I Before the Door

Being an open-door leader requires understanding what an open-door leader does. It also means having an opportunity mind-set, a significant shift from the more common threat-focused way of leading. Many leaders hyperfocus on mitigating risk, viewing most situations as threats or problems. But when leaders view situations as risks, threats, or problems, they inject fear and anxiety into people, generating pessimism. In the long run, fear damages morale and performance.

Open-door leaders view challenging situations as opportunities, not problems. Instead of injecting people with fear, they help people see the opportunities that the challenges provide, inspiring them with excitement and hope. The resulting optimism lifts morale and performance.

In this part you'll discover:

• the four skills of an open-door leader

• why your approach to opportunity matters
why using fear to motivate people makes for lousy leadership

• why making people uncomfortable is one

of an open-door leader's most important jobs.

Introducing Open-Door Leadership

All that is valuable in human society depends upon the opportunity for development accorded the individual.

Albert Einstein

Leadership is often defined as a set of behaviors by which one person influences others toward the achievement of goals. Put more simply, leadership is about momentum and results. While these definitions are true, they somehow fall short. What mechanism should a leader use, for example, to “influence” strong performance? Has leadership evolved beyond carrots and sticks? And what about the people being led? Besides a paycheck, what do they get out of getting results for the leader? What's in it for them? After all, the leader's success depends on them, right?

• What's missing is opportunity. In exchange for advancing the leader's goals, the people being led should expect work opportunities that provide for:
growth and personal development

• career fulfillment and enrichment

• acquisition of new skills

• financial gain and other rewards

• greater access to leadership roles.

People and organizations grow and develop to the extent that they capitalize on opportunities to do so. Opportunities are important to leaders because they're important to the people they lead. Opportunities are the venues where people can try, test, better, and even find themselves. The leader's job is to match the opportunity to the person and to help the person—and the organization—exploit that opportunity for all it's worth. Open-door leadership is about noticing, identifying, and creating opportunities for those being led.

Think for a moment about a leader you greatly admire. Pick someone who has led you, rather than someone on the world stage. What do you admire about him or her? Did he open a door to an opportunity where you could grow your skills or improve yourself, such as asking you to lead a high-profile project? Did she help illuminate a blind spot by giving you candid feedback that caused you to see yourself in a different and more honest way? Did he build your confidence by asking for your perspective, input, and ideas? Or did she openly advocate for your promotion, showing you how much she valued you? What doors did he open for you?
My bet is that the leaders you most admire are the ones who left you better off than they found you by creating opportunities that helped you grow. How?

• by being open to you, valuing your input and perspective

• by being open with you, telling you the truth even if the truth is difficult to hear

• by helping you be receptive to new possibilities and experiences and new ways of perceiving and thinking.

Open-door leadership involves creating or assigning opportunities in order to promote growth. By promoting the growth of those they lead, leaders increase the likelihood of their own success and advancement. They also increase the likelihood of creating other leaders, which is essential to building a lasting leadership legacy. Leaders create leaders by opening doors of opportunity that have a positive and lasting impact on the behavior of those they lead.

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