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8 Critical Things Every Great Leader Remembers

It's hard to remember everything when you're busy. But here are eight things a great leader never forgets.

If you are a leader it helps to have a great memory. You have to keep tons of concepts and data in your head so you can constantly analyze and act on strategy and operations. Executing big ideas well requires a big brain and focused recall on the fly. But don't discount the small acts of memory that every leader should use to daily.

Aside from facts, figures and policy, great leaders make a priority of remembering the soft elements that help their team grow and perform at their best. Great leaders don't save human reflection for special occasions. They keep these thoughts in mind all the time to keep their teams happy and productive.

1. Remember to offer kindness.  

Cruel comments, sarcasm and harsh criticism never make anyone's day better. And being ignored can come off as the worst sort of mean. Being mindful of others' feelings is critical for a great leader to build a productive environment. The team will build a culture that follows the leader's demeanor. Treated them with care and consideration, even when they screw up. Then they will remember to do the same.

2. Remember to offer respect.

People on the team need to feel that you value their skills and knowledge. If you treat them like children, they will act like children, or worse. Great leaders remember to let their teams know they are valued, because words, tone and gestures will show it. Everyone from the cleaning person to the top executive deserves certain basic courtesies, including a cordial greeting, a present moment of your attention and the acknowledgement of their efforts.

3. Remember to offer patience.

Great leaders maintain their own sanity and that of others by managing impatience, especially their own. This is the era of instant gratification, and most people want things done as quickly as possible. But an immediate response or solution is not always available. Recognize that many aspects of a project will take time to develop, or that an answer may take 24 hours or more to find. Set an agreed upon plan with reasonable expectations even when pressured. It's ok to stay in touch while waiting, but avoid pestering others, berating them or getting in the way.

4. Remember to offer humor.

When all else fails, we have laughter. Laughing can relieve a lot of tension and do a great deal to help people who are ready to give up. People value leaders who can make the negatives seem less daunting with a joke. Laughter is not a substitute for persistence and hard work, of course. But the judicious use of humor can do a lot to put things in perspective. Oh yeah, and lots of humor makes work more fun as well.

5. Remember to offer truth.

No one is served by quiet politeness, or outright lies. It's hard to hear the truth sometimes especially when you are emotionally invested in a project that is off track. But great leaders know how to deliver truth in a straightforward way that helps people move forward. You can be frank without being mean, petty or harsh. And the detriments of avoidable failure due to silence or candy coating far outweigh the harshness and pain of learning the truth.

6. Remember to offer encouragement.

Nothing saps energy like the feeling of being lost or out of options. When people are running out of energy or feeling down, great leaders take notice and remember how to get people back on track. You can describe what you like/admire about them. Remind them of the strengths and skills they can bring to the table. If cheerleading isn't enough, roll up your sleeves and get into problem solving with them.

7. Remember to offer gratitude.

People feed on acknowledgement. Just saying "thank you" when someone holds the door can affirm that positive behavior. And when you hold the door yourself...it tells the other person that you value them and want to meet their needs. Great leaders remember to be grateful for the efforts others make on their behalf. Be watching for opportunities to do small, thoughtful things for others that demonstrate how much you appreciate their efforts.

8. Remember to offer hope.

When times seem harsh and bleak, great leaders remember that they are great leaders and it is their responsibility to offer the path forward. During the worst times, people want to believe that life will get better, that everything will improve, and that growth/progress/success is in their grasp. Let people know that you believe in them, that your expectations are high and that they should keep trying.

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IMAGE: Complot/Shutterstock
Last updated: Jun 10, 2014

KEVIN DAUM | Columnist

An Inc. 500 entrepreneur with a more than $1 billion sales and marketing track record, Kevin Daum is the best-selling author of Video Marketing for Dummies and the executive producer of Amilya! on 77WABC New York. Sign up here and never miss out on Kevin's thoughts and humor.

The opinions expressed here by Inc.com columnists are their own, not those of Inc.com.



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