Updated: Dec 10, 2019
Sure, you may be responsible for a large function of the company, have a fancy title, a nice office, or manage others, but are you really a leader?
Leadership is so much more than most realize. It takes passion, dedication, continuous learning, and a whole lot of work to be successful.
Leadership is about giving your team credit over yourself. When senior leadership commends you on a project well executed, it is saying “I owe it all to my team” whether or not your team or any others are in the room. Try it. Sure, you want to take the credit, that’s what we all want, however, keep in mind that by giving credit to your team, you are, as a result, receiving credit as the leader, and showing your character in the process.
Leadership is about accepting responsibility. Things don’t always go well and sure a team member may have very well dropped the ball, however, a true leader falls on the sword for their cavalry, takes ownership on behalf of the team, and undoubtedly takes time to understand the situation and helps the individual to learn from the mistake.
Leadership is about consistently giving those on your team recognition on things they are doing well and constructive criticism on ways in which to improve. Individuals want to feel valued, and whether it’s a public recognition or a simple “thank you” these gestures go a long way. Feedback loops are a fundamental concept in psychology. Ultimately, it leads to employee happiness and overall engagement. And while a bit harder to hear constructive criticism, it is necessary and providing it is part of your obligation as a leader. If individuals do not know where they can improve, they do not grow and evolve. Providing ongoing, regular feedback in both areas is your responsibility.
Leadership is about being open to new ideas. As a leader, you are probably full of great ideas which may be one of the reasons you occupy your current role, however, it’s important for you to remember that you have others around you that just might be full of (I am going to say it) even better ideas. It is about approaching every discussion with an open mind, laying all ideas out on the table and working (take note here) together to come up with a solution.
Leadership is about enabling other’s growth. It is about taking a vested interest in the interests, aspirations, and goals of others and helping them in their journey. Do you know the goals of your staff? And if so, do you regularly inquire about them, discuss them or ask how you can help? It doesn’t matter if its work or personal, if these things are important to your staff, they should certainly matter to you.
Leadership is about being accountable and holding others accountable as well. It is about keeping your word and committing to what you say you are doing to do and expecting the same from others. There are no excuses, no “I’ve been swamped.” If you are a leader, act like one. If you asked a team member to complete something by the end of the week, and they never did it, would that fly? If when you followed up with them, they ignored you or said, sorry “I’ve been swamped,” would you be OK with that? Set an example for your team and hold your staff and yourself to the same standards.
Leadership is about listening. It’s about shutting your mouth, not jumping to conclusions or judgments, not trying to formulate a solution, or bringing up a personal situation to relate; it’s about simply listening.
Leadership is about communication. It is about properly communicating the things that matter to the team. It is about effectively communicating your vision, organizational and team-specific goals, and very specific expectations regularly. Employees need to understand where they fit in and what is expected of them and it is your job to ensure that happens.
Leadership is about the little things. It’s about the “good morning,” the, “how is your day?” the “have a good night.” It’s about taking the time to do the little things that let people know you care.
It is about being honest and having integrity, being respectful, having confidence, being ridiculously committed, having a positive attitude, and showing some serious empathy. Obviously, leadership is a pretty big deal and a lot of work (I warned you). A Gallup study found that managers account for 70% of the variance in employee engagement. If that doesn’t tell you something, I am not sure what will.
With that I ask, are you a leader?