The most important attribute to become a leader

A couple of days ago, a senior leader at my company gave me really good feedback on what I need to do to make sure other people continue to look up to me as a leader. I took his feedback positively and started following it right away in my day to day routine and instantly saw the difference between my actions and results. So I thought I should share his advice with a larger audience as it might help people who want to become a leader too.

Before I share the advice, let’s understand the context.

I was in a sandwich situation — on one hand, I was managing one of our strategic client’s stringent requirements and on the other hand, I was dealing with the constraints provided by one of our big technology partners. We had reached some deadlock situation on 3–4 items where the client wanted specific functionalities that the partner was not agreeing to support.

I couldn’t resolve that deadlock situation, so I bought some additional time. I then scheduled an internal meeting with few executives to get their advice. In that meeting, one of the leaders listened to all pending items and instantly shared his point of view and gave his final decisions on how to resolve these situations. Everybody in the meeting agreed with his decisions, so the meeting got wrapped up quickly.

After the meeting was over, he asked me to wait. He said he was surprised to see that we had to schedule a meeting for this, especially when I was handling this situation. He mentioned that he had normally seen me handling these kinds of situations on my own, but was surprised to see why I failed at it that time.

And then he shared some insights with me –

People will start looking up to you as a leader when you take a decision and own that decision.

It doesn’t matter if the decision taken is right or wrong as long as you take the decision. Generally, management expects you take more right decisions as you get more experienced, but it’s completely acceptable if you take a few wrong decisions too. What’s not acceptable from leaders is — not taking any decisions.

His feedback was spot on to me. Normally I’m good at it, but for that instance, I had missed it. I didn’t need management’s advice or permission. I could have just taken the decision and informed the management about it later on. And if they would have thought I took the wrong approach, then I would have sought for the forgiveness.

After that meeting, I already faced with new situations where I had to take decisions. My default urge was to go and ask upper management’s feedback on what is the right thing to do. But then I paused every single time thinking about — what decision I would take if I’m the ultimate decision maker in the company. So I started taking the decisions and owning it. This had helped me tremendously in last few days to make faster progress.

Again, if you’re a leader, there are a lot more other attributes you will have practice in your day to day life. But if you are getting started and want other people to start looking up to you as a leader, then the first thing you’ll need to do is to start taking the decisions and own them. It is the most important attribute you will have to practice to become a leader.

Seek for forgiveness, not for permission.


Originally published at aditya.kothadiya.com on June 5, 2016.

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