Real leaders, the kind we want to follow and emulate, are rare in today’s global, hyper-competitive and financially driven-world. In their place are fast-track wannabes and imposters focused on unsustainable short-term results. Instead of mentoring employees and looking for long-term solutions to lasting profitability, they seek to drive performance by bullying and focusing on personal glory over the success of the entire organization.
What steps can enlightened leaders take to limit this type of behavior? There are three essential steps that must be taken:
1. Recognize that problems will occur; don’t pretend they aren’t real.
2. Communicate clearly and regularly what the consequences of misconduct are.
3. Stay true to your ethical and behavioral principles and commitments.
For most of my career, I have typically reported to the president, CEO or chairman of the board. As a result, I’ve been fortunate to see chief executives in action in many different industries and organizations. Along the way, I have observed what the best leaders do, and learned a few lessons about what never to do. This unique perspective has enabled me to create a mosaic of how real leaders handle complex problems. The following are a dozen of the most important insights I’ve gained:
1. Roll up your sleeves and work alongside your team—your actions promote collaboration and cooperation, allow you to see how your team interacts, and provide you with a great opportunity to be a mentor and coach.
2. Encourage cross-training so that everyone is ready to pitch in when needed. Cross-training also provides people with the opportunity to lean a new skill, and can be a lifesaver in an emergency.
3. After completing a project successfully, recognize everyone (and I do mean everyone) who contributed.
4. Don’t be afraid of hiring someone because you feel they might outshine you—their accomplishments will reflect well on you.
5. Be available to your team when they need you. You may be inconvenienced at times, but respect is reciprocal and your accessibility demonstrates their importance to the organization.
6. Establish and promote an environment where everyone feels safe, valued, and empowered to contribute—keep an open mind and listen. Identify input that is actionable, act on it, and always give credit where it is due.
7. Don’t overlook base hits by only focusing on home runs. Singles and doubles can add up over the long term, and build energy, momentum, and trust along the way.
8. Take responsibility—don’t blame others for your own mistakes. One of the surest ways to demoralize your team is to blame them for something that isn’t their fault. Own up to your mistakes, focus on lessons learned, and then move on.
9. The very best leaders check their egos at the door, are humble, and support their teams, especially during difficult economic times. As someone once told me, “Watch out for those who smile up the organization and frown down the organization.”
10. It may seem passé in an era of texting and digital shorthand, but being an effective communicator means being able to write clearly, succinctly, and thoughtfully. You will enhance your organization’s reputation—as well as your own.
11. Develop your own philosophy of leadership—have a clearly defined system of beliefs and practices and use them regularly, but not rigidly. Convey your philosophy consistently to your team. Expand your philosophy as you gain more experience and more knowledge but resist fads and “quick fixes” in favor of long-term solutions.
12. Like baseball, leadership encompasses many innings and requires a strong team. Spend much time developing your team, teaching them regularly in a formal leadership development program where you as the leader play an active roll, and share some of your successes and some of your failures as well.
Most of us would probably agree that a leader—whether of a large corporation, a small business, a hospital, college or military unit—has an inherent strategic bent and a knack for important details. But real leaders go the extra innings, as demonstrated by how they address problems, whether those problems rest with a peer, a subordinate or someone else.
– Ritch K. Eich, PhD is the author of Real Leaders Don’t Boss (CLICK HERE to get your copy) and Leadership Requires Extra Innings (CLICK HERE to get your copy). He has worked with some of the world’s best known organizations and leaders in his 35+ year career spanning four distinct industries: hospitals, academe, military and agriculture. Eich served as an officer in the U.S. Navy serving in the Pentagon, the Joint Chiefs of Staff, NATO, The Pacific and Atlantic fleets, and other joint commands.
Did you enjoy this post? If so, I highly encourage you to take about 30 seconds to become a regular subscriber to this blog. It’s free, fun, practical, and only a few emails a week (I promise!). SIGN UP HERE to get the thoughtLEADERS blog conveniently delivered right to your inbox!