision. You will need to be able to describe to the people who have “signed up” for your cause what you intend to do in the future. You need to paint a visual picture with your words of the desired end result of all of the work the group that you are leading will achieve. Test the vision by asking your group if they agree or disagree. Be willing to discuss and consider different ideas to get buy-in.
- Clarify the mission. Explain the purpose of the organization that you have been asked to lead. You must make sure that everyone understands the mission so you will need to ask questions. Why are you here? What are we here to do?
- Develop other leaders. The first job of a leader is to develop other leaders. You cannot do it all alone. Seek help from others in your organization that have skills that you do not have. Identify clear functions that can be delegated in part or in full early on. If needed skills are not present in your group then find others that may be recruited with the skills that your need to move forward.
- Make hard decisions and be decisive. Leaders have to make decisions some of which may be hard. That’s why “it is lonely at the top”. You will need to be decisive to move the group forward toward your common goal. Practice sound decision making by gathering facts, seeking counsel of trusted advisors in your group and using your intuition.
- Motivate and inspire the group to achieve the common objectives. Leading can be challenging when the work gets tough or obstacles are encountered along the way. As the leader you must generate enthusiasm and excitement to keep everyone motivated. Find ways to have fun and encourage people who are committed to the cause. Kick off events, pep rallies, and rousing talks are all ways to motivate the group.
- Stay positive and see mistakes as an opportunity for learning. There’s nothing worse than a leader who is pessimistic or negative about the work at hand. Being positive despite setbacks keeps a group motivated. Leaders who look at mistakes as opportunities show their followers how to overcome diversity.
- Communicate frequently. As leader it is your job to check in with people who are working on the common cause to see how they are doing. Do they need help? Are they doing well? These conversations provide opportunities to give and get feedback and link ideas and people together which builds trust. Find time to bring the group together to ask for opinions and ideas encourage feedback from your group. People will learn from each other and this will help to build group culture and collaboration.
- Seek counsel from others with opposing views to avoid “group think”. Avoid gridlock and huge gaffes by bringing people in the group who have opposing ideas or perspectives. Sometimes we attract people who are just like us and we are attracted to groups that affirm who we are. If you notice that your group is monolithic, test your ideas with others outside of your group to get different perspectives.
- Develop a plan of action engaging all in the process. Engage the entire group in developing the plan of action by soliciting their input throughout the process. Plans that have buy-in by the group will have a greater chance of success when it’s time to implement. No one can say “no one asked me for my opinion”.
- Reward and recognize success. Recognizing everyone who puts forth an effort is an important job of the leader. You would be surprised how many people are motivated by simply saying “hello” or “how’s it going”? Recognizing effort, a job well done of individuals and key milestones met by the group along the way are vital to success. And of course when it’s all over, celebrate and be sure to properly thank all who contributed to the success of achieving your goal.
Don’t be afraid to lead if you are asked. Leading others takes confidence and experience helps to develop it. To a large extent, leadership is always on the job training.