Leadership styles come in all shapes and sizes, and getting the job done, whatever the job may be, seems to be front and center of the focus of most of those in leadership positions. But what is a leader’s most important job? What should the real goal be? After more than two decades in leadership positions, I’ve narrowed it down to the following:
1. Provide inspiration.
As John Quincy Adams said, “If your actions inspire others to dream more, learn more, do more and become more, you are a leader.” I believe this to be as true today as it was then. Therefore, no matter the task at hand, I try to provide that inspiration -- along with empowerment -- to my workforce. By so doing, I can stimulate and excite my people with a vision, transition that vision to them and share it to inspire them. Interestingly, by letting others take hold of my vision, I could be perceived as letting go of power, but in so doing, I am actually empowering them. This, in turn, gives me the time and space to empower others. Besides, my vision is to empower others to empowers others, so I need help!
2. Lead by example.
I do my best to lead by example as a way to inspire. I don’t demand, which I define as telling people what to do. Instead, I command, which to me, means “working with.” I may be in front, on the side, or on occasion, behind, but at all times I am connected and one with the group. I am aware that my actions will affect the group as a whole, so I do by best to “walk the walk” and let my words and actions empower and provide inspiration.
3. Acknowledge and apologize for mistakes.
Do I make mistakes? Sure, but isn’t it also inspirational when a leader takes accountability for their words or actions when they are wrong? I have no problem saying, “I’m sorry.” I am fully willing to make amends. But more importantly, I also forgive myself. I can’t give anything I don’t have myself. There are also times when I need to provide constructive criticism. But I also believe strongly in gratitude and empathy, and I try my best to thank individuals for their efforts and accomplishments as well.
We all have our strengths and weaknesses, and I try my best to focus on an individual’s positive attributes and achievements that have helped the business and not harp on the shortcomings. Most the time, people respond much better to praise than to negativity and threats.
4. Create alignment and cohesiveness.
Eventually, I have everyone at the office aligned with my principles and the value system that we’ve formed together. And again, because we’ve formed it together, a cohesiveness and unity exist. People buy in because they had a role to play in its formation and evolution. It has become a collective office belief.
I have seen time and time again that people who feel empowered have much better morale than those who don’t -- and this directly translates into better performance. I have also observed, over more years than I care to admit, that people who are inspired perform better, show greater initiative and tend to be more creative in their thinking. If you empower and provide inspiration, you will have a loyal workforce committed to reaching, if not doing their best to reach, their full potential.