In my previous life, there was a question I always asked myself when I was a couple years into a gig: “Do they really believe they’re leading the company?”
The answer is yes. Yes, because they were typically delusional enough to think that just because they invested time and money by hiring a big agency to help them create a mission, vision, and values and engaging staff in these beliefs was leading.
Well, no. No it was not.
Why? Because if I’ve learned one thing about leadership, it’s that the true leaders were in the trenches of the day-to-day, regardless of their workload or title. They practiced what they preached. They knew that in order to create a culture full of believers and followers, you have to lead by example. They were courageous and went to bat for those they believed in. They admitted fault and were humble. They understood the roles of those who helped their company succeed.
They did not just dictate from their ivory tower.
Case in point: I used to work for a company way back in the early days of my career. Let’s just call it what it was: the bay of married pigs. I was 24. Impressionable and wanting to climb the proverbial ladder. I was one of 2 ladies in marketing working for a company full of mostly men. Who had egos. Who made loads of cash. And those who had wives AND girlfriends. You get the picture.
When I commiserated to my mother about the culture and misogynistic-like mentality, her reply was “well, can’t you tell the CEO? Does he know this is going on?”
My reply was “its the culture and mentality he built mom. He’s the worst offender of them all.”
My point is, the “leader” of this said company set the tone for everything and anything that was deemed acceptable by those who worked for him. He likely thought he was leading, but in fact, he was not. He was doing.
Doing all the wrong things.
“Leading” and “doing” are two completely different things. And often, those who think they are leading are simply just doing and dictating and they’re doing this from their corner office where they aren’t really involved in the day-to-day activities of their business.
Great leaders lead their staff to greatness. They lead the company in the right direction. They lead and live the vision, mission and values they spent countless hours and endless money in trying to create. They do a better job at mobilizing the people inside their organization. Or, in other words, success in leadership is all about having great ideas and then finding ways to make these ideas actually happen. While being involved and immersed in the process.
Leadership is earned and one needs to be present. Practice what they preach. Lead by example. These are all great traits of a true leader.
Doers are those who just expect the work to be done while excluding and isolating themselves from the process.
In Simon Sinek’s book “Leaders Eat Last”, the message is simple: the buck stops at the leader’s desk. In other words, those of us that lead may not always understand the impact that our leadership roles actually have on those we lead. The depth and breadth of leadership cascades down from the executive board to management, which in turn, cascades down to the soldiers that march in and out of the battlefield of the organization on a daily basis shaping the culture of the environment….which comes full circle back up to the one that leads, as a direct reflection of his or her leadership.
Those leading from the top will inevitably get back what they put in when it comes to their leadership skills. Good or bad.
Simon Sinek outlines some great leadership traits, some of which I’ve been a witness to. Some of which I personally believe, creates a well-lead culture and environment:
Circle of Safety - Focus on helping one another rather than “one-upping” each other to make management happy. When we know and trust the people inside our Circle of Safety, they will look out for us and protect us from the dangers on the outside, we’re more likely to freely exchange information and ideas that will move the organization forward. One of the biggest habits you can develop in order to cultivate our Circle of Safety is….Empathy. It’s a crucial commodity because to truly lead, you need to be empathetic to those who hustle and go to bat for you every day for both you and your business.
Walk the halls - If you don’t know what your staff is doing, and how they operate day-to-day, then you can’t connect with them on a personal level, not to mention, you’re missing out on something great. The people on the ground floor look out for each other, so be a part of that and insert yourself.
Autonomy matters - I’ve never heard anyone say “I love being micromanaged”. Creating autonomy for those who work for you is the biggest way to gain trust and it allows the person to do the job they were hired to do. Give them the power to make decisions. Give them more control. Trust goes a long way.
Keep your team informed - there is nothing worse than when your team is the last to know. Be a leader by trusting them to keep things confidential, but also show them that they are a huge part of the company’s growth and success. If you can’t trust your team with proprietary information, then you’ve got the wrong people on the bus. We had a GGOB system at one company I worked for. More on this method can be found here.
Environment at work - When the environment at work is one of encouragement, and one that meets the basic human needs to live, to learn, to feel valued and significant, we do more than just survive. We thrive.
Show courage, passion, and humility - Be fearless in the worst of times, show passion for the work you do and that includes what drives you to greatness every day. Confidence is good; egos and arrogance are toxic. This is the quickest way to isolate people.
Manage your own stress - No one wants to see a leader lose their shit in front of staff. Stress and anxiety at work is palpable and often creates a stressful, unproductive environment. Don’t induce fear and anxiety in your employees, you’re never going get their trust. Manage your own stress and be the leader you wish you had.