Leadership lessons caught me by surprise over the last few years . . .

leadership lessons

I am a leader in training. I am constantly observing, studying, recording, journaling the things I am learning in leadership.  I write out what I am learning and listed below are some lessons which may be obvious but I have seen each one of them to be true over the last few years:

  1. Genuinely care about people. People from all backgrounds and socioeconomic status, want to be cared for authentically and respected for who they really are behind the mask. Want your employees to be loyal? Genuinely care for them as people FIRST!
  2. Honesty is always a good policy. People follow those they can trust and know they will be upfront with them through the good and bad.  If people don’t trust you, pack your bags because your days are numbered as their position leader.
  3. You will FAIL if you are not approachable, humble, and available as a leader. You will fail because you have not developed the trust needed to succeed. You remain a leader in title only (John Maxwell’s Level 1 Leadership).  Don’t become the leader up on high or the unaccessible “man behind the curtain” like the Wizard of Oz.  At some point, people will come to their own conclusion (true or not) you are not leading effectively because they no personal connection or experiential evidence to prove otherwise.
  4. Loyalty as a leader is a two-edged sword. If you remain loyal and show favoritism to your no longer effective friends (Builders, Baby Boomers) while you are letting go of hard working, effective younger talent (GenXers & Millennials), you demoralize those who remain and lose the respect of your younger talent.  Don’t be surprised if you are let go soon too.  Favoritism without merit will eventually prove to become the leader’s downfall.
  5. Organization rises and falls ultimately on the ingenuity, forward-thinking, and energy of the CEO. Regardless of how visionary, talented, or up and coming the VPs, COO or other lower level talent are, the CEO is at the face of the organization to the world.
  6. There is a true life span to one’s effectiveness within an organization. Boards and executives need to plan accordingly. Once the leader loses his/her vision and drive, the organization will soon follow. Ask where are the fresh ideas? What does the future look like or is the longtime leader only focused on remembering the glory days?  Due to the digital age, change is taking place more rapidly than ever.  “Glory days” no longer fit.
  7. Leaders who lead by fear will ultimately have staff who will leave at the first chance they can with no regrets. Leading by fear such as firing on a whim, micromanagement, and gatekeeping of employees will exhaust your staff, and cause them to be brittle out of anxiety.  They will have no reason to be loyal.
  8. Become an expert at generational differences. Show younger generations you have not checked out as a learner and settling as a digital immigrant. Younger generations must show the maturity in respecting the collective wisdom of older generations while leading as a digital native.
  9. Titles are important to people. Be wise in demoting people and fully explain the process to all. Once a person is demoted even if you have not cut their salary, you may have wounded them permanently within your organization.
  10. Accountability is VITAL for organizations and ultimately the success of the CEO. If the CEO does not report to an accountability board (board of directors, leadership team, etc.) with the power to question them, watch out they are setting themselves up for failure. A weak/rubber stamp board creates a false sense of security and breeds blind spots. Removes checks and balances and becomes a blind, dying self-congratulatory organization.
  11. Release and multiply your leaders. Provide them the training they need, create a healthy culture of productivity, and give them the best opportunities to succeed. If you don’t, you will lose them anyway if you micromanage them.
  12. Leaders allow everyone to succeed when they make a decision and stick with it. Leaders who change their minds often after decisions have been announced, cause their followers to be like seasick sailors who question your effectiveness of handling the “ship” and the confidence of your leadership. Be thorough in your planning and preparation and then see your decision, plan, program through to it’s conclusion.

I have a long way to go. I make plenty of mistakes (including the list of lessons) but I am always seeking to improve. I am learning every day and would love for you to add your comments as well.

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