Funny how companies will spend literally billions of dollars on "leadership development programs" and miss the point entirely.

We are promoting individual contributors into leadership roles who don't have the capacity to lead, and then demanding that they become leaders overnight by forcing them into classroom training. 

The approach is wrong and the solution is, actually, quite simple. Rather than "investing" money in expensive and unsustainable workshops or online curriculums, decision-makers should be intently focused on identifying and promoting leaders already equipped with people skills to advance their organizations.

The simple truth is that leadership is about people and relationships. Great leaders aspire to lead by serving the needs of their people. Plainly put, the best of them are sincerely more interested in the success of their people than in their own. 

So what will this philosophy in practice at the ground level look like, whether you're a supervisor of three or a CEO of 25,000? It comes down to recognizing and applying some simple traits in action.

Genuinely care about your people.

Great leaders support their people by showing an interest in their jobs and career aspirations. They look into the future to create learning and development opportunities. They find out what motivates their best people by getting to know each tribe member's desires that will drive them. This is about emotional engagement. Remember this quote by John C. Maxwell? "People don't care how much you know until they know how much you care."

Build relationships with more empathy.

In several studies, empathy has been found to be a critical driver of human performance. Specifically, the ability of leaders to listen and respond with empathy. In business conversations that value relationship-building, thinking about a team member's circumstance, understanding someone's challenge and frustration, and developing perspective about what motivates an employee to high performance opens up all kinds of possibilities for other team members to help one another.

Be radically transparent.

Individuals aspiring to become great leaders must increase their capacity to be more transparent and straight with people. For example, when an employee's performance just isn't cutting it, a leader has to tell that person straight up and hold the bar up high. Help the team member close the gap with clear expectations and measures of success, while supporting him along the way, not hanging him out to dry. After 90 days, if performance hasn't improved, it's probably not a good fit. Be radically transparent with your reasons, don't sweep anything under the rug, and help him transition out of the organization with dignity and respect.

It starts and ends with relationships

Nothing in the practices above is possible without first investing time in your most valued employees to learn who they really are as people. Like most exceptional human leaders, do everything you can to know their strengths and talents and help develop them for new roles and career paths to ensure long-term success for you and your employees. 

Published on: Dec 27, 2018
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