Lessons I Learned from My Father About Leadership
In my prior post, I described how my father influenced my views on leadership and how I used these lessons in my own life.
In this post, I get more specific. While it’s hard to be comprehensive in a blog post, I will highlight the most important points.
Focus on your Team
Without a team, you are not a leader. You MUST build up your team, motivate them, and inspire their loyalty. How do you accomplish these goals?
- Know their names and the names of people important to them. It sounds simple, right? But a lot of people don’t even take this simple first step.
- Ask about their long-term career objectives. Where do they hope to be in a few years? Use this information to motivate them. Show them how their job fits their goals.
- What are their strengths and weaknesses? Any coach knows that you don’t have perfect players. However, you can create a winning team by using each players’ unique strengths and shoring up weaknesses.
This is not about giving people gold stars for attendance. You need high standards to achieve excellence. In order to motivate your employees to meet those standards:
- Clearly define your expectations and hold people responsible.
- When they meet or exceed your high standards, reward them by publicly acknowledging the accomplishment. Where appropriate, also give tangible rewards. These can be anything from a bonus check to the best parking space or an extra day of vacation.
- Praise in public and criticize in private.
Lead by Example
As the leader, you are the one people look at to set the tone for your company. Ask yourself how you want to be perceived and what kind of example you want to set. Some suggestions:
- Be positive. Times get tough, but tough people stay positive. This doesn’t mean you crack jokes while the ship is sinking, but maintain your optimism. Assume that solutions can be found for tough problems.
- Be the first to pitch in when extra effort is needed
- Arrive early and leave late.
Help Employees Positively Contribute
To create an environment that emphasizes problem-solving and creativity, allow your employees the freedom to criticize. However, and this is key, insist they pair any complaint with proposed solutions. Take both their concerns and their ideas seriously. Address them with respect and engage in an exchange of ideas. If a resolution cannot be found for a perceived problem, let the employee know that the issue can be revisited in the future if more information comes to light.
Be Willing to be Tough when Necessary
Leadership requires both empathy and necessary toughness. Realize that because you focus on being respectful, kind, and thoughtful in your daily interactions with your employees, they are more likely to be loyal and supportive when you must be tough.
When you must be firm, keep the focus on performance issues and the bottom line. Keep the personal out of it.
You can use your own experiences to help you expand on the outline provided above. What if you’ve never worked for a leader you’ve admired and respected? Well, sometimes the bad leaders you’ve worked for have just as much to teach you – you can analyze what they did and make sure you don’t replicate it!
Realize that when you put in the work to be a good leader and look after your team, while it may mean a short-term sacrifice on your part, in the long run, it will pay many dividends. You will inspire loyalty and generate enthusiasm and creativity. Your employees will be more productive, and your company’s bottom line will be enhanced. It will be easier to grow your organization and make it more successful. Plus, you will feel better about yourself!
For more thoughts on leadership, check out my Cayenne colleague’s post, 9 Tips to Stay an Effective Leader.
And for another perspective, here is an article that emphasizes the importance of self-mastery to leadership.