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Leading is about believing in people
May 13, 2013 | By Neil Ducoff | 8 Comments
Being the leader of a business is perhaps one of the most complex, rewarding, and often brutally frustrating professions. Leaders are constantly held accountable, subjected to relentless demands, and must always be at the top of their game. A true leader works tirelessly to drive the Four Business Outcomes: productivity, profitability, staff retention, and customer loyalty. But when you peel away all of the trappings of leadership, what it really comes down to is believing in people – and that’s where things start to get interesting.
A leader’s job is to achieve results through the work of others. They keep people and teams on task. They maintain order, direction, and momentum. But would you want to work for a leader who is solely driven by the numbers, in an organization where people are simply the means to an end? In turn, would you want to be that kind of leader? You will get your results, but at what cost to those you lead; and at what cost to the work environment, or company culture?
Here are some no-compromise strategies to help you maintain that vital balance between believing in people and achieving the right outcomes:
- The heart of a leader: Believing in those you lead is the hallmark of a true leader. Inspiring, coaching, guiding, correcting, and applauding individuals to achieve their full potential is a responsibility of all leaders. More importantly, it is the most fulfilling aspect of being a leader. Hitting a goal is a momentary “woohoo.” Helping and seeing an individual stretch, grow, and display that inner glow of personal pride in their work is the true reward of leadership that feeds your passion. Keep believing in people. You will have your share of failures along way, but the heart of a no-compromise leader always has faith in the people he/she leads.
- Mistakes are lessons: No amount of planning can eliminate mistakes. No policy and procedure manual will ever eliminate rule breaking. No system will ever be without flaws. And the bigger your list of consequences is, the more fear-based and antagonistic your company’s culture becomes. Leaders set the agenda, establish parameters, empower employees, and get out of the way. They encourage ideas and innovation. They view mistakes as learning opportunities. Yes, there will be those dumb mistakes that require a fierce conversation and documentation. But fear-based, dictatorial, and inflexible cultures are NOT the cultures that no-compromise leaders create.
- Attitude of gratitude: As kids, we seek affirmation and reward for our achievements. We commit to a workout plan or diet for the reward of feeling and looking better. We set goals to win. We help others because we want to – and it feels good. Working for a leader who keeps gratitude and appreciation locked in a safe feeds a pretty thankless work culture where nothing is ever good enough. No win is ever worthy of praise. A simple thank you, great job, woohoo, or atta-boy is a pretty simple and powerful sign of appreciation. Don’t say you believe in people if any of the above describes you.
- About being liked: Leadership is not about being liked. Leadership is about integrity, trust, mutual respect, appreciation, and accountability. If “being liked” is so important to you, leadership may not be your calling. You cannot say “yes” to everything. Sometimes, you have to make tough decisions on behalf of the company that will be unpopular. There will be times you will feel isolated and alone. This is all part of the reality of being a leader.
- Connecting: Communication and information flow is something that every business, no matter how successful and admired, can get better at. Leaders need to connect personally with those they lead. It’s amazing how even in small companies with just a dozen employees, true connections among staff can be a rare occurrence. When you’re consumed with achieving results and hitting your numbers, you are stuck in your box where employees are reduced to objects. They see and feel your indifference. If you don’t care about them – they don’t care about you. It’s just a job until something better comes along. Connecting is vital. Connecting is believing in people.
- The leader’s leader: Your job is to coach, inspire, and grow the company and its people. But who coaches you? Who keeps you on task and helps you to reach your full potential? Who can you really vent your frustrations to or talk with through your challenges? The most effective leaders have a coach. No compromise.
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