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15 Things Inspiring Leaders Do Differently

Are you inspiring your team to reach new heights, or is your 'expiring' leadership style bad for business?
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Over the past fourteen years, I have worked, coached, trained and studied well over 20,000 leaders. In that time, there are some common practices that I've observed from inspiring leaders at any level in any size of organization. Think of this as a to-do list if you aspire to inspire.

Inspiring leaders...

  1. Install a rigorous selection process to ensure they hire only the best and brightest.
  2. Set a clear and compelling vision.
  3. Collaborate with their team to define a plan for realizing that vision.
  4. Keep the plan visible.
  5. Keep score along the way to keep the team energized and accountable.
  6. Look for people doing something right and recognize it.
  7. Eliminate barriers to getting work done.
  8. Address even minor performance issues with proactive coaching.
  9. Listen more than they talk.
  10. Uncompromisingly uphold the team's values by using them to make big and little decisions.
  11. Give credit for and reward successes.
  12. Get to know the person behind the employee.
  13. Care about their people as much as their people's performance.
  14. Focus on the organization's purpose as much as (if not more) than profits.
  15. Consistently and frequently communicate even when they is apparently no news.

On the contrary, leaders who miss the mark are likely to find their team's enthusiasm expiring.  These fifteen (not all that uncommon) leadership practices are what to avoid.

"Expiring" leaders...

  1. Hire by the seat of the pants, caving to pressure to just fill seats.
  2. Paint a vague or ever-changing picture of the future.
  3. Tell their teams how to achieve their goals.
  4. Keep the plan close to their chest in case they want to change it.
  5. Leave the team in the dark about progress to maintain control over consequences and rewards ... and to avoid personal accountability for results.
  6. Look for people doing something wrong and punish them.
  7. Create barriers to getting work done.
  8. Sweep minor performance issues under the rug if they are uncomfortable to address.
  9. Talk more than listen.
  10. Talk about team values but make decisions using "real business criteria."
  11. Take personal credit for team successes.
  12. View team members as interchangeable parts to the business machine.
  13. Care about results only.
  14. Focus on profits.
  15. Communicate using the "no news is good news" philosophy.

Take a good look at the way you lead your business. If any items from the second list apply to you, what action will you take to fix them?

View sample pages from the author's book, Engaging the Hearts and Minds of All Your Employees, and take a free self-assessment to find out your engagement style.

IMAGE: Shutterstock
Last updated: Sep 18, 2013

LEE COLAN | Columnist

Lee Colan is founder of the L Group, a consulting firm that equips and inspires leaders at every level. He is a leadership adviser, presenter of practical ideas, and a Thinkers 50 nominee for Top Management Thinker.

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



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