If your actions inspire others to dream more
To do more
To become more
Then you are a leader
John Quincy Adams
Close your eyes for a minute and think of the people in your life who did that for you? How did they make you feel?
We’ll all describe this slightly differently but I can guess they had time for you – you felt special, they had wisdom – you listened to them, they believed in you – and you felt safe.
I know these people are special and memorable
And they’re rare – you can probably count them off on one hand
In business; my experience is that these leaders are the exception not the norm. I would like to be able to think this isn’t the case. I wasn’t born a great leader and it’s taken me a very long time to understand what it is and what it is not and put it into action.
I think like in a family, if we lack good role models, if we not shown the way – we do not know the way – some of us will eventually work it out for ourselves and come to good leadership.
Some of us never will – you know who you are, we know who you are.
I think although we know a lot of about leadership, we are still not producing great leaders or great role models as the norm.
And that’s a massive problem in my opinion
Victor Lipman in a recent Forbes article Why are So Many Employee Disengagedcites a study by Dale Carnegie Training that placed the number of US “fully engaged” employees at 29%, and “disengaged” employees at 26% – if this is correct then nearly three-quarters of employees are not fully engaged.
And the number one factor the study cited influencing engagement and disengagement was “relationship with immediate supervisor.”
Why? Why should this relationship matter to much us?
We have expectations of our leaders, just as we do with our parents and I don’t think many leaders/managers fully understand this psychological contract.
And they do not understand the responsibility that comes with the position.
Let’s go back to what we were talking about earlier – how good leaders make us feel. Why do good leaders make us feel that way and why is it significant?
In our personal lives we learn the difference between good and bad friendships. A good relationship should make you feel happy, confident, inspired, open to communicating and free to be you = safe. A good relationship should not make you feel insecure, unsafe, second guessing and/or afraid to speak up.
Karen Salmonsohn in her blog Signs Your In a Great Relationship talks about Jim Collins book, Good To Great. She explains that one of the most important qualities necessary to grow a company from “good to great” is the ability to speak “harsh truth” — be a “front-stabber,” as she likes to say.
Harsh-truth-speaking is the only way a company can gain needed blind-spot insights— what’s holding it back from greatness.
Harsh-truth-speaking is essential to growth, companies that are run by nice, empathic, trust-worthy bosses tend to be the ones which grow from “good to great” —because employees are less afraid to harsh-truth-speak to them.
There’s that safety thing again.
Simon Sineck’s talks a lot about safety, Why Good Leaders Make You Feel Safe(check out the TED Talk). He makes many analogies about being a great parent and a great leader. These leaders build a culture of trust and co-operation in their teams and organisations. They give love and respect, clear boundaries, they believing in others and support them to do their best.
Your never second guessing with these leaders, they give you feedback, you know where you are – always.
Transparency isn’t overrated
I think a lot about sport and the dichotomy between what we as players or fans expect from our sports teams and what we put up with in a working environment.
I was reminded of this watching Sunday afternoon the American cultural phenomenon – football. San Diego vs Denver. I vaguely know each team gets 4 go’s at making 10 meters – the ultimate goal being a touchdown and a conversion. Every person has a position and a role to play in the team. Your only to make any ground if you have a game play and you play as a team.
Can you imagine if team members competed with each other to get the ball? Had cliques and favourites – only passed to some and not others? What if you never took time to review the game play, what if feedback wasn’t given to team members and team members ganged on others and blamed them?
This is so farcical in a sporting sense yet so common place in our organisations.
And if we are going to call ourselves leaders, creating a culture of trust and co-operation in our teams and our organisations start with us.
“If you are going to be the best that you can be, you are going to have to front up, and get it sorted. Knowing what you want, and being prepared to fight for it puts you at the front of the pack. Fronting up becomes more important precisely as it becomes harder … that is what makes you successful. You have to decide whether to take the easy option or take the tough, sometimes painful road. My choice? Front up. Every time. This is me, and this is who I am. This is what I stand for, and this is my life. I will front up. You have a simple choice. You have to decide. Do you stand up or step aside? To be the best that you can be, front up.”
Sean Fitzpatrick – Former All Black Captain
So what is the one simple thing you can do today to become a great leader?
Take one action and do one thing today to make your team or individuals to feel safe
RINSE AND REPEAT