A leadership quote I reference often is something that was said about coach Paul "Bear" Bryant: that a great coach can take his players and beat yours, and he can take your players and beat his. The caliber of the team doesn't matter. It's all about the quality of the system, the process in place, the fundamentals, and obviously the coach -- the quality of the leader.

The best coaches and leaders know how to get people on board. They know how to get people to rally behind a goal and a vision. They show the way. They walk the walk and talk the talk. In short, they are a leader people want to follow. How can you be a leader if you don't have anyone who's following you?

  1. They're fulfilled when their people succeed.
  2. They immediately speak up when they notice disengagement. They don't wait for their employees to speak up.
  3. They know their team's culture. They know when to address issues and when to let them work themselves out naturally.  
  4. They never complain down the food chain.
  5. Great leaders have the emotional intelligence to step back and consider two steps ahead how people may react before jumping to conclusions.
  6. They don't give their employees every step of the process. They give their people the opportunity to think for themselves and put a plan together, and then hold them accountable to delivering by deadline.
  7. They realize that each employee is different. Some need to be told what to do and others need to simply be told the goal and allowed to run.
  8. They realize they are in the business of managing employees' expectations.
  9. They have spent the time one-on-one to understand their people: their motivators, their fears, their communication styles, how they like to be recognized and praised, and how they like to receive feedback.
  10. Great leaders ask their direct reports how they're feeling, because they understand emotions are powerful. They also know that how someone feels may be different than what they think.
  11. They want what's best for the team first, understanding that what's best for the team will be best for the individual, and they get individual players to see that too. They're willing to move people to different teams if it's better for the overall organization or team, and again, know that ultimately it will be better for the individual.

It doesn't matter who's on a team, the best coaches -- the best leaders of people -- adapt and modify on the basis of whom they're leading. They excel at identifying weaknesses and strengths in each player, and excel at pulling and pushing on the right things to get the best out of someone.

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