“As a leader, what may matter more than what you do is what you un-do.”
The secret to fostering engagement, motivation and success among employees is not to introduce a slew of new leadership behaviors, but to stop doing the stuff that drives them crazy.
From unclear expectations to unrelenting change, employees don’t appreciate being left in the dark. They want to give their best, but they can’t do so when they feel underutilized, stifled by unnecessary processes or restrained by projects that don’t really go anywhere. Eliminating such distracting and irritating de-motivators will produce a bigger return than any office training or exercise.
“Though leadership can be hard to demonstrate at times, regularly questioning how you embody your role will serve your leadership well.”
If you feel unsure about how to evaluate yourself as a leader, consider these five abilities and accompanying questions.
Visibility: “How am I visible to others when I don’t want to be?”
Preparation: “How have I prepared my whole self for this?”
Comfort: “How do I display that I am comfortable with the responsibilities and demands of leadership?”
Listening: “What one thing can I tell myself as a reminder to listen more?”
Blend: “When necessary, how do I lower the volume of my leadership presence?”
“If you want to shorten your shelf life as a CEO, it’s easy to do – be uninformed and disengaged.”
The average CEO too often depends on information that is filtered, packaged and spoon-fed to him. Sure, you may use technology to get information on your own, but have you ever considered that perhaps you’re spending too much time on email and not enough on digital learning or engagement?
Successful CEOs should actively tune in to online personal and professional development conversations. From leadership advice to business intelligence know-how, the task of absorbing such information is too important to be delegated to others. Start with browsing your own company’s website, as well as those of your competitors and customers. Then branch out to find relevant news, research, and social buzz. It’ll be a good reminder of the climate you’re in.
“Reading has a host of benefits for those who wish to occupy positions of leadership and develop into more relaxed, empathetic and well-rounded people.”
Leaders should be readers, but with so many options and recommendations, it can be overwhelming to find the perfect fit.
Harvard Business Review writer John Coleman presents a list of 11 books specifically for young leaders. The list includes a variety of historical, psychological and how-to literature crammed with wisdom and insight by world leaders. From a financial history of the world to life advice from Roman emperors, these books can help leaders chart their careers, and of course, make them more intelligent conversationalists.
“Too often people and companies exacerbate their troubles by their own actions.”
It’s easy to make a bad situation worse by engaging in one of many self-defeating actions. In particular, seeking to gain from the suffering of others is a bad strategy, and getting angry leaves a long, bitter, unproductive trail. No matter how high you sit on the payroll, you won’t be able to get away with such behavior for long.
Luckily, there’s a catchall cure to self-defeating habits—humility. Understanding responsibilities and limitations, as well as a desire to serve others and uphold your values will increase your ability to avoid the traps of poor leadership.
“The trouble with leadership is your mistakes always hurt others.”
Mistakes happen, regardless of the type of leader you are. The difference between a good mistake and a bad mistake is what you take away from it. Do you err in the wake of innovation and exploration, or do you willingly repeat the same wrongs?
Unsuccessful leaders are self-absorbed, unresponsive to criticism and quick to try to cover up their mistakes. In contrast, great mistake-makers learn and adapt quickly, increasing their ability to be more effective over time. These leaders have learned to enjoy life and see the big picture through a clear, insightful lens.
“At a time when people everywhere are questioning their leaders’ values, those characteristics seem to resonate even more.”
Think back on the people you most admire, whether they were a personal friend or office associate. They probably all had three traits in common: trust, empathy and mentorship.
No matter how talented or knowledgeable we may be, we often crave the guiding hand of a reliable mentor. We want someone to know and care about us, someone who will always have our back. Only that kind of trust can empower people to believe in themselves, take risks and stretch their own capabilities. And when they rise and fall, their leaders should be as human as they are—taking joy in their successes and gently guiding them after their misfortunes.
“Those bright lines between kings and subjects, nobles and serfs, bosses and “workers” are gone.”
The distinction between leaders and followers is dead. In fact, we often spend our days switching between both roles. Workplace success depends on knowing how great leaders lead by following and great followers follow by leading.
Perhaps first and foremost, great followers are innovators. Rather than wait to be assigned what to do, they offer up their own ideas accompanied with a go-to attitude. While still being coachable, great followers prove they have the ability to make goals and direct themselves on their quest to success. Followers of this caliber quickly earn the trust of their peers and advisors as they model characteristics of both followers and leaders.
“Failure ultimately shapes you as a leader.”
Examining your failures lacks a certain element of entertainment, but the wisdom you’ll gather from doing so will help you manage future adversity and enhance your skills as a leader. Truth is, if you can’t think of your three greatest failures, perhaps you don’t stretch yourself enough. Failure can fuel the most rewarding triumphs of your career.
If you were never confronted with failure, you would never be forced to choose a different—and perhaps more difficult—road. On the way down that new path, you’ll learn to stretch your abilities and grasp previously unseen opportunities. As you allow failure to teach rather than define you, you’ll realize second chances are everywhere. And this time, your instincts are stronger, your mind more perceptive and your actions more adept.