Change Work February 2008

Cometh the hour ...

In a past article on building and using rapport, I described the importance of "pacing" before "leading".  For example, you may be helping someone to move from an "unresourceful" (negative or destructive) state to a more resourceful one.  Before you can lead them to the new state, you need to spend time matching them in the state they are in.

If you want people to follow your lead, in virtually any situation, then what you are leading them to has to meet their needs.  And meet them better than they are being met already.

You won't be surprised when I add that this may be more a matter of perception than of any objective measure of "needs met". So, an important skill of leadership is knowing how to find out, and to accommodate, the wants and needs of your team.

One way of approaching this is to "put yourself in their shoes" or, as it's known in NLP, adopt their perceptual position(s).

If you imagine having a conversation with someone you know reasonably well, you can (with a bit of practice) put yourself in their place - to a certain extent you can become them.  You'll find it helps if, after imagining them sitting in the empty chair opposite, you physically move to sit in that chair - taking on their values, beliefs and concerns as you do.  From this position, you can experience that person's view of you as well as understanding how they perceive the goals you want to lead them towards and your plan for getting there.

Now you can try out different approaches and different arguments, getting a pretty good idea of how appealing they will be to each individual before you actually commit yourself to any of them.

Then there's the question of how you deliver your leading - how you perform in front of your people.  This is often regarded as the province of the "born" leader, the naturally charismatic person whom people immediately feel confidence in and a willingness to follow.

Now, I've asserted many times in these articles that no-one is born with any management skills!  Therefore, I maintain that these great leaders must have learnt at some time how to do what they do - although not necessarily at the conscious level.  It follows then that anyone can learn to do the same things, to similar effect.

Why aren't we all great leaders then?

Because we've learnt different strategies that worked for us in different situations.  And some of us have formed and reinforced the belief that we're not good leaders - so we don't even think about learning the necessary skills.

(In terms of the Neurological Levels I wrote about in December, leadership is a capability - requiring appropriate values and beliefs. To talk of "being" a leader is a statement about identity: a level higher than it needs to be and quite unhelpful.)

What we need is knowledge of how to "do" leadership! 

As the leader, you are responsible for many things that you haven't been concerned with before:

All of these things can be learnt by anyone who's motivated to find out how, and to practise.  So, if you are, there's nothing to stop you.  If you're not interested in "doing" leadership as well as possible, then there's nothing to start you!