Leading yourself: how to be a leader who people like to be around?
Before being able to lead others, you have to understand how to lead yourself first. Here are four pillars you need to follow in order to inspire your team to take ownership over their work.
Here at VTEX we like to say we are all leaders. It doesn’t matter the position you are in the company. Leadership is not about titles, it’s about actions. Everyone here has an extraordinary commitment to the desired future of this company and to keep integrity in all conversations we have here.
It’s easier to move with a company at our scale with the “leader-follower” approach instead of the “leader-leader” approach. But we believe the effort to maintain an “leader-leader” environment in our workplace culture will be worth it in the long term.
When people feel they have ownership over their work they don’t wake up to do their job, they wake up to accomplish goals that are beyond predictable. And such a mindset is only possible because we are building a team of leaders looking for excellence.
Why the “leader-leader” approach is a key factor in VTEX’s culture
One of the main VTEX’s missions is to help our partners, from different markets and publics, to sell more, operate more efficiently and deliver remarkable customer experiences across all their channels. To accomplish this goal, we need a team eager to develop solutions that will be able to tackle global challenges and lead the future of commerce.
Creating and fostering this kind of inner motivation is only possible when you create a workplace environment where people have autonomy to express their concerns or make suggestions, opportunity to fail fast (by adopting a learn by doing mindset) and work alongside with people who want as well to make an impact on the way commerce is done currently.
To offer these work conditions, here at VTEX we adopt the “leader-leader” approach, which we find the most suitable to give people the freedom they need to think broadly, at the same time keeping an open door policy to encourage honest conversations in order to reach the best outcome for our products. This is, in summary, how you lead your coworkers to achieve their highest potential.
But applying this way of thinking is not as easy as we would like. One of the challenges of the “leader-leader” approach is how we improve our skills leading by influence and not by authority. Leading by influence requires a lot of effort from you to start leading yourself first.
Four pillars to learn how to lead yourself
It’s important to make clear this article is not about how to be a leader people like. We strongly believe this is the wrong call if we want to achieve excellence. It’s not about being liked, it’s about being able to influence your teams towards the desired future of the organization without telling people what to do all the time.
There are several ways to become a leader who gives your team the necessary assets and environment to create forward thinking solutions, but it is only possible to provide this kind of leadership when you learn how to lead yourself first. Bellow, I will talk about four pillars of leading yourself to be a leader that people want around:
First things first. You will never be a leader people want around if you don’t show you care about people. The best way to show that you care about your team is to show it. I know the tip looks simple, but it’s not.
We are all busy with our crazy schedules and constantly looking for improvements in our work, so taking time to ask about how others are feeling is not something we are used to. But it is important to add in our routines the habit of showing appreciation for people’s work.
Be more observant, ask more questions, talk more to people and then follow up previous subjects in future conversations to show that you care about their well-being.
A famous quote about workplace culture states that people don’t leave companies but do leave managers. I believe people leave when they don’t feel valued anymore. Make people see how important they are and why their work matter.
Nobody likes to be told what to do. If you want to be a leader people want around you need to unleash higher performance through emancipation. Avoid command and control. If you think that, as a leader, you need to be on top of everything, you are becoming the bottle neck of your organization.
Delegation is a powerful tool to provide emancipation. If you want to create owners and not followers, don’t delegate tasks. Instead, delegate ownership, freedom and decision making power.
If the decision-making power is concentrated in the high levels of management you will not be able to scale. Emancipate your team by saying out and loud: it’s up to you.
And it is especially important to make this call if you want to grow. Because it is not possible to evolve as a leader while retaining the control of all decisions. You can’t have both.
We need to be leaders who inspire. Inspiration is not always about giving phenomenal speeches or motivating people. Inspiration is about getting out the best of each member of our organization. You need to walk your talk. It’s not what you do occasionally that will make your organization achieve success. It’s what you do consistently.
As a leader, you need to be a stable, fully-engaged professional, eager to accomplish the mission tasked for your team, setting clear vision, consistently following through the project and being empathetic. These are all inspiring characteristics that will make people want you around.
Here at VTEX we don’t want people just doing their job. We want people engaged with a mission.
Authenticity is one of the most important things to be a leader people want around. The gap between our speech and actions should be close to zero. Leadership is not about authority or pride. Our behaviour as a leader should be the first priority to work on. We need to be understanding and kind, authentic and vulnerable, expect a lot and work extremely hard.
People might admire you because of all of your strengths but they will connect with you because of your weaknesses. You don’t need to have all the answers. But you need to be curious enough to ask questions and learn from them.
How can you lead by influence from now on
Leadership is hard. It doesn’t matter how many years you are in this journey, you need to keep seeking for evolution. Having a growth mindset is key for any leader that wants to increase impact.
But don’t put in yourself a permanent label, life is about constant evolution and learning. We would like to finish these article with some questions for you to reflect:
- Write down five things you are holding on that you should delegate to someone else;
- Invest in the leadership skills of some professional in your team by letting this person own a project, executing new ideas and/or the management of some task;
- Find at least two people in your team and tell them you notice the work they are doing and why this really matters to your company;
- Rate yourself how much effort and energy you are putting into being a leader who sets clear vision and how you are treating people around you. Ask trusted people around you how they think you could do to improve your leadership skills.
Building the software architecture that will lead the future of commerce is not an easy task. On the contrary, as the headcount grows, it also increases the tendency to add complexity in processes. When you emancipate people to lead by themselves, these new layers that can slow down innovation tend to decrease, given that people have more autonomy and tend to reach out to leaders only when it is 100% necessary.
At the end of the day, leading by yourself and fostering this concept to your team members is a win-win situation: for them, who have more freedom to work on solutions with global impact, and for yourself, who will have the chance to evolve as a professional and make room for others to evolve as well.
What about you? Do you want to work at a company that encourages autonomy, deals with global challenges on a daily basis and offers to their employees a workplace environment where they take real ownership in their projects? Check out our Careers page and take a look at our open vacancies!