What amazes me when I study leadership is how there are so many common themes I hear over and over again. Leaders need to be honest, approachable, accountable, and consistent. What frustrates me is when I look back at myself, I knew what to do but too often failed at the most common things. Here are 10 reminders of the basics of leadership, “Leadership for Dummies, it is not that hard!”
- 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!
- 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.
- 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 have no personal connection or experiential evidence to prove otherwise.
- 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. Never be satisfied as a learner and constantly be seeking more wisdom and knowledge, regardless of age.
- 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.
- Leaders are not to be in positions forever. 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.
- Leaders do not lead by fear. Managers 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- Leaders stick with your decisions and see them through. 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.