Ever reported to someone in a leadership role who made such a lasting impression on you that you still beam about her to this day?
Chances are pretty good that you were well taken care of -- as an employee and human being -- under this person's leadership. The reason you still remember her, perhaps years or decades later, is because of how she made you feel.
Because when it's all said and done, true leadership is about positive relationships in action. This is no easy task, even for the most accomplished leader.
Are you a leader now? If you call yourself one, I have a quick exercise for you. To evaluate where you stand in the esteemed role of a leader, and whether you are fit for the role, I'm asking that you measure your own leadership skills against the high bar of true leadership. It comes in the form of three simple questions (requiring yes answers):
1. Are you seeking to understand other people's perspectives?
Now that we communicate primarily through screens and devices, without in-person interaction, it's crucially important to see things from other people's perspectives, not just your own. Often we are quick to judge someone's decision with negative intent and have a propensity for "action bias" by making hasty decisions without listening to varied voices. So, take your foot off the pedal and begin to practice more self-awareness, such as grasping a better understanding of your employees' work, how they do things, and what holds them back. As your empathy increases, you will begin to problem-solve around what may be keeping your people from performing at their best. Seeking meaning and understanding will allow you, the leader, to provide your people with the solutions they need.
2. Do you provide leadership and direction for the people you lead?
Research on servant leadership asserts that to be truly effective you have to promote the practice of providing leadership for the good of those led. In other words, envision the future, direct the organization with foresight, set goals and clear expectations, and clarify those goals and expectations consistently as things shift. When the future is uncertain, many employees will look to their leaders for reassurance and direction. As you assess where people are in tough times, ask questions to address concerns. For example:
- What questions do you need immediate answers to?
- How can I best support you right now?
- What are the obstacles for achieving your goals right now?
3. Are you open to receiving feedback, even the kind you don't want to hear?
So many of us in leadership roles view feedback as a threat to our power, self-worth, and position. This explains plenty about our reluctance to hearing feedback; so we often recoil in fear and react defensively to feedback. To be a truly effective leader, you'll gain the upper hand when you start viewing feedback as a gift to improve yourself so you can serve others and your mission better. Be in the habit of valuing truth and honesty and diverse perspectives for bettering yourself and your business. Even when feedback is negative, it prompts an exercise in curious exploration to find out where things went wrong so that it doesn't happen again.