As a child, my dad was determined to mold me into a leader. He used every opportunity to show me there are two types of people in this world, and it’s up to you to decide.
As I grew up, I always gravitated to leadership roles, but I found that I didn’t get the results I thought I should get.
I remember thinking to myself, I must be the unluckiest leader in the world. I keep getting stuck with these shitty teams!
The truth was that my teams were the unluckiest teams in the world: they kept getting stuck with a shitty leader: me!
If your team isn’t performing the way you think they should, then it’s time for you to look in the mirror.
Many people, including my dad, believe that people are born leaders. But from my experience, that’s not true. Leaders are not born, they are made.
When I was promoted to a leadership role at a Fortune 500 company, I started reading books on leadership and biographies of great leaders.
I then met my mentor. He was in his late thirties and had just recently had a promotion to district sales manager. We hit it off immediately, and he quickly became one of my best friends. He is full of energy, enthusiasm, and positivity. He’s the kind of guy you want to follow if he is leading.
I witnessed him go from DSM to President and CEO of a $10 billion a year organization in less than a decade. He went from earning $80,000 a year to the total annual compensation of over $3,000,000 per year. He was not born a great leader. He was born very disadvantaged.
However, the one thing he contributes to all his success is his ability to lead.
I have since met many great leaders, including congressmen, senators, college and professional team head coaches, CEOs, COOs, CFOs, and presidents, and the best ones had these qualities. These are the same qualities I’ve used to leverage my own career from being a Civil Engineer to a Global Product Manager for a Fortune 500 company.
I am now going to share these with you.
1. Be nice.
“It is always nice to be important, but it is more important to be nice.” I have heard Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson share this several times. I love it because it is so true.
Go through your life being nice to everyone. If you cannot be nice, then just don’t say anything.
2. Get to know your people and always make time for them.
One day a week, dedicate part of your day to getting to know the people you lead.
One of the CEOs I met in my career, whom I consider a great leader, would go through each department one day a week to get to know his people.
How many CEOs know the names and life details of the people that answer the phone in customer service?
People won’t care who you are until they know you care. Do you think a soldier will follow their superior in the battle if they believe that person didn’t care about them? Nope.
3. Leading is not about being perfect.
It is about staying the course and weathering the storm. You will make mistakes, and that is okay as long as you learn from them. Please do not focus on mistakes, but learn from them.
Another helpful tip to know is that making mistakes is fine, as long as you don’t keep making the same mistake more than once.
4. Know where your team is and where you are going.
You need to have goals. Work with your team to set specific goals your team will accomplish. You also need to know where your team is to figure out where they are going.
You cannot plot a course to New York on a map if you do not know where to start my journey. You cannot expect to know where your team is going if you don’t have an idea of where they are.
5. Surround yourself with the right people.
Your people are your #1 resource. The right people are coachable. Never settle for the best applicant at the time if they are not the right person for the job. I have seen this thinking almost destroy companies. It is more important to find the right person instead of just filling the role.
6. Have a positive mental attitude.
Attitudes are contagious. If you or your team is always negative, then it will spread. It takes your team from having a growth mindset of overcoming obstacles to a fixed mindset of thinking there is nothing they can do. You can achieve anything you put your mind to if you are not trying to defy the laws of physics.
7. Lead by example.
Never ask your team to do something you have not done yourself. Your team is watching your every move now that someone has made you a leader. Think of yourself as being under a microscope.
8. Always be a student.
Don’t assume you know everything. Instead be a life-long student.
Great leaders never act like they know everything. Instead they know where they can get the answer if they need it.
9. Be humble.
Always give your team credit. Never take credit for anything. Use every success as an opportunity to celebrate your team and promote their accomplishments. I have seen so many leaders take credit for everything, and they immediately lose the respect of their team.
10. Don’t ever pass the buck to someone else on your team.
If your team makes a mistake, then you own that mistake.
You do not take credit when something good happens, but you take full responsibility when something terrible happens.
Use these opportunities to protect your team. People will work so much harder for you when they know you have their back. If they ever find out you do not, then it will always lead to toxicity in the ranks.
11. Do not tolerate harmful or toxic people on your team.
If you identify either, then pull them aside and coach them. If the behavior does not change, then you need to let them go. Both of these are like a disease in an organization. If they get in, then you have to find a way to get them out. They are just like cancer around healthy cells. It is better to cut it out than to allow it to spread.
12. Develop successful habits in your team.
We are all creatures of habit. Focus on helping your team develop successful and healthy habits. These are things like planning your days and weeks, scheduling everything, being on time. Work on developing them as future leaders.
13. Coach your team.
One of the most significant parts of leading is motivating and inspiring your team to perform at their best. If there are any of these you want to apply to see better results, this is it.
14. Clear communication is vital.
I see so many companies failing with this one. You need to have a system to push information out and capture feedback when it comes in.
15. Be grateful.
Who does not like someone who is grateful? Every time someone comes across a grateful person, the thought always crosses their mind that they need to be more like them. Be grateful for everything you have, and pay it forward ever chance you get.
16. Believe in yourself and your team.
The one thing you have to believe is that you and your team will achieve your goals. Believing in your group is right up there with coaching them.
17. Empower your people to make decisions.
Your team needs to know you trust them. No one likes a micromanager. Share your expectations and inform your team that they are responsible for making decisions on how to grow and improve business. Most importantly, let them know you trust them.
As you can see, these are not your typical principles of leadership.
These are all principles I have seen implemented across several teams, and the results were always the same: success!!
Leaders grow their business by leading their people to believe they can achieve. In the business world, success means results. Leaders produce people who produce results. The question you need to ask yourself is: do you want to be a leader or a follower?