The vast majority of articles on leadership are directed at leaders themselves. But what does good leadership look like through the eyes of those being led? For a moment, put yourself in their place.
Imagine what it would be like to look forward to every day at work and, at the end of the day, find yourself anxious to see your family, knowing that dinner will be on the table soon but wishing you could stay just 1 more hour.
Imagine a leader who creates a story about the team that makes all members feel part of something very special. There may be other teams doing similar work but not like yours. Your team is unique and on a journey to do something extraordinary. Interestingly, in this story, every team member privately feels like he or she was given the starring role.
Imagine that you worked for someone whose mission in life seems to be creating rewarding careers for every member of the team—more of a coach and teacher than a supervisor. Remarkably, this person is sincerely interested in your success and frequently puts your interests ahead of his or her own.
Imagine a leader who, even though he or she is the finest boss you ever had, is trying to become even better. Frequently he or she asks, “What one or two things can I do to become a better leader for you?” You know that it is not easy to ask for such feedback, and you have great respect for him or her, so you always try to be completely candid. Surprisingly, seeing the positive results of such feedback, lately, you have found yourself asking for the same.
Imagine a leader who cares enough about you not to let you slide by on anything but your best work—a leader who continually focuses on your strengths and talents and holds you accountable to use these. This leader recognizes that having a lenient attitude to performance does not serve you well.
Imagine a leader who has partnered with you to create the coolest job you have ever had. Your job does not comprise a bunch of low-value tasks that the leader doesn’t want to do; your work is mission-critical. The job is a real stretch and more than you thought you could handle, but you do it anyway.
Imagine a leader who is truly humble—a leader who has a passion for excellence but who always gives credit for excellence to others. This humility is not just about sharing recognition. For this leader, it shows up in nearly every conversation. While other leaders frequently engage in debate and asserting their point of view, this leader routinely engages in true dialogue, suspending his or her agenda and listening deeply to the views of others. This is humility in action.
And lastly, imagine leaders who may be popular, and you like them, but something quite remarkable happens when you are with them: You like yourself! There is something about them that brings out your better self. You don’t feel judged—you feel acknowledged and appreciated, even admired.
What if your team members thought the above of you? The implications are staggering. Innovation, productivity, customer service, agility—they would all go off the charts. The cool thing about leadership is that we all can become the leader described above. It is a learnable craft. We just need to want it bad enough to make the investment in ourselves necessary to master this craft.
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