How to be a great leader

30. April 2011 All, Career 0

People often schedule meetings with me for career direction and guidance. They ask what can they do to set themselves apart and how can they be the next leader in the firm.. how can they learn about the areas of growth within the company.. and of course, how do they… (implicitly asked)… get promoted?

So, I offer the guidance they’ve come to me to hear: ways to get involved, ways to demonstrate leadership, who’s who and how to network, ways to improve their performance…knowing all too well that one of these ambitious ladies and gentlemen will very likely be my boss one day. And that’s all fine and good. But besides all that gibberish, I never waste the opportunity to also tell a future leader the following:

1) Hold fast to your values and never let go! Everyone will face a time when they feel miserable and stressed out and conflicted. Everyone will face a time when the shortcut seems the easy way to move on… the sustainable way to move on. But only the few who know and never compromise their values will be the ones to survive the storm that comes every once in a while to blow away the chaff.

2) You work for your people, not the other way around. A true leader does everything in his power to help the people he leads progress, even if that means getting in the front lines himself. Unfortunately, many who rise the ranks are in search of traditional definitions of success – money, power and glory – and so are incapable of breaking through the resistance levels that most companies and organizations mistake to be optimal levels of operation.

3) The only way to get better is to seek to get better. The best are the ones who understand how unrealistic and ridiculous the concept of perfection really is. So instead of trying to be a perfectionist, they just persistently seek ways to learn, grow and improve –  knowing they will never run out!

4) Perception is reality. It doesn’t matter what you think you did right. The only reality is the one that each person has created in his own mind. Think about that.

5) When you embrace, you can achieve so much more than when you resist. Politics creates a web of inertia that limits most companies/ groups from achieving great things. Rather than question and reject every new idea, process, or team member – being open-minded and collaborative is a far better path to greatness. Although some of us down here may know and practice this on our own, to be real and pervasive, the leaders up top must lead by example to create a culture that flows top down. Saying it and acting it are two contrasting things.

There are some great studies and books out there that talk about going from “good to great” and “levels of leadership”. Across many of these studies, there is a common theme that the “good” organization is the one that believes “we are great, everyone else stinks”. The leaders of this organization claim that they have the best teams and have mastered efficiencies within their teams. That the only thing that is keeping them from moving forward is their partners, who are too slow or incompetent.

But consider this. The “great” organizations, with the highest levels of leadership and effectiveness have the mantra that “everyone is great”. Their teams are great, their partners are great – and together they can accomplish anything. What a curious concept!

6) Don’t let the stress take hold of you. After all is said and done, at the end of the day – you can only do what you can do. So don’t let the stress take hold of you. Just do your best and let God take care of the rest.