Being a good leader can be a lonely place. For those that choose to make the courageous journey, it's walking the higher road of integrity and moral authority. There are no shortcuts. That's where mere mortals realize the enormity of the role, toss in the towel, and face defeat.
For those exceptional leaders that trudge forth with confidence and resolve, two things never cease: learning from others and serving others. These are the signs of a humble and fierce nature, assured of their position, their identity, and their destination.
The learning: Perhaps President John F. Kennedy put it best when he observed, "Leadership and learning are indispensable to each other." Leaders learn to become leaders, and they continue to learn in their role as leaders.
The serving: Lao Tzu, the ancient Chinese philosopher, once said: "A leader is best when people barely know he exists, when his work is done, his aim fulfilled, they will say: 'we did it ourselves.'"
Along their journey, legacies are made, careers advance, and companies ultimately flourish.
Here are 6 things these leaders practically do in their sleep, day in and day out.
Good leaders listen more and talk less.
Want to hear an insecure leader at work? Easy, just listen to their bragging--a mask for their insecurity. Confident leaders are unassuming and know what they think; they want to know what YOU think by listening intently. Practically speaking, this forgotten skill of listening well allows their followers the freedom to be part of the conversation. Such leaders will ask curious questions, lots of questions: how something is done, what you like about it, what you learned from it, and what you need in order to be better. Leaders with loyal followers realize they know a lot, and seek to know even more by listening.
Good leaders get feedback about their leadership.
You want to know the definition of a fool? It's someone who refuses to accept or look at feedback. A great leader doesn't just put a team together, rolls out a program and leaves the scene. She constantly asks her employees for feedback about what's working, what's not, and what needs improvement. She understands that to maintain a healthy work culture, she has to keep her finger on the pulse. Try asking yourself these powerful 15 questions to self-assess how you're doing as a leader.
Good leaders always ask, "Does my behavior increase trust?"
If you're serious about elevating your leadership skills, trust is a pillar your leadership should stand on. Sure, it's a somewhat subjective concept, but trusting behaviors can be defined, measured, and improved. In his book The Speed of Trust, Stephen M.R. Covey lists leadership trusting behaviors in companies with high employee engagement. This is how their leadership teams and employees interact day-to-day. Among those trusted behaviors are:
- Creating transparency
- Confronting reality
- Clarifying expectations
- Listening first
Good leaders want to improve the lives of their employees.
Robert K. Greenleaf, the founder of the modern servant leadership movement, said in The Servant as Leader, that the difference between servant leaders and self-centered leaders "manifests itself in the care taken by the servant-first to make sure that other people's highest priority needs are being served." To seriously impact your role as a leader in a way that will immediately change how others view you, there's only one question you need to ask moving forward: What is one thing -- just one thing -- I could start doing today to improve the life of an employee in the workplace?
Good leaders admit being wrong.
The conceited leader that proclaims his position and disregards differing points of view is a leader that will have few followers, mostly out of fear and intimidation. Typically, they know they're right, and they need you to know it too. But truly respected leaders are quite secure in admitting when they're wrong, when they made a mistake, or don't have all the answers. And they will back down graciously when being proven wrong. To them, it's more important to find out what is right than being right. Intellectual bullies? Rarely the case.
Good leaders display character.
As the famous saying goes, good leaders "do the right thing even when no one is looking." And especially when the choice isn't easy. Character means staying true to yourself and your values, even when you're faced with serious consequences for the right choices that you're making--like, perhaps, losing a job. Is your character willing to take that hit? When you listen to your heart and make choices aligned with character, you simplify your life and live in peace. Your actions are now open for everyone to see, and you don't have to worry about hiding anything. Former NFL head coach Tony Dungy said in his book, Uncommon, "Integrity -- the choice between what's convenient, and what's right."