“A leader takes people where they want to go. A great leader takes people where they don’t necessarily want to go, but ought to go.” – Rosalynn Carter
No one gets into the work of breastfeeding support unless they want to help mothers, babies, and families. That’s where we, our bosses, our colleagues and others “ought” to go. But our thoughts and behaviors can get in the way. They can keep each of us from being a leader, or from being a great leader.
I’ve been there. Sometimes, in spite of my best intentions, I have made things worse, rather than better. That’s not being an effective leader.
Tony Morgan identifies 10 thoughts and behaviors that prevent one from being an effective leader. If you, I, or anyone want to make a real difference in our facilities or our communities, we need to avoid them. Keep these in mind.
Don’t wait for more resources
Do you want your organization to earn designation as a Baby-Friendly hospital? Have you been thinking: “We don’t have enough money for that”? Everyone thinks that — at first. But just look at the hundreds of US hospitals that have done it.
Stop waiting for your boss to come along and say, “Hey, if I give you another $1,000,000 or another 2 FTEs, could you do something with that?” It’s not going to happen. Lead with your vision, not your need. Develop a good proposal to improve practice, and present to your boss.
Don’t think you need a higher position to bring change
Although I know many people who have suffered from this, luckily, I never did. (I started making waves when I was a staff nurse!) I relied on my powers of persuasion, and you can, too.
Having the power to win over the hearts and minds of others is critical for change. Having a position or authority is optional.
Don’t be content with the status quo
Seven words have always made my blood boil. It’s true now; it was true when I worked in a hospital. What are they? “Because we’ve always done it that way.” An effective leader isn’t content with the status quo. If there’s a better way, she uses her persuasive powers to lead change.
Just don’t confuse persuasiveness with popularity. As the old saying goes, “If you want to get along, go along. If you want to get ahead, think for yourself.”
Don’t think division is acceptable, or that dialogue is too hard
Make no mistake: Having a big vision requires a team. We’re either on the team and standing still, or we are leading the team to a victory. Silence and division will not rally our troops to a victory.
Start looking at words you’ve said or conversations you’ve had that result in creating division, or unity. Similarly, think about the conversations that never happened but should have. How can you pick up your game and become an effective leader?
Speaking is not the same as being heard
Talking isn’t communicating. The way we’ve stated a message isn’t the same as the way it might be heard. And, sometimes, people “hear” your message in their heads, but not in their hearts.
Preaching “this is what the evidence says…” or “this is what the AAP says…” is an effective change strategy only if others will want to hear that. You need to recognize where they are at, and find effective ways to communicate to your audience.
Solve problems, don’t place blame
It’s so easy to blame our boss, our providers, or the system. Shucks, it’s easy to blame the economy, the culture, or even ourselves! But an effective leader doesn’t get stuck in the blame game. Placing blame doesn’t help us move forward.
Coming up with solutions takes time, insight, creativity, and sometimes guts. I often remind myself that if I’m solving a problem — even if my idea might not work immediately or completely — at least I’m making progress towards achieving the goal.
Don’t hesitate to admit a wrong
I can’t think of a soul who enjoys admitting she is wrong. Yet, saying “I’m sorry” or “I was wrong” is the mark of a true leader.
When we can admit we were wrong, we allow ourselves and our team to pick up and move forward.
Focus on relationships and vision, not the task
Effective leaders form good relationships and have big visions. They are other-focused, and future-focused.
Completing a task is important. But tasks should be the present-moment manifestation of your future vision to bring a better life to others.
If you’re not dreaming any bigger than the people who are surrounding you, then you’re just part of the crowd. You’re not an effective leader.
When your colleagues accuse you of dreaming too big or eating too much pie-in-the-sky, be glad! When I hear, “Oh, it’s Marie with one of her kooky ideas again,” I feel reassured! When someone says, “Marie, there is NO WAY we can do X,” I feel reassured! Those remarks let me know I’m leading, not just standing still.
No one is following you
Check your vision, check your relationships, check your communications. And, check whether it’s all about you and your agenda. Are you taking people where they “ought” to go, or where you want them to go. There’s a difference.
What are your best qualities as an effective leader for change? Let me know in the comments below.