Leadership is not about power. It's about service and sacrifice.
If you have recently found yourself in a leadership role within your organization, it can be a bit daunting having direct reports and managing a variety of different personalities with a variety of different needs. It also can be nerve-wracking knowing that everyone is looking to you for guidance and to make the right decisions that not only benefit your department but the whole association as well. We consulted a few individuals in leadership roles for their advice and we came away with some pretty insightful opinions.
- Be authentic. Don't be afraid to open up about your weaknesses, past struggles, or concerns when warranted. Being seen as a human rather than a boss can build trust with your team and allow them to feel open with you in return.
- Be humble. There's nothing worse than a boss who takes all the credit for hard work. Give praise where praise is due and let those on the lower end of the totem pole get their recognition.
- Practice empathy. Empathy creates a strong bond between two people and shows a significant degree of emotional intelligence. Famed research professor Brené Brown did an excellent talk on what it means to have empathy and how it establishes a connection to others.
- Help your employees get to their next level. Great leaders champion and advocate for their employees rather than keep them in one place. Whether they want to rise up in the organization or try their hand at a different career path, let them know you're happy to help.
- Encourage collaboration. Everyone has something valuable to contribute to a project, not just one department. If there's a tech-heavy project being shuffled around, rope in the creative department to help provide a different perspective. Doing this also promotes inter-departmental trust and strengthens relationships throughout the organization.
- Respect everyone's time. Set up meetings with agendas and make sure that it's not a "meeting just to have a meeting". Also, when it comes to offsite events or business travel, remember that some employees have children, others are in night school, and many have long commutes in traffic. Be mindful of what your employee's situations are prior to planning in order to avoid resentment.
- Never be afraid to ask for help. This is not a sign of weakness. Consulting other business leaders for their advice on certain situations will help you make decisions in order to best move forward. Remember that no one is above receiving counsel from an outside source. Even military officers periodically take advice from enlisted personnel in order to choose the right course of action in tactical situations.
Just because you made it to a higher rank doesn't mean that you stop fostering your own leadership skills, nor does it mean that you can't learn something new about yourself as a leader. Most importantly, you also have to cultivate talent and growth within your direct reports to help them reach their own goals. Challenges will always be within arm's length, but with the right attitude and mindset, you'll be able to tackle anything that comes your way and create a positive and fertile working environment for those you lead.