Doing things that make leaders great can be rare
Effective leadership is a persistent problem. It seems that hardly anyone knows how to do it. The only saving grace is that many who are supposed to lead recognize that they don’t know how. Here are seven things that make leaders great. If you can be effective in these, then your reputation will skyrocket.
- Be nice.
While it’s lonely at the top, everyone has problems; not just you. The problems are likely to be different, but they’re just as big to the person going through them as the ones that you face. Problems with marriages, kids, elderly parents, finances – in a nutshell, all of life. And those things affect people at work because they’re percolating in the backs of their minds.
If you’re unkind to them as well, then you’ll make them feel that they have no means to escape. The result will be that they’ll be even less effective. But, if you are nice to them, then work will begin to seem like something of an oasis. Your employees will look forward to getting there and to doing what needs to be done.
Remember that your people are not the enemy. If you treat them as your allies, then they’ll have your back.
- Give plenty of feedback
Far too many people in senior positions believe that no news is good news; that people should act like grown-ups and recognize that if there’s a problem, then they can be sure that someone above them will let them know. That’s not leadership. That’s abdication.
Part of your responsibility as a leader is to assure people that they’re doing their jobs well. They need to know. If you don’t tell them, then they’ll begin to wonder if they are. If they’re wondering, then it means that they’re not focusing on doing what’s right. They’ll keep thinking that there’s something wrong with what they’re doing, and the risk is that they could do something else in order to gain your approval.
- Make time for people
Leadership does not mean creating a vision for the company and relaying it to the board or your senior managers, all the while hiding in your lofty tower. People want to see your face and to make eye contact with you. They want you to talk to them; to take an interest in them, in their job, and in their workplace.
And don’t make this into a ritual. People will suss you out before you even arrive, which means that your journey will have been wasted.
One other thing, make some of your visits unannounced. This can be tricky. Remember, the goal is not to catch people out. Surprise visits can do that if they aren’t handled properly. One way to do this would be to dress casually, certainly no higher than the way they dress. If they are wearing a suit, and hardly anyone does anymore, then make sure that yours is no more flashy than theirs. If they are wearing boiler suits, then put one on. Make sure that you hide your tie.
- Set the right example
Many people are proud of the fact that they are leading by example. But the truth of the matter is that hardly anyone will emulate an example that they disagree with. In fact, all that will do is make them uncomfortable.
A good example is work/life balance. It’s essential that people work a sensible number of hours. If you’re putting in 50, 60 hours a week or more, then there will be people in your organization who will feel that they should, too. But that will create inner turmoil, because they will be torn between what they perceive as your expectations for them and the responsibilities and, indeed, desires they feel towards their families, and even their personal health.
Don’t force your employees to make a choice. Show them that work/life balance is so important that you practice it as well.
- Support people even when they make costly mistakes
It’s easy to support someone who makes an error of judgment that “doesn’t hurt anybody.” It’s quite another to do so if it costs the company $10,000. Unless the mistake was deliberate or came from a devil-may-care attitude, you need to support the person who made it. He or she will feel badly enough about it without you yelling, disciplining, or firing them.
And you have to remember something else that is crucial. Others will be watching. They will take note of how you treat others. Whether you handle it well or badly, they will remember your example.
- Invest in your own leadership development
One of the problems with personal and professional development is that those at the top have the habit of exempting themselves from the training they think that everyone else should get. They plead that they are too busy, too important, or already know how to do it.
What’s good for the goose is also good for the gander. Make sure that you attend the same training that you expect others to go to. It’s part of setting the right example.
- Focus on outcomes; not means
In their managerial capacity, some leaders try to control everything: from start to finish. You’re not dealing anymore with people who barely got through high school. Many, if not most, of your employees, will have undergraduate degrees, and some at least will have Masters’ as well. Recognize their abilities by giving them the latitude to accomplish a job in a way that works best for them. To put it bluntly, there is more than one way to skin a cat.