There are thousands of books on leadership. I even wrote one. Each is filled with wonderful ideas about what it takes to be a great leader. But how do you take those ideas and turn them into daily behaviors?
Here are a few suggestions.
Invest time to explore your beliefs about leadership. What are the characteristics, values, and attitudes of the kind of leader you would want to work for? What are the attributes of some of the best and worst leaders you have ever worked with? What leaders do you admire, and why?
Next, create what I call a personal “Leadership Competency Model.” This is the framework of the elements you want to embody as a leader. You could write this as bullet points, sentences, or short paragraphs. Your model could include honesty, integrity, fairness, and respect. You might look at things such as competence, transparency, or teamwork. Maybe you’d like to be visionary, courageous, and compassionate. All that matters is that you are willing to commit to living your model.
Once completed, print it out and put it in the middle of your desk (or make it your screensaver). Look at your model every morning and tell yourself, “This is who I must be today.” Then at the end of each week, take a few minutes to reflect on how well you did. I use a 1– 10 scale. Ten means that I nailed it. I was a living example of that leadership quality. At the other end of the scale, a score of one indicates that I failed miserably.
On Monday, before you dive into your work, spend time thinking about how you will improve your scores. What, specifically, will you need to do to correct your behavior? Then write yourself a note outlining what actions you plan to take. Look at the note often. Review it before you go to meetings. Assess your progress daily. Use it as a guide to help you get better.
I also recommend that you hand out your philosophy to your entire team. If you hold them accountable for getting their job done well, they should hold you accountable for being a good leader. At least once every three months, ask everyone to score you on the same 1 to 10 scale. Have someone else collect the scores so they are entirely anonymous. Look at the areas you did well and give yourself a little pat on the back. In the places where you were lacking, go to your team and apologize for your substandard performance. Then create a detailed strategy for how to get your scores back where they need to be.
Whenever I teach leadership class, people ask me, “how do you make this stick?” This is how. You make it part of your daily routine. You create a clear picture of the kind of leader you want to be, and then you always hold yourself accountable to that aspiration. At first, it will seem a little tedious. Eventually, your scores will increase, and you will become a living example of the leader you want to be.