One of my favorite topics is character-based leadership, or leading from who you are rather than your power or position.
When we’re challenged to be something we’re not, it drains us. But when we get to be our best self, we bring our best energy and we can become superheroes, solving problems and saving careers even in ordinary situations.
Often, our true identities are super. We hide them when we go to work. I have had team members who used to be professional sports people, excellent musicians, and many other wonderful attributes and strengths. Everyone is a superhero at something. Everyone can be, probably is, better than you at something or maybe several things.
Most leaders would like their people to perform better, too. Often the disconnect comes when we want them to fit the role we created for them We don’t want to invest the energy to try and conform our job to their superpower.
Would you like everyone on your team to bring their superpower to work to help the team reach its goals? Here are six behaviors to get the superheroes on your team to show up:
- Understand that everyone is a superhero. Really. Everyone can be great at something. Erwin McManus said, “I like to think of everyone as ‘pre-great.’ ” We all need the right set of circumstances and the right opportunities to excel.
- Expect superhero behaviors. This requires some humility. On one extreme is the idea you’re the only superhero and on the other extreme you believe you’re not one or no one is. Be as accurate and objective as possible about each person so everyone can stop burning energy managing perceptions and images and get to work. Eliminate all ceilings in your expectations and create opportunities for people to soar.
- Remember their true identity is super. That’s right. Their disguise is “ordinary” but in reality, they’re “super.” Ordinary is the way they look when they tell you something isn’t their job or “let someone else handle it.” Superheroes are the ones who take responsibility and initiative.
- Be superhero-friendly. Great strength has great benefit, impact — and consequences. Prepare to clean up messes, and big ones. Every time one of your superheroes creates some unplanned consequences, remember with great opportunity comes great risk. Avoid using words like “don’t” and “shouldn’t.” If you focus on the negative, you’ll encourage them to keep their true identity hidden.
- Have a superhero vision. Superheroes won’t show up unless there’s a super goal or a super problem. If you think mild-mannered goals, you’ll get mild-mannered team members. Develop a compelling idea of a wonderful future. Shoot for the moon. Superheroes are up to it!
- Be willing to help superheroes solve problems somewhere else. If their superpower isn’t useful or if they just can’t make it useful, you have a responsibility to your organization and to the people involved to help them find a place where their superpower can be appreciated.
As a leader or a manager, you get paid for achieving objectives. You make your biggest impact when you help people achieve their objectives. No one wants to go through life keeping their greatest superpower a secret. Create a superhero-friendly environment and you’ll accomplish much more than simple organizational objectives — you’ll unleash some of the greatest superpowers on the planet.
Mike Henry Sr. is the chief instigator of the Lead Change Group, a global community dedicated to instigating a leadership revolution. He’s also a co-author of “The Character-Based Leader: Instigating a Leadership Revolution… One Person at a Time.” Connect with Henry on Twitter: @mikehenrysr, LinkedIn, Facebook or Google+ or share your thoughts below, too.