Peter Drucker famously said that “management is doing things right; leadership is doing the right things.” Great leaders possess dazzling social intelligence, a zest for change, and above all, vision that allows them to set their sights on the things that truly merit attention, according to Psychology Today.
As a business owner or an individual charged with leading a team, how you interact with your employees or those under your command says a lot about you and how well your leadership skills are interpreted. Do those you oversee laugh or talk under their breath in a derogatory manner when you give directions, or do they run directly into the fire with a bucket of water?
Leaders lead, and those who do so effectively provide ways for their charges to be followed—either from fear or respect. If your style is to intimidate by sheer willpower, or threaten by means of swift and terrible retribution, then the chances of success may be short lived. Typically, leaders who force their will upon subordinates find that winning at all cost ends up costing them much more in the end than they would have gained. No one likes to be yelled at, or embarrassed and abused, especially by a tyrant.
If you are the boss, then you should have a style of leadership that encourages and inspires. Your track record of accomplishments and success should provide incentive to those whom you lead. Your confidence (not to be confused as arrogance) must be exuded in a manner that goes beyond dictating a list of orders, but instead provides examples of successful results. After all, how often have you seen situations that are “Do as I say, not as I do”? All but the most timid individuals have a difficult time accepting that type of behavior and attitude by those who would call themselves leaders.
If you need guidance, here are a few “secrets of leadership” that you can borrow and use:
1. Make wise choices. Take time to review your options and seek counsel from an inner circle whom you trust for feedback, either positive or negative. Foolishness never won any awards.
2. Take time to listen. Your team often has good ideas, and you need to be open to accept the probability that you don’t know everything. Also, don’t surround yourself with Yes Men. They don’t have your best interest at heart. Seek feedback that helps, not hurts. Be accessible, not an ivory tower hermit.
3. Be fair. No one likes to be treated like they were cheated. And you certainly don’t need to be perceived as favorable to one and not another if the scales are balanced. Fairness rules the day.
4. Show honor. When an employee has proven they deserve credit or favor due to performance or merit beyond the call of duty, call them out and give praise. Recognize achievements by those you lead, and talk about it favorably as a way to improve overall morale and work ethic. Give honor where honor is due.
5. Lead by example. Don’t be afraid to take on the job yourself as way to inspire those you lead. If they think you’re unwilling to handle the task, then it’s less likely your employees would be willing to volunteer.
6. Tell the truth. Do you ever enjoy being the brunt of a lie? Most people do not. Sometimes, telling the truth can be painful. And many leaders seek other ways around being truthful because of the fear or dislike of confrontation. Maybe a project didn’t go as well as planned, or perhaps you need to replace or fire an employee. Ethical leadership and respect by others demands truthfulness.
7. See the future. Leaders must be visionary. Anyone who accomplishes great feats knows that they must focus on the prize ahead. You may not understand or know every twist and turn in the journey, but you have a solid vision about your goal. You step out in front of the masses. Imagine success, and then seek it with credible insight.
8. Be vigilant about your integrity and character. It takes a lifetime to build your character, but only minutes to destroy your integrity. Never put yourself into a compromising situation that has damaging repercussions. Always know that others are looking at you for advice, expertise, and honesty. Don’t make yourself a victim of incredulity. Be careful in all you do and say.
9. Work hard. Successful leaders live by example and lead by involvement. Working hard is part of the job. Those who follow know you that it takes sweat, blood, and tears to be successful. There is no shortcut to accomplishment. The lazy river should be only seen as a theme park ride, not as the path to leadership.
10. Know your limitations—Strengths and weaknesses are apparent in everyone. Some leaders don’t recognize defeat or fallacies in behavior. Truthfully, not everyone is able to lead. However, if you can recognize where you are weak and compensate for it with positive results, those who report to you can support you with confidence. Build on your strengths, and be thankful for them. Humility, combined with ability, serves every leader well who knows when to kneel and when to stand.
Great leadership is infectious—it inspires, and it raises people up. The best leaders are those who truly understand that they serve others. Even with personal flaws, the best leader knows that respect is earned and not demanded. Successful leaders are produced as a result of experiences over many years of making effective personal decisions. Leadership—often misunderstood—is never misinterpreted. Those who follow do so out of fear or respect.
What kind of leader are you?