Ever worked for a leader who made such a positive impact on your life, you can't help but keep talking about it years later?
Renowned poet and civil rights activist, Maya Angelou, infamously quipped, "People will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel."
Ask 5 questions to test your leadership growth.
Leadership is a matter of the head and the heart--it's about results and relationships. So if you're in a leadership role now or aspiring to one, the journey toward leadership greatness never ends. But it does have a starting point.
And sometimes the beginning of the journey requires some tough questions you need to ask yourself to raise your own bar.
1. Do you listen to everyone in the organization and let employees talk and share ideas?
Many leaders don't want to listen to ideas, opinions, and constructive feedback from others about the business or their own leadership. For such leaders, cutting themselves off means that they operate in an ego-system, not an ecosystem. A leader who listens well, on the other hand, is open and accountable; they find the facts in order to respond appropriately to serve the needs of others. They listen to understand--with a focus on the future.
2. Are people motivated to follow you?
In a recent episode of the Love In Action podcast, Ashley Goodall, co-author of the international bestseller, Nine Lies About Work, told me: "If you want to answer the question, 'Am I a leader?' -- look behind you. Is there anyone there? If yes, then you're a leader. If no, you're not. It's a very simple test." In turn, great leaders don't have to look over their shoulders; people are naturally drawn to them and intrinsically motivated to do their work.
3. Do people seek your perspective, insights, or ask you questions?
Leaders are coaches and mentors. But if no one is asking for your input, you have to ask yourself why. Is it that you're not approachable? Do people fear your abrasive people skills? Do you hide your emotions well, but the reality is people can't trust you as far as they can throw you? To question people's level of trust in you, assess how you respond to others' requests, questions, concerns, and even bad news.
4. Do you give the gift of appreciation?
Great leaders find multiple avenues to express appreciation and gratitude for their employees' hard work. They'll hand-write a "thank you" note, and say specific things about a work performance that can have a lasting impact; they'll throw celebrations and parties to recognize specific individuals; they'll give a well-deserved employee parking privileges right in front of the building for a month; and they'll award that person a paid personal day off or allow them to work-from-home for a week. All these things will clearly communicate, "I appreciate you and the work that you do."
5. Do you set out to help improve the life of your employees?
Finally, to seriously elevate your impact and influence as a leader, you have to remember that leadership is about service and making those around you better. When you can exercise the leadership traits that result in trust and commitment and loyalty in your employees, when you can remove obstacles in their path and set them up for success, when you can give their work meaning and purpose, you will be improving their lives.