Some of the terms I’m about to use are normally not included in leadership textbooks and might be considered corny or simply irrelevant, but please hear me out. If there’s one thing that years of experience leading teams have taught me is that you cannot be a leader if people are not willing to follow you. And people will only follow the people that really inspire them, people they trust to have their best interest at heart and the people they can identify with, because they are familiar with.
As a parent I can tell you that the best leadership class, course or seminar I’ve gone through has been raising my kids…okay it was more like a boot camp in which I needed to learn fast and on the go, but we all made it out okay haha!
My kids have taught me to stretch myself in ways I didn’t know I was capable of, taught me to love selflessly and to put their needs way before mine; they taught me to be more courageous and accountable than I’ve ever thought I could be. Kids can become our biggest fans or our relentless judges, because leadership equals influence and is the goal is to equip others to not only survive, but to excel. Simply put, leaders create leaders.
Equivalently, weak managers and leaders will create and promote weak managers and leaders, it can really become an awful vicious cycle. Beware of this trait, depending on the impact and reach, it can become extremely detrimental to any organization, but I digress.
Since leadership requires lots of different tools because we are constantly dealing with different personalities and each person is a world, these are the tools I have at my disposal that have helped me give my best to my teams and show them what a meaningful leader is all about. After all, servant leadership (truly meaningful leadership) is the ONLY kind of leadership.
Love – your team is like your family and the same as with family it will not be perfect. There will be good days and bad ones, but love for why you do what you do and for your people, will help you through it all. If you do it primarily for the money, leadership is not for you.
Empathy – the ability to share and understand the feelings of other people, but you cannot truly understand what a person is going through if you donâ€™t put yourself in their shoes.
Humbleness – one critical element about success is learning how to stay grounded. No matter how far you get, never allow yourself to forget where you started and where you come from. Always remember that at some point in our lives and careers we were young and stupid, yet someone took a vote of confidence in us and taught us the ropes and mentored us. Legacy starts the moment you remember this and pay it forward.
Courage – be brave, you have been entrusted with your team for a reason. Do not be afraid to lead, use your head as the compass and your gut as your radar. Always think of the importance and relevance of the work you do and never take it lightly, you are responsible for the well-being of your team and they depend on you, have faith in your abilities and don’t overthink it.
Gratitude – not only in leadership but in everyday life, having the ability to have a daily reflection on the blessings we have in our lives and to thank the team for the progress (whether big or small) that they are achieving is key for success. Don’t take anything for granted.
Quick thinking – in moments of crisis, the team will look upon their leader not only listening to the words, but also analyzing the body language and tone to assess how bad the situation really is and how good of a handle the leader has over it. This particular one doesnâ€™t come up on the go, good leaders always have a system in place for crisis management, be prepared.
Agility – like an expert chess player, strong leaders to some degree, are able to plan several moves ahead. In operations there are many variables to consider, whilst it is impossible to be ahead of every single risk that may impact the team at some point. However, a balanced level of planning, combined with agility to react and adjust as needed is quite important. In order to achieve this, consistently tracking risks and opportunities and sharing with the team and other stakeholders will provide a safe level of visibility and reactiveness that can in most cases mitigate or even eliminate risk.
A cool head – leaders never lose their cool, no matter how bad things get, the last thing the team needs is a leader that falls apart. Breathe, reassess, change coordinates if needed, and act.
Balance – letâ€™s be honest, the coined phrase â€œwork-life balanceâ€ is a myth. In order for something to be in balance, you have to have the ability to divide your time equally among all the activities, because the definition of balance is the equal distribution of different elements. And the key here is equal. In his book Take The Stairs, Rory Vaden states, â€œbalance shouldnâ€™t mean equal time spent on equal activities. Balance should mean appropriate time spent on critical prioritiesâ€. Balance is about prioritization. We need to understand that we should spend our time and energy doing the things that will get us the most results and that will fill our cup. Therefore, it is so important to spend time with our loved ones and doing the things we enjoy in life, as well as preparing strategy and nurturing our teams. Leaders are always pouring onto others , but realistically speaking, you cannot pour from an empty vessel.
Problem-solving – the best way to respond to any problem is by listening first. But by listening I don’t mean only to the words; body language and tone are key, we already established that. Be objective not to label anyone, gather the facts, assess your options and assume the solution and then work backwards. Brainstorm with your team as often as possible. The result will always be more sustainable solutions and a more engaged team.
Decision-making – leaders must be at all cost unbiased, objective and do their due diligence, love your team with all your heart, but use your head to make critical decisions, donâ€™t allow emotion to get in the way.
Humor – don’t take yourself too seriously. Humor will help you navigate even the most treacherous paths, learn to laugh at yourself, and laugh with your team. Also, a good sign of a healthy team is nicknames. And if they don’t have one for you is because you’ve truly earned their respect.
Honesty – always be truthful, especially when you have to have hard conversations, honesty is the best policy. Make sure your yes means yes and your no means no.
Perception – what one perceives can become more prevalent than reality. For each of us our perception of a situation is our initial reality. Having the ability to understand this and drive the dialogue to define what the facts are and how these affect and can improve or worsen the current situation is vital.
Observation – see more than what you speak. It’s so critical that leaders are good observers. Learning to assess all those that are around you so you can better understand who’s whom and what are the intentions behind each individual can save us lots of headaches. Leaders that are easily blind-sighted have a long way to go in the road of becoming meaningful leaders.
Deep analysis – start with introspection. Have a clear inward picture out of what you and your team’s strengths and weaknesses are and always be prepared for what you know can impact you so you can react more easily and strategically to the unknowns.
Adaptability – this is a critical one…as you probably know by now, nothing in this world ever remains constant, change is inevitable. Leaders need to develop the ability to navigate change and adapt quickly, providing stability and focus to the team, especially during tumultuous times . As Charles Darwin once stated, “The most important factor in survival is neither intelligence nor strength but adaptability”
Leaders who are strong in adaptation are both curious and flexible thinkers. Normally, they are the ones disrupting the business, challenging the status quo and looking for ways in which they can increase their contribution. They welcome opportunity and are innate creators. Adaptability goes hand-by-hand with outside the box thinking.
Thanks for reading and God bless,