In my last post(s), I shared a number of things that leaders do that make me cry. I figured it would only be fair for me to spread a little love into the universe and share some of the good things that leaders do (believe it or not, good things DO happen in the workplace).
I’ll admit…it was tough to not just write the opposite of the last list. So I tried to think of some unique behaviors that positively impact the business and its people. Don’t agree with them? Think I’m missing a few? Let me know in the comments!!
- Has the team’s back: A lot of times, all an employee wants to know is that their manager went to bat for them. When a leader fights for their team (whether it’s to stand up for an idea, speak up against a questionable policy, or push back when someone else tries to throw an employee under the bus), the team notices. It makes a difference…and it shows that a leader understands the impact he/she can have on the team.
- Collaborates across departments: So much of climbing the corporate ladder seems to stem from building an empire and then protecting your little fiefdom. That’s why it’s so refreshing to see leaders who throw all that aside and work for the betterment of the entire company by reaching out across functional lines and work together towards a common goal. (*sniff* I promised myself I wouldn’t cry!)
- Challenges their people…the right way: Since a big part of what I do focuses on people development, I am always so happy when I see a leader willing to take a chance and give an employee a stretch assignment with the right amount of support. It shows the leader believes in the employee, and it also shows that the leader isn’t willing to let an employee settle for “okay”. Yay, leader!
- Listens more than they talk: This is so hard for most people. We like to talk about ourselves and listen to how darn smart we are. So a leader who has learned how to wait and truly listen is one worth knowing. When you listen as a leader, you encourage creativity, build morale, and make yourself smarter because you’re allowing your brain some time to process the input it’s receiving. It’s AMAZING how different a team meeting is when the leader shuts up.
- Hires people smarter than they are: It’s often said that Bill Gates wasn’t the smartest guy in the room…but he was pretty darn smart at surrounding himself with people who were better than he was at certain things. (Ballmer it NOT this. Just so we’re clear.) A leader who hires smart people shows he/she is knowledgable about his/her limitations and is comfortable with them. It’s about success…not ego.
- Has a personality: Sometimes it feels like somewhere along the way it was decided that “executive presence” means being boring. How wonderfully inspiring – you’re going to bore your people to death, but gosh darn it, didn’t you do it professionally? I like a leader who isn’t afraid to show you who they are. It gives others the permission to do the same, and helps build an important rapport and trust that will get a team through the tough times. So fly a little freak flag now and then!
- Sets boundaries: Showing personality doesn’t mean hitting every happy hour with the crew and posting buddy pics on Instagram. I have worked with a number of managers who I call my friend…but while we worked together, there were definite boundaries around what was on or off limits in discussions about work and/or liberties taken. I respected the heck out of these people while I worked for them (and still do) because their ability to set boundaries protected both them AND me – I knew they wouldn’t try to exploit our friendliness for their gain, just as they knew that I would understand why they couldn’t share everything.
- Knows the difference between ‘fair’ and ‘the same’: Some of the most effective leaders I’ve seen understand this. ‘Fair’ means considering each situation on its own merits, and acting accordingly. ‘The Same’ means managing to the lowest common denominator. Yes – consistency is important (I think about 1000 HR ladies just fainted, so I need to be clear about this). But is it fair to make some exceptions now and then for an outstanding employee who has always gone above and beyond and works 55 hours a week without complaint? I think so. And here’s a hint: smart leaders seem to instinctively know how to set expectations and hold people to them BEFORE making exceptions. Interesting, don’t you think?
- Shows humility: Remember when Barry Sanders (RB for Detroit, for those of you who actively avoid sports) would score a touchdown? He handed the ball to the official and then walked to the sidelines. He acted like he’d been there before, would probably be there again…and understood that getting a touchdown meant he was doing his job – no more, no less. (For more on Barry’s approach, here’s a great article from ESPN.) Leaders can learn a lot from a guy like Barry Sanders. Yes, celebrate your wins! You and your team both deserve a moment of rest and reflection. But the best leaders are ones who thank those who did the leg work, appreciate those who lent support, and acknowledge that sometimes it’s about being in the right place at the right time. Just be authentic when you do it, okay? False humility can do more damage than outright boasting.
- Brings cupcakes and/or other assorted snacks: People like food. ‘Nuff said.
So there you have it. An ACTUAL list of 10 things that leaders do that make me happy. Agree? Disagree? Got something to say? Share it in the comments!
The best executive is the one who has sense enough to pick good men to do what he wants done, and self-restraint enough to keep from meddling with them while they do it.