A very wise man—one I have admired for a number of years—once told me “in order to be a good leader you have to be a good follower.” Thus, knocking down my belief that one is born a leader.
Being a leader is not hard; being a great leader is. Whether a parent, executive, pastor, president—whatever capacity of leadership you find yourself in means working with people, unleashing their full potential, not commanding or exercising power over them.
If a company’s CEO is empathetic with his employees and is under – make that leader proud, and make money for that company as well. If leadership is autocratic, employees will only be there until they find another place where they feel appreciated. Everyone wants to matter, at any level, in any scenario. Shining light onto employees and recognizing their strengths does indeed shine more light onto the leader.
So what exactly is a leader? The Dictionary defines a leader as a “person who guides or directs a group.” I would like to counter that definition and add that a leader is one who inspires, one who can communicate the end goal to his group, and one who empowers group members to do their very best in accomplishing the task at hand. How many times do you see an organization that sets goals for each department without the department’s input? Then, the department leaders figure out how they are going to keep the boss happy by creating goals without the team’s input? It happens more than we would like to hear.
If the company started by looking at the work performance, the pro- cesses that need to be put in place, the working conditions, what matters to employees, and getting everyone’s input on the set goals, the end result would be greater. Instead of saying, “this is how this needs to be done,” saying, “this is where we would like to be, how do you all think we can accomplish that?” Guaranteed greater results.
Why? Because now people feel like part of a process; they own that goal, they have a sense of inclusion, they feel important, they feel like they matter because their opinion was taken into consideration for the company’s big goals. Therefore, they will do whatever it takes to accomplish those goals.
The last paragraph could be summarized as communicating, including, and inspiring people. Can a leader over communicate? Is that counterproductive? Yes and yes. Communication is a two-way street, and although one would think the leader does more of the talking and the team member does more of the listening, since he is getting mentored, the truth is that the leader should ask more questions and let the team member answer those questions. If the leader is always providing answers, team members will learn to depend on their leader and not come up with solutions on their own.
The better way to approach a situation when team members have questions is to let them find the answer you would have given them in the first place. If you have been properly mentoring, surely they will arrive at the same conclusion you would. More powerful to the team member is to answer or decipher a problem on his own than simply getting an answer. Remember you hired these people to think and do, not just to do—let machines do that. Letting folks come up with potential solutions to a challenge increases trust and further develops team members. Don’t just give orders. It is boring and disrespectful. Get people’s input. If they are wrong, they are going to figure that out very soon in the process.
“Look for three things in a person: intelligence, energy, and integrity. If they don’t have the last one, don’t even bother.” -Warren Buffet
“Leaders don’t inflict pain, they share pain.” -Max Depreet
“Become the kind of leader that people would follow voluntarily, even if you had no title or position.” -Brian Tracy
“The growth and development of people is the highest calling of leadership.” -Harvey S. Firestone
One important question you can ask yourself on this topic is if you know how people feel once they leave your office. There are only two choices. Great, or unsatisfied. If they feel small or belittled, do not expect great things from this employee in the long run. If they feel like they are doing a great job, impressing their leader, and have things to work on until the next meeting, those things will be worked on to the point of surpassing your expectations the next time you meet with them.
Remember, people always want to please their leaders. Everyone wants to matter. No one gets hired and says, “I am going to do a horrible job at this company.” It is similar to a marriage. People do not get married thinking, “I am going to be a horrible spouse and I want to fight every day over any little thing.” No, things go bad on the journey.
All relationships are based on trust—it’s how you build it. On that note, always remember to praise in public and address needs in private. Under no circumstance should a leader ever call a team member out in front of his peers on anything that needs attention. It will always backfire. Do not humiliate people. EVER. This also applies to email. There is no need to hit Reply All and embarrass people with a response that could easily be handled in a private conversation.
If you happen to have a bad leader you report to, it is now your job to stop the behavior and not replicate it. We have all heard of the trickle-down effect; bad leadership starts at the top and rolls down. You have the power to stop it. The buck stops with you.
Questions: Are you passionate about what you do? Do you have great ideas and the ability to inspire others? Do you feel that no matter how much you know there is always something more you can learn? If so, you are on your way to becoming a great leader. Be one. The world needs you.