Key insights for Lead(ing) Lead(ers)

Authored by: Margaret (Peggy) Grover MHA, BSN, RN, CPEN, Senior Consultant

Lead(ing) Lead(ers)
There are different measures of how leaders are chosen, promoted, educated, and supported but one thing is true across all organizations, the success of any business is dependent on the performance of those in leadership positions. Resources for those yearning to learn more about how to be successful leading novice teams are plentiful, while a review of the literature for information on how to successfully lead successful leaders reveals the opposite results.

Leading those that lead others requires a different set of skills than leading those that are primarily focused on completing the task(s) of the job. The focus must always be on developing team members to be top performers and to sustain and grow the business. Whether that means teaching those new to the work force how to follow basic standard rules of conduct or problem-solving complex workplace challenges.

Leadership is a challenging skill to master. Rarely are those that are extrinsically motivated successful in guiding teams. We can all remember days where we felt on top of the world as we achieved a long-term goal or surpassed targets with celebrations and positive recognition to follow. But just as easily we remember the days of making tough decisions that were not favored by those around us; shouldering the responsibility although the decision may not have been ours and we may not agree with it or the likely outcome. Sole motivation by someone or something outside of oneself is inconsistent, unreliable, and sometimes unpredictable and cannot lead to sustained success. Intrinsic motivation must be present to drive resiliency and move towards a shared vision.

It is imperative that expectations are clear and that meeting, or failing to meet them, is communicated clearly and swiftly. People in leadership positions are not figuring out how to be successful, they are successful. They have demonstrated the skill and desire to be a top performer. Once they understand what is required and expected from them, they will meet or exceed those requirements and expectations.

Successes come and go. We may work hard at things that fail and barely work at all and achieve phenomenal success. Once that is realized, recognition for the more human skills and qualities that help us be successful becomes more important; recognition of who you are becomes more meaningful than the technical skills you can accomplish. I remember being a new bedside Registered Nurse in the emergency department and the angst I felt over learning to start IVs. Once I became adept at starting IVs even on patients with difficult access, I felt very confident and proud. While this was a milestone in my nursing career, I have since realized I can teach anyone with the physical capability to start an IV. It does not take anything special; it is a technical skill that requires education and practice, but nothing unique. Recognition for managing difficult situations in a thoughtful, kind, and compassionate manner or equitably treating others may become more valuable to us than recognition for accomplishing a technical task.

Feedback must be specific and relevant. Speaking in colloquialisms and skirting issues does not work with a leader. Someone who provides direct feedback as a leader creating or sustaining an effective team requires (and quite frankly deserves) the same when receiving feedback. Always remember that you are coaching a star, not a rookie. Guiderails, not step by step instructions, are best.

We learn from those we emulate but likely learn more from those who have failed us as leaders. How are you doing lead(Ing) lead(ers)? Which strategies are most effective for your success as a leader and the success of your leaders?