Are you an effective leader?
Today I'm starting a short leadership series. This is a topic that is near and dear to my heart as being the first-born I’m a natural leader, and because I’ve always been curious about what makes for a great leader. In my short time on this planet, I’ve been witness to people who should never have been put into leadership positions. You know the type, communication is a foreign concept, they expect you to be a mind reader, you must never question their judgment, and they expect blind allegiance. On the flip side, I’ve been very fortunate to work with some amazing leaders, the ones who lift you up, and want to teach you and help you be the best version of yourself. They are your biggest cheerleader. And although they still expect excellence, the same as the first example, the difference is you don’t want to disappoint the second.
This series is going to cover how, as a leader, you should start working on your relationships if you haven’t already. We’re going to discuss the Enneagram types, how rewards don’t always work in the way we want them to and why this happens, and we’ll finish with a guest interview on mentorship – how to find one if you don’t have one and how to mentor someone else.
Frankly, I believe that to be a good leader you must first take a hard look in the mirror. This is not an easy task – especially if you don’t like what you see. According to a 2018 Forbes article, “It could be easily said that a great leader is someone who possesses a vision and the courage to follow through, who has integrity, honesty, humility and continues to be focused in the face of adversity.” Those are some powerful words. Let’s start with integrity.
Having integrity means that you possess strong morals and an ethical conviction. In other words, you always try to do the right thing even when no one is looking. It also means that you recognize when you screw up and own your mistakes. If your subordinates are calling you Dexter behind your back, this could mean one of two things. Either they’ve figured out your dirty little secret/pastime or more likely, it means they think you are a sociopath. This is not a good thing my friend. I once worked with a woman who was the very definition of a sociopath with a good dose of narcissism mixed in. She would lie, cheat, and steal to get what she wanted. Driven by her lust for power is ultimately what did her in and in the end, she was fired from her position. Bosses with integrity have no need for power because they know they are good at what they do meaning they are natural leaders who know how to keep things organized and running smoothly. They are also willing to show appreciation to their staff for a job well done.
As children, we heard the tales of Honest Abe and how he was known for always telling the truth. Everyone who knew him said the same thing, they trusted his judgment and knew they would always get the truth even if it was something they didn’t want to hear. Do your employees trust you? Effective leaders are generally viewed as honest by their employees. They keep everyone apprised of the goings-on within the organization regardless if it’s good or bad. Leaders who are transparent and have an open-door policy are viewed much more favorably than those who conceal information. Also, a trustworthy leader is a person who sees the best in people and believes that most people want to do the right thing. They are approachable and supportive of everyone, not just the people they like. We’ve all had teachers who played favorites. When I was in high school there was this one teacher who I swear must have been the most unpopular person when they were in school because they always let the popular kids get away with everything. In fact, this teacher actively participated in students stealing things because she would accept the items as treasures! And, she was highly jealous of another teacher who was very well-liked by all the student body. These traits do not make for good teachers or leaders.
And this brings me to humility. Leaders who come from a place of humility use their success for the greater good, rather than for their own personal gain. As a leader, how can you show humility? First, you have to be willing to get your hands dirty. Your team needs to know that you are willing to get down and dirty in the trenches with them. Let me give you an example. At a company I previously worked for, there was this one leader who could never be bothered to do any task she deemed menial. She wouldn’t even load paper into the copier when she was in the middle of printing something. And you bet your butt that if you suggested a new way of doing things that wasn't her idea, it was never going to happen – even if it would make her life easier. At this same company, you could always find the CEO doing any job that needed doing. Pallets in the warehouse that needed unloaded? She was in there getting hot and sweaty working with the warehouse workers. Toilet was overflowing in the restroom? She went in with a plunger in hand. The receptionist had to go home sick? She was at the front answering phones. Can you guess which one of these women everyone respected? She removed her ego from the equation. No task was beneath her. She led by example and people loved her for it. I know that we sometimes hear that being humble is a weakness. But having humility is what helps us learn and opens us up to new opportunities for self-improvement. You either want to grow and develop or you don’t and guess what? The people you lead pick up on which one you choose.
One of the best bosses I’ve ever had embodied all these traits. She was always willing to dig in and do the work, her door was always open, and she gave credit where credit was due. She treated everyone the same and she tried to see the best in all her people. She led by example and we loved her and would do anything she asked of us. She is the kind of leader I aspire to be. Are you that person for your people?