What does it take to lead?

As I enter a new round of leadership with brilliant people--all volunteers--I am considering once again what it takes to lead.

It helps to have the respect of those you are leading. Of course, the only way to earn that respect is to focus on it. Make no mistake, it is always earned. The days of respect following the promotion are long gone. Today, a position or title is far more likely to earn disdain than respect. That means you actually have to overcome the baggage of the role and earn additional respect on top of that. How you do that depends on the position and the team you will lead.

You may have a team that includes former peers. Some of them may think that they are better suited for leadership than you are. Some of them may actually be better suited for it. How will you address this?

Others would prefer you just stay out of their way. This has historically been my preference with most leaders, since most leaders are far more likely to reduce my productivity than improve it. Perhaps you've had the same experience in your past--or even know with a superior. Take some time to consider why you feel like this and then avoid doing the things that would lead your team to think this of you.

Still others will fear you and want to avoid you. For them, you are the fastest path to being led out the door, so they are going to hide from you and try to stay under the radar.

The key for you is to really understand the role of a leader in your organization and for your team. First off, why does the team need a leader? Probably, because you're trying to get something done, and you need a rallying point. There may be other reasons, though, so take some time to consider what they might be. Second, what can you be doing to help the team achieve? Perhaps there are gaps in expertise or training. Perhaps there are issues with resources or the environment. Look for small, quick wins early, and continue to study longer-term and more expensive opportunities for moving the team forward. As a leader, you need to show up as someone who is serving them and getting stuff done that they need to have to get their work done. This is absolutely critical!

...and part of what it takes to lead.