I Learned to Be a Leader Playing with Makeup

Everything I learned about true leadership came from a job I had in my early twenties as a Counter Manager for a department store cosmetics company. It seems pretty scary, that after spending so many years in the corporate world, that I have not really learned anything  that was more effective than what I learned in this job, that some might consider less than professional. The reality is that this company really knew what they were doing as they created their leaders.The fact that I learned more about leadership in retail than I did working for major corporations  led me to ponder what makes people successful as leaders of cohesive well functioning teams.  I also wonder how we can in turn breed more leadership success?

Being a good leader is not difficult.  You need to be decisive: decide who you are as a leader, what you will stand for and what you won’t stand for. Give people the tools that they need to be successful.  Tell them what you need done and then give them the autonomy to do it.  Be there to guide but not to stifle. Allowing your direct reports to teach you as much as you teach them, makes you  the kind of leader who inspires and engages your team. Being a leader who has the ability to change your mind when given new information helps your team respect you. Sticking to your guns but explaining your rationale works well too. In a nutshell, being a good communicator is one of the best ways to create a successful team.

Since I am a  big fan of the female adventurer who defies the odds and often competes with men in a rascally fashion, I created my leadership Knowledge, Skills and Abilities (KSAs) for success with Picara as the acronym.

Comfort with the success of others
Risk (influencer)
Awareness of self

PASSION: A Passionate leader is a driver.  They love the people, they love the work and they want everyone to do well. They are driven by the way they feel but have the balance of the other KSAs to keep them from becoming overly emotional about everything.

ACCOUNTABILITY: An Accountable leader is not afraid to fail. They make mistakes but they don’t make the same mistakes. They stand up and say, “yes, I thought it was a good idea at the time”, or “yes, I was responsible for what went wrong.”  The key is that when something is successful, they are not the ones who take all of the credit.

COMFORTABLE WITH THE SUCCESS OF OTHERS: A leader who is comfortable with the success of others is not concerned with rightness or control of every situation.  They instead understand that their team’s success says a lot about they way they lead. When a leader knows this, they create a team of people who have different strengths than they do and then leverages those strengths to create a highly productive and cohesive team.

ADAPTABILITY: Adaptability  is more important now than ever.  With everyone espousing change management and change leadership a leader that is hesitant to change is not going to be very successful in driving it.  As the old adage says: the only constant we have is change. A good leader welcomes and embraces change and understands that sometimes we need to have a funeral for the old processes in order to get our people to move forward.

Risk Taker/Influencer :A good leader is not afraid to take risks or be an influencer.  Calculated and well planned risks may be something that happens daily in a leadership role. Part of taking risks is understanding the importance of giving constructive feedback to your team.  Many leaders fail because this is not a risk they are willing to take. People want and value feedback, so if this is an area you struggle with, this is one risk you cannot afford not to take.

Awareness of self : The ability to be self aware is a very important trait in a leader.  It is a sign of emotional intelligence and the ability to understand where your passion and emotion is taking you. It is being mindful and focusing on the facts. It is also recognizing whether or not you are “in the moment” with a team member or colleague.  With everyone claiming that they cannot succeed without multitasking, it is important for a leader to understand how they pay attention.

In a nutshell, great leaders communicate effectively and understand how their team functions best.  They have positive attitudes and are not afraid to ask questions and give feedback.  They are focused on results and on people. I’ll sign off by sharing a couple of my favorite quotes on leadership!

“Never tell people how to do things. Tell them what to do and they will surprise you with their ingenuity.” — General George S. Patton

“Nothing so conclusively proves a man’s ability to lead others as what he does from day to day to lead himself.” – Thomas J. Watson Sr.

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