Ever worked for a leader who was so inspiring and gifted, your memories of how he or she took care of the team remain vivid to this day?
Chances are, the reason you still talk about this leader from years past is because of how he or she made you feel.
Renowned poet and civil rights activist Maya Angelou famously quipped, "People will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel."
3 questions to assess your leadership skills
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. Can you answer yes to any -- and hopefully all -- of these?
1. Are you approachable?
Before you assume you're fit to lead, this is an important question to ask. Because if you're going to lead, you need to be approachable. If you're not, it could hurt your leadership in several ways:
- Your employees may be less willing to share information for fear of disapproval;
- your team members may be disconnected from you; and
- your team members will fear taking ownership of their work, and will only look to you for answers.
To be approachable means promoting a culture where feelings of loyalty and a sense of purpose are felt among staff.
How to be more approachable:
- Keep an open-door policy;
- share information;
- spark up non-work related conversations;
- be human and show your sense of humor;
- participate in volunteer or professional development activities with your employees;
- be an advocate for your employees when they face challenges--personal or professional.
2. Do you foster an environment where people are psychologically safe?
Research on freedom and psychological safety by Amy Edmondson of Harvard indicates that when encouraging leaders foster a culture of safety -- meaning employees are free to speak up, experiment, give feedback, and ask for help -- it leads to better learning and performance outcomes.
When psychological safety is absent, fear is present. And fear is detrimental to achieving a company's full potential. We just can't be engaged or innovative when we are afraid. Some subscribe to the notion that fear is a motivator, but what fear does is kill trust -- the ultimate demotivator.
How to create more psychological safety:
- Create a bond with employees, and remind them of their worth;
- praise them for their performance with specific examples for positive reinforcement;
- keep your people in the loop regarding upcoming plans and projects, deadlines, and any changes taking place, good or bad;
- give your employees a sense of security by ensuring that their work and status as employees are on solid ground.
When tough problems arise, address the issue right away by meeting with the team in person (if physically possible), or send an email to set people's expectations. Always pull on the side of hope, strength, perseverance, and compassion. Your job as a leader is to do whatever it takes to meet the needs of your people--showing that you value them not only as workers but also as human beings. Lastly, don't leave anyone hanging by going radio silent.
3. Are you leading with integrity?
Let me give it to you straight: Your employees are watching your every move as a leader. If you're acting unprofessional or unethical, they know. And if they know, you've already lost the battle for respect.
Psychologist and best-selling author Henry Cloud wrote the book on why integrity matters and sheds good light on the topic. In Integrity: The Courage to Meet the Demands of Reality, Cloud says, "Who a person is will ultimately determine if their brains, talents, competencies, energy, effort, deal-making abilities, and opportunities will succeed."
So, who are you, really? As you learn and adapt to all aspects of your integrity, you'll eventually arrive at a point where it becomes easier to develop trust, repair a relationship after a conflict, listen with empathy, and give critical feedback to build someone up.
How to lead with more integrity:
- Lead by example, be reliable, be credible, speak with truth;
- raise the bar and hold yourself accountable to a higher standard -- one in which your followers will want to emulate;
- follow through on your promises or commitments;
- do the right thing;
- be true to yourself rather than be someone you are not. By being who you really are, you not only trust the judgments and decisions that you make, but others trust you as well. They'll respect you for standing by your values and beliefs.