What piece of advice should every leader take?
The key to involved leadership is more than stepping into a role and making firm decisions. While the latter is certainly an aspect of leadership, any first-time manager will tell you that listening and creating the right environment can make all the difference to the implementing your desired changes. After all, you must first learn how things are run before charging in with your own ideas. So how should a new leader approach their role and make their own mark?
Dr. Naphtali Hoff is a former school leader turned Executive Coach, Organizational Consultant, Trainer, and Lecturer. He completed his doctorate in Human Organizational Psychology, holds two masters in Education and Education Leadership. He is the author of the new book, Becoming the New Boss: The New Leader’s Guide To Sustained Success.
I recently interviewed Naphtali for the LEADx Podcast, where we discussed the key advice first-time leaders should heed, and how new talent should approach opportunities. (The interview below has been lightly edited for space and clarity.)
Kevin Kruse: You cover a lot in your book, but is there another piece of advice that you could share with us today?
Dr. Naphtali Hoff: A piece I think is really being strategic. In other words, understanding that leadership is more than just managing others, more than just doing the day to day stuff. Try to create a vision in your own mind, like a clarity, but what it is you're trying to accomplish, and get everybody around you as best as possible, to buy into that vision. I think that when people understand the why, we hear a lot about that from Simon Sinek and others, talking about the sense of purpose. That's really what drives people, in my estimation, to go to work every day and do so with enthusiasm.
One of the issues, or maladies if you will, that research continually talks about is that we have very poor workplace engagement. People just don't have a sense of, “Am I really doing what I love to do? Am I in a position to do the specific role that's best for me?” And that's a bigger conversation, but I think in its essence when people can rally around a big idea, when people understand that your leadership is not just the next person to fill a seat, but you're going to try to take everybody forward, and sort of being the rising tide that raises all ships. That to me is an extremely powerful concept.
To your point, even though the book is sort of marketed to the new leader, you are right. I would say that consistently people tell me no matter where they are on their own journeys, most of these people are veteran leaders who have been at it for a while. They continually say that the book contains many, many resources, and many ideas that are universal. And I mention that here because I think that whoever's listening to our conversation, you can pick up the book, you can find where in the book it really speaks to you the most.
But the key thing is, that it creates sort of a vision of where do you want to go with all of this. I think that's a guiding light and principle that we could use no matter what we're doing. That's something that I want to reinforce and emphasize.
Kruse: What advice you would give to a young professional who's just starting out in her career?
Hoff: I have found that being strategic, again, is really critical. Learn as much as you can, connect with people who've done what you want to do and learn from them. Build deep relationships, invest in yourself. To me, that's a really critical thing.
We want to put ourselves out there, we want to show everything we can do, and there's a place for that. We live in a society with social media in particular, where we want to constantly put ourselves in front of other people.
On the other hand, we also want to have the goods, and we want to be able to demonstrate that we know what we're doing. The best way I have found to do that, is to learn, be strategic, and be committed so that you're not just sort of getting on a little bit of a high, and doing some work, and then you get back into your routine. Be strategic about your learning. What are the goals you want to achieve? Where do you want to be in five, 10, and 15 years from now? And what are the skills that those people have, and you don't presently have but need to get in order to get there?
I feel that too many people, they're just so desperate to get that first job, and I get it. You've worked really hard in college, and you want to succeed, so you want to jump right in and get to work. We lose sight of, “Well where do we really want to go in all of this? Are we going to allow our job to dictate our journey, or are we going to be in charge and in control of our journey, and use the job as a piece towards that end?” I think if you use that second model, it really has a much greater sense of purpose, and sustainability because you have a sense of control over who you are, and what you're going to become. And you're never losing sight of the things you need to be doing in order to ultimately get there.
Kevin Kruse is a New York Times bestselling author, host of the popular LEADx Leadership Podcast, and the CEO/Founder of LEADx.org, which provides free world-class leadership training, professional development and career advice for anyone, anywhere.