Thousands of leadership books have been written over the decades, each purporting ideas and ideologies to make one a better leader.
If I could condense the best ones into one concise summary, the truth remains: Leadership is about serving people and building relationships. To be in this esteemed role, one must have a natural affinity for both. Otherwise, don’t call yourself a leader.
To meet the incredibly high standards of human leadership with so much at stake in complex business settings, I have identified five habits that should be in every leader’s playbook.
1. Develop your people.
A sign of leadership greatness is creating a learning organization that relies upon the knowledge of individual contributors, rather than the classical hierarchical organization, which relies on the knowledge of the top of the hierarchy. Leaders who are looking ahead to develop the skills, competencies, and leadership of others have a distinct advantage. As they create the framework for people to develop and progress in mastery, intrinsic motivation and discretionary effort are unleashed.
2. Build trust.
In the age of decentralized, dispersed, and virtual work settings, leaders are faced with business challenges unlike that of any other time. To ensure teams are staying cohesive and headed in the same direction, trust should be at the foundation of all human interactions. When leaders do the right things and do things right, they gain the trust and respect of their people and are seen as dependable and accountable for their actions.
3. Seek feedback.
Garry Ridge, CEO of WD-40 Company, states that the most important three words in the English language are “I don’t know.” He shared with me that when he got comfortable with “not knowing,” laid his ego aside, and sought the perspectives, insights, and ideas of others, he learned more and information traveled faster. Point being, embrace the journey of not knowing all the answers and be open to receiving–and incorporating–feedback from all stakeholders.
4. Rally others around a common mission.
Great leaders instinctively know how to reinforce the mission of their organizations by engaging and energizing their workers around it. They craft jobs in a way that allows employees to tap into this energy, and they find ways to inject more purpose and meaning into people’s work that is aligned with the mission. Hence, the raise-the-mirror question for any leader becomes: Can any of your valued team members accurately describe your company’s mission?
5. Impact people’s lives.
When you lay your head down on your pillow, ask yourself this question: Did I have an impact on someone today? The best leaders on the planet have a wholehearted commitment to change the lives of people–it’s in their DNA. By asking the question, it forces you to measure up against the high standards of leadership, which will open up a world of opportunities to make an immediate impact on people for competitive advantage.
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