No good leader ever won over their people's hearts and minds (but especially their hearts) by exerting power and control over them.
Top-down bosses that squash people kill intrinsic motivation. The more good employees turn into order-takers, the less they'll self-start. In the post-industrial age, what they want is to make decisions on their own, give input, get feedback, and grow as people with a purpose.
This means managers must learn to become leaders, get out of the way of people doing the work, and create the human and humane conditions necessary for them to thrive as people.
Here are four ways to do it.
1. Share stories to create memorable emotional connections
It's no secret that humans are social creatures. Our brains are programmed to crave connection with pretty much everything we do and everyone we interact with, and stories are how we make those connections. Even more compelling are stories that are highly emotional and personal.
Dan Roberts, the CEO & co-founder of Scout Alarm says, "I've seen firsthand the power of storytelling in building my company from the ground up and have found that prioritizing storytelling is crucial to the entrepreneurial journey."
Research has shown that these types of stories increase oxytocin production in our brains -- the hormone that helps us bond with others. Roberts says, "The more emotional and personal you can make your story, the more memorable it will become.
2. Motivate others through recognition
The companies in Gallup's extensive research with the highest engagement levels use recognition as a powerful means to get their commitment. It's such a powerful motivator. In fact, they recommend that praise should be given once per week.
Truth is, any respected leader will acknowledge his/her successes as a team effort and express deep gratitude for everyone involved in pulling together a project, no matter how big or small the role.
These leaders understand human nature and will make it a priority to recognize people for their hard work, both in public and private. They don't need the glory; they understand what they've achieved. They stand back and celebrate their accomplishments by letting others shine, which helps boost the confidence of others.
A person that sees this leader in action not seeking self-glory, but building up others instead will typically be more willing to follow that leader. That's a real competitive advantage.
3. Listen before speaking
Want to hear an ineffective leader at work? Listen to how they take credit for something other people did, or how defensive they get when confronted with something out of their comfort zone.
Well-respected leaders are unassuming and know what they think; they want to know what you think. This works brilliantly in meetings to tap into the strengths of others. These leaders realize they know a lot, and seek to know even more, and they know the way to do that is to listen more.
4. Put empathy into action
Empathy is one of the five tenets of emotional intelligence. Leaders who practice empathy effectively understand it's a critical skill that's no longer "soft," but an incredibly hard skill necessary to connect with other human beings.
These leaders imagine being in the other person's shoes and will ask themselves, "how would this person want to be treated?"
This is the Platinum Rule. It's taking the familiar Golden Rule up a notch from "Treat others as you would like to be treated" to "Treat others the way they want to be treated."