Leading means more we and less me

September 15, 2020

As emerging leaders embark upon their leadership development journey, it’s natural for the focus to be on self, and how you, the individual leader will shine – perhaps even outshine others. But one of the lessons of leadership is that the role of a leader and ultimately, their success as a leader, relies more on others – that is, more of “we” and less of “me”. 

If leadership success depends on what others achieve, then here are some ways for leaders to help get into the “we” mindset:

  • What you say – leaders who usually speak about “I, me, my” signal to all around them their primary area of focus. By contrast, leaders who speak of “we, us, our” show themselves to be a leader who believes that it’s teams who deliver, and rarely, only the individual. Leadership is a team sport and leadership language should reflect that.
  • Give credit – acknowledging others’ achievements not only demonstrates generosity and confidence, it also shows you to be an enlightened leader, someone who understands the value of others and their contributions. Enlightened leaders know that being stronger together is a powerful force. Being seen, acknowledged and valued leads to better motivation and improved performance; create that virtuous circle by actively looking for good work and wins.
  • Know your strengths and weaknesses and build your team with not just diversity, but also inclusion in mind. Celebrate differences and make them team strengths. Strong teams know how to cover for each other if someone drops the ball, and “we” focussed leaders promote these types of supportive behaviours.
  • What’s your shared purpose? – it’s been shown that when teams are clear about their common goals, they are more likely to outperform teams with less clarity, and in doing so, achieve their goals, despite individual pressures, personal agendas and stresses that each team member deals with daily. The role of a leader then is to inspire others and ensure that common purpose is always at the forefront, especially when the going gets tough.
  • Tap into your emotional intelligence to really understand your team’s dynamics. Look for any undercurrents that may be in play. If EQ is not one of your natural strengths, learn how to develop it by reading, observing others, and seeking feedback from people you trust, especially at times when things don’t go quite to plan.
  • Establish your team norms – leaders who understand Tuckerman’s five stages of team development – ie forming, storming, norming, performing, and adjourning (sometimes also referred to as mourning) – also know the importance of every team member understanding how the team works, interacts, discusses together, and how conflicts are resolved respectfully when opinions differ. Reinforcing “we” thinking rather than “I” behaviours is especially important in the early stages of team development.

Successful leaders are measured by what others achieve so it makes sense to employ the “we” mindset. It’s never really about leaders themselves, but more about how leaders elevate others when leading their teams.

We would be delighted to hear your thoughts and continue the dialogue with you. We hope you’ve found this Insight to be constructive and thought-provoking. We share comments and ideas of a general nature, with the aim of helping firms contend with current challenges. As such, the content above is unlikely to be complete and comprehensive enough for a firm to re-imagine the future. Rather, it may be a beginning or a conversation starter, as each firm is different and the challenges each face are unique. If you would like to continue the conversation, then please connect with us for a confidential conversation at click here.

Post Author

Jennifer Milford