Five ways to show up as a leader – even when you’re not in charge
Not all bosses are leaders, and not all leaders are bosses, author Liz Elting has shared, revealing some of the ways that professionals of all kinds, including those in early childhood education and care (ECEC) can demonstrate leadership, regardless of their role.
Her ideas come from her new book Dream Big and Win: Translating Passion Into Purpose and Creating a Billion-Dollar Business and discuss the five factors of ‘true’ leadership.
Ms Elting, founder and CEO of the Elizabeth Elting Foundation and the co-founder of TransPerfect, shared her insights with Fast Company, which have been edited and adapted below for an ECEC context.
While the words ‘leader’ and ‘boss’ are used interchangeably, she begins, they are not the same thing, and entail different qualities.
True leaders, she continues, exemplify integrity, and shut down undesirable behaviours like discrimination, harassment or bullying when they see them in others, speaking up and making efforts to shut them down, risking whatever repercussions may occur.
This mark of true leadership is at the heart of what she describes as her ‘Five Ps’ of leadership:
Leaders, Ms Elting says, are those who are passionate about what they do. Regardless of work ethic, education or experience, it’s passion which ensures people feel like they are working towards something meaningful, building something worthwhile, and making a difference.
Passion, without direction, she continued, “is just an inspirational saying that looks cute on a coffee mug.”
To really use passion to become a leader, it needs to sit with the second P – prioritisation.
Prioritisation, she continued, is the second P because “dreams and enthusiasm are not enough” you need solid goals and deadlines. For Ms Elting, the ability to prioritise is “the alchemy that turns those dreams into gold”.
Prioritisation looks different for everyone, and requires effort to understand when, where and how you are at your most productive.
Being able to prioritise inspires others to do the same, “because you can’t expect your team to be efficient if you aren’t.”
Once you’re in a position to prioritise, she continued, you’re also in a position to delegate, and at this point, everything is open for change, which leads to the third P – being able to pivot.
The strongest leaders, Ms Elting says, are those who are able to be agile, and respond to rapid change – whether that’s in response to a serious incident, a change in legislation, a parent complaint, or the introduction of competition for enrolments.
Leaders can who can pivot can also strongly embrace the fourth P – being proactive, and growing a culture of innovation.
Proactive leaders make magic, Ms Elting argues, “because when you inspire your people to unleash their creativity, you not only increase employee satisfaction but you can also have a significant impact on your bottom line.”
Proactively innovating means not only encouraging employees to come to management with ideas but to reward them for doing so.
Everyone needs to feel comfortable making suggestions and offering new solutions. “Out of the box” ideas are welcomed, and ideas are shaped to get them over the line.
“What differentiates a good employee from a great one is proactivity, so as a leader, you must encourage this trait,” Ms Elting says.
Getting the “people” piece right, she continued, is both the easiest and most difficult aspect of leadership.
In essence, leadership is about getting other people engaged with the mission, and working towards a goal.
“Having people who believe in you and your vision is the most important part of being a leader. The caveat is, you must be a person of principle or your vision is just propaganda,” Ms Elting continues.
“I agree with Google’s thinking that once you have the right people, you must get out of their way, but that starts with finding the right people.”
Published by Wiley, Dream Big and Win: Translating Passion Into Purpose and Creating a Billion-Dollar Business by Liz Elting is available wherever books and e-books are sold.
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