July 6, 2017
True success as a leader has absolutely nothing to do with how you perceive yourself, but how others perceive you.
This is a hard concept for many to grasp, because it involves a great deal of self-reflection and humility.
A great leader is always willing to take a hard look in the mirror, to find out who they really are, deep inside, not just on the surface. If you can do this, then you have the capacity to make a difference, and that is what leadership is all about. Making a difference in your company, and far more importantly, in the lives of others around you.
First let’s dispense with the concept of manager vs. leader. I understand that titles and job descriptions may include the word manager, and that is fine, but what word describes your relationship with your employees? Do you attempt to manage your employees, or do you lead your employees? There is a distinct difference, and anyone who has worked for a true leader well understands the distinction. Very few people want to be managed, almost all want and need to be led.
People have basic needs in this short life we live, and among those needs are oxygen, food and water, shelter and sleep. There are other ‘fundamentals of life’ that I believe help give meaning to our existence, which for most includes a spiritual dimension, and an existential dimension. Without getting too deep, I would simply say that at the most basic levels everyone wants to be loved and respected, and those who can, want to be productive, to add value to something. Pretty simple concept, yet so many people allow themselves to get in the way of letting others fulfill their needs and aspirations. In doing so, we not only diminish the potential of those around us, but also our own potential.
This is where true leaders stand out, and make a difference. They are content putting others first, and making people their priority.
Qualities which I believe are traits of true leaders:
- They genuinely care about the people they work with (The key word is genuinely).
- They smile and laugh (often).
- They are not power hungry (Power hungry people are terrible bosses).
- They prefer WE vs. I.
- They never talk down to employees.
- They visit the employee’s workspace just to say hello, and ask how they are doing.
- They encourage their employees.
- They ensure that the employees personal needs are met, which includes making sure that they are there to participate in the important life events of their family (Anniversaries, birthdays, kids ball games, recitals, etc.).
- The know the names of the employees spouse and kids, and know something about each of them (i.e., sports they play, etc.. Within reason).
- They ensure that the employee gets adequate down time (Off days and vacations without interruptions).
- They find out what work goals the employee has and helps them attain them.
- They never raise their voice in anger (This demonstrates a lack of control).
- They encourage the employee to always do their best.
- They never label employees negatively (Doing so creates a self-fulfilling prophecy). Try the reverse instead.
- They set goals for the company and offer praise and a token of appreciation to employees when goals are met (Lunch on the boss, time off awards, cash incentives, casual days, etc.).
- They give responsibility to others (This adds self-worth, and develops leaders).
- They try to make the job fun, and create a positive work environment.
- They pass credit for success to others and are willing to take the blame for failures.
- They never ‘call out’ an employee in front of others (Do it in private).
- They maintain an open door policy.
- They actively listen when the employees are talking to them (Don’t look at your phone or computer, or take calls, unless you politely excuse yourself).
- They come from behind their desks, and may even stand when employees come into the office (Sound odd…Try it).
- They don’t try to look serious or intimidating to their employees (Except when necessary to add tone to an issue which may require such).
- They maintain high character and integrity (Always).
- They always tell the truth.
- They keep employees informed.
- They seek advice from those around them (To include subordinates).
- They maintain professionalism (never crude, inappropriate, or foul mouthed).
- They never create a hostile work environment or allow anyone else to.
- The respect employees privacy.
- They never destroy the spirits of employees.
- They expect excellence in employee’s performance, and provide an example of such.
- They seek to build up the self-worth of employees.
- They provide training and career enhancement to employees.
- They make the employees success their priority.
- They encourage innovation, and welcome the ideas of employees.
- They ask for employee feedback on how they are doing as a boss (Leader).
- They always treat employees with respect and dignity.
- They LEAD!
The concept of servant leadership is real, and it is effective. Try putting others first, and watch what happens when you do. You will likely see an increase in productivity, have greater employee satisfaction and retention, and enjoy the added benefit of making a difference in the lives of those you work with.