By Joshua Trimble
Bringing new members into formal leadership roles on your team is always exciting, but also comes with leader challenges for you. Let’s consider a few situations: It’s time to sit down with your new team leader and counsel them on what you expect of them now that they are in a leadership position. Or think about newly appointed junior officers who may have read several leadership books; what information can you give them in a counseling session that they can easily remember or is relevant? Or, maybe you just hired a new leader to the team and you want to give them a “quick reference guide” on how you expect leaders act on your team.
There is a plethora of literature available about leadership and characteristics of good leaders. But, when you are working on improving your own leadership skills, have you ever thought about how you might mentor young, emerging leaders within your team? People will reference things that are easy to remember and if you can explain something in three quick and easy points, your chances of making a lasting and effective impression increase. The US Army tried this very approach with Be-Know-Do, but you may want to provide your new leaders with more than a bumper sticker.
The culture of your team must resonate with your first level of leaders, and you want to provide them a foundation for success for them, their team, and the organization at large. What three priority leadership characteristics should you offer in that initial counseling that will set them up for success as an emerging leader and give them a path toward becoming their own great leader?
I offer three considerations.
Find the implied tasks. What was once expressed is now implied.
First, explain to this young leader that a manager manages tasks, but a good leader can find and complete the implied tasks. This will be a challenging step for many emerging leaders that may be used to someone outright telling them what tasks to action. Moving into leadership roles means that you are now responsible to find those implied tasks. Leadership is more than just influencing others – it is also about the self-discipline to take initiative. Be resourceful as an emerging leader to understand greater depth of your mission in order to anticipate the requirements and tasks that are implied and have not yet been given to you.
This is a level of ownership that leaders take that goes beyond a supervisor merely following directions. Take the initiative, understand the mission, and understand what needs to be done without being told. Largely implied, leaders will create guidance and give guidance when there is none provided in order to accomplish the mission or improve the organization.
Leadership is a team sport of servitude.
Second, leadership is about service; leaders need to understand they are not the most important part of the team. The team is the most important part of the team. A rudderless ship still floats, keeping its crew from drowning – it just does not always go the right direction (or sometimes anywhere). Leaders provide the direction, the rudder, but the team makes the ship float. Understanding that paradigm is a step in the right direction of building a great team. The problems are now yours, and the successes theirs. Leaders make time for the team – it is not the reverse. Leaders use terms like, “we,” and “us.” Leaders cultivate a team unity that builds resilience.
Be present. Be there. Be gone.
Third, being present is a leadership attribute that is so important, yet constantly changes and is one of the hardest to define. You cannot be a leader without being present, but you can also stifle team growth of your own emerging leaders by being over-present. There is no hard and fast rule about what to be at and what to let your team handle without you in order to encourage their own progression. There is growth that occurs when you are not there, but to be detached, not present and not mentoring is not being a leader. Teams may require you to be there more often on certain projects or critical events.
When things are tough for the team – be there to help pick up the pieces and lead through the hardship back on a path to success. When the team is accomplishing a great achievement – be there to shake their hands and tell them all of the great things they are doing. When the team needs to blow off a little steam – let them have fun without you. Lead the team, but also let it go. Sometimes the team grows the most when the leader provides the guidance and walks away to let the team excel. Again, the leader is not the most important of the team.
The journey to being a good leader is not an overnight sensation. It is one built upon continuous personal experience, reflection, and gaining new knowledge. One of the best ways we can give back and invest in others’ development is through mentorship. Good leaders develop other leaders by providing an area for growth in their personal studies of leadership. You can build the foundation with three easy mentorship points of finding the implied tasks, leadership is about service, and be present for your team.
Mentoring new and emerging leaders is both rewarding and a necessity for all organizations. It is never too early to start developing the next generation of leaders. Now is a great time to begin.
LTC Joshua Trimble is an active duty U.S. Army Signal Officer and has served in a variety of leadership and staff positions in the Signal Corps to include over nine years as a S6\G6\J6. A graduate of the National War College, LTC Trimble has an MS in National Security Strategy and an MA in Management and Leadership. LTC Trimble served as the task force signal senior mentor (OCT) at the Joint Readiness Training Center in 2018-2019. The thoughts within this post contain his views only and do not reflect that of the US Army or Department of Defense.
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