Last week I wrote about the definition of a good sales person being someone who could tell you to go straight to hell and make you think it’s a great idea. This week I’m going to talk about what a true leader is. Well, my idea of what one is anyway. I believe a true leader is someone who you would follow through the gates of hell, knowing you were probably not going to make it, but you would still follow because you believe in this person THAT much. So let me ask all of the leaders that read this blog a question. Are you the kind of leader that your employees would follow through the gates of hell? Or are you the kind of leader that your employees would be more likely to push you through and then turn and go the other way?
I have had both kind of leaders in my life. And unfortunately, I have been both. I am definitely not the best leader today, but I have learned from my mistakes and I know a few things to be true about how I want to be lead and how I try to lead my team. I always hear people say that you should speak to people the way you want to be spoken to. I believe that the same should be true for leaders. Maybe if people in leadership positions would realize that, they would get better results with their employees. Why would you not lead the way you would want to be lead?
So what else makes a leader? Inspiration? Transparency? Authenticity? If you didn’t answer yes to all of those, please go read, How to be a leader for dummies. It takes a minimum of all 3 of the items I just listed. A natural leader will have all of these qualities and more. I have always believed that if you are a leader, you should inspire people around you to be better than they believe they are. When it comes to transparency, a true leader will not use the word transparency only in a time when they are delivering negative news. They will always be transparent. Ask them a direct question and you will get a direct answer. And when it comes to being authentic? As a friend of mine said to me last week when we were talking, “If you’re not genuine, people can see right through you.” And he is correct. Be authentic and be genuine all the time.
A leader I worked for once told me, “It’s hard to be a leader when you look behind you and nobody’s following.” That was a great piece of advice and something I try to remember everyday. Every day is a chance to become a better leader. And every day is also a chance to become a worse one. Once you have lost the trust of the people you are supposedly leading, it is very difficult to get it back.
As a leader, it is your job to inspire your team, but it is also your job to protect your team. There is a saying that sometimes you have to fall on your sword for your team. And yes, just as I would expect my boss to fall on his for me if I made a mistake, I would do the same for a member of my team. A leader is never concerned with what is best for himself or herself. A true leader is always concerned with what is the best for their team.
So what else do you require from a leader? Something that I see a lot of the time when I speak to an under-performing team is that they all have a different idea of the direction they’re going. Any team would feel uneasy if they didn’t know the direction they were headed. A captain of a ship does not get underway without charting a course first and knowing exactly what direction the entire crew is going. And a leader should always make sure the team is all going the same direction, and that they know what direction that is.
I have always wondered why people yell at their employees? Is it because they think it will make the point that much more valid? Maybe the person yelling just has a hearing problem and doesn’t realize how loud they’re talking? Nah, let’s be honest. They’re just jerks. Yelling has never achieved the outcome desired. At least, not for very long. Managing through fear is the worst way imaginable to get long-term results. Yet I still see it quite often. Remember, an employee’s number one reason for staying at a job is their satisfaction. I’ve never spoken to an employee after they’ve been yelled at and had them tell me how much they love their job. If you have to yell at someone to get your point across, you should definitely look at the message you are trying to send.
I believe I have given a basic outline for what it takes to be a good leader. I know what I look for in a leader. And I try my best to be a good leader to my team, as well as others around me. Being a leader has nothing to do with what job you have. It has everything to do with who you are. We should all strive to be better to the people around us, no matter what professional position we hold. I would love to hear from the readers what your thoughts are. Did I miss something that is key to being a leader? Is there something else you look for in a leader, or something that you don’t believe is as crucial as I do? As always, thank you for taking the time to read this.