Leadership is a position that is won, not given. Here are 4 ways you can win it.
Prior to my transition to self-employment in 2013, I spent 26 years as a broadcaster.
During that time, I had the privilege of working with a number of wise and experienced leaders; none of them more so than a man named Matt Austin.
As much as Matt was a great example to me of what leadership should look like, he served as an equally great example of the kind of man I hoped to one day be; firm, fair, compassionate, kind, trusting and smart. I wanted nothing more than to please him. Coming from Matt, the words “well done” were like music to your ears.
After working alongside him for 14 years, the last eight as his second in command, here’s what I’ve learned about what it takes to be the kind of leader others will follow anywhere.
Trust Those You Lead to Do What You Hired Them To Do
Among the many things I appreciated about Matt, was his unwavering faith and trust in his team to do our jobs. His stance was simply to trust until there was a reason not to. This level of trust motivated us to want to honor it as best we could. It also made us feel safe in seeking his advice and help if and when struggles arose.
Were there the occasional bad eggs that took advantage? Sure. But they were often easily and quickly identified. As a result, they weren’t around long enough to do any real damage.
Don’t Ask of Your Team What You Aren’t Willing to Do Yourself
I’m not talking about the delegation of things you’d prefer not to do for whatever reason — many of them perfectly legitimate — but, rather, those all-hands-on-deck moments.
Chances are you’ve worked for someone where all-hands-on-deck meant everyone but the boss. Not with Matt. No matter the event or project, he wasn’t afraid to occasionally get his own hands dirty — sometimes literally — if the situation presented the opportunity.
If you want to endear yourself to your team fast, show them you’re not above doing “their” work.
Look for Ways to Share the Credit (and the Blame)
When a project goes well, intentionally and publicly identify specific ways each team member played a role.
Matt not only made it a point to do this in staff meetings and during occasional celebratory lunches, but privately too with an unexpected but appreciated handwritten note.
At the same time, if the result is less than favorable, be willing to admit if and when you could have recognized potential problems sooner. Share your thoughts openly and humbly with your team.
It doesn’t mean others are off the hook necessarily, but neither are you.
Matt wasn’t any more perfect than the rest of us on staff. But, unlike some leaders I’ve witnessed, he wasn’t afraid to admit or share, when appropriate, his own missteps.
Because of this, we felt like we were seeing the real man 100 percent of the time; not a persona, but who he really was, warts and all. This made us appreciate him all the more.
To the Moon and Back
Want to develop team members who, every day, relish the opportunity to show you what a smart decision you made in hiring them? Desire a staff who look forward to tackling even the most difficult of projects?
Trust them. Be with them when appropriate. And share in their successes as well as in their failures.
Do these things and you’ll enjoy more than just being the leader of a successful and thriving organization. You’ll have made the world a better place by filling it with even more of the kind of leaders others can’t help but follow.
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Photo: Getty Images