In my experience as an entrepreneur and coach of business executives, I've seen that great leaders can at times be treated as if they're invisible. Not many people see what goes on behind the scenes to create and shape new leaders, whether you're in charge of a team or an entire company. And unfortunately, leadership training isn't always a priority.
As I grew into a decision making role, I was also discovering my own style of leadership. I then realized I wanted to be a different kind of leader. I wanted to impart my knowledge for others facing a similar ascension. In short, I wanted to teach.
So, I introduced “leadership lessons” at my company's monthly team meetings. This on-the-job training became a necessary tool because whatever the lesson was, the team (myself included) could apply it to real-life events or situations we were facing.
Below, I've outlined six of these effective lessons that I believe can help any type of leader:
1. Don’t simply tell someone — teach them.
As leaders, I believe we can become so used to giving orders that we forget those in training need to know the why and how of something new. In my experience, leaders often feel rushed to delegate urgent tasks to the necessary team members, which can cause you to forget to explain how to do the job and why you want it done in the first place. So, rather than hurry through your instructions, take a few extra minutes to teach the lesson. If you take your time and are patient with your team as they learn, I believe your team members will be better equipped to perform well.
2. Empower your team.
It is crucial you empower your staff and trust they will perform to the best of their abilities (without being micromanaged). Ask for input, ideas and insight for the issue at hand. Remember to offer positive feedback; don't be scarce when it comes to complimenting work done well. Try to stretch a promising team member's capabilities by giving them tasks that require them to grow. And most importantly, establish an environment of open communication where everyone can be themselves and share with honesty and integrity without feeling judged.
3. Don’t set aside challenging tasks.
Skipping harder tasks to do the easier ones only delays real progress. Set out an "intentional productivity" agenda to help you plan when to do your most challenging tasks for the times of day you're most productive. For example, if you have the most energy in the morning, plan to handle your toughest to-do list items at the start of your workday, and save your easier tasks for the afternoon. In my experience, planning your days according to your productivity levels can help you feel a great sense of accomplishment.
4. Step past your comfort zone.
I believe pushing forward, even when it’s hard, is the only way to reach your full growth and prosperity. Focus on the things you find difficult when planning your agenda or developing your skill set — and work through them. Even if you're uncomfortable because you're practicing and working on something outside of your comfort zone, push through the discomfort. Don't give up. Keep going. You will be amazed at the burst of energy you receive when discomfort becomes comfortable; that's when true growth occurs.
5. Be open to bad news.
Sometimes things don't go according to plan, so make sure your team feels comfortable to bring you any bad news in a timely manner. One way to help them feel at ease is to explain to your team that they are integral to the company's success, and part of achieving success includes sharing good and bad news. In my experience, when your team feels that you have an empathetic ear and will take the time to hear them out, they will feel comfortable approaching you for anything positive or negative. Take your time to analyze, correct and set a new strategy for whatever is not working, and encourage your team to help brainstorm solutions as well. It matters to you, so let it matter to them.
6. Remember that failures can serve as lessons.
We all fail. The key is to get back up when the bell rings. Failure exposes our weaknesses that have been carefully hidden. Take an honest and hard look at what these weaknesses are and how you can work on them. I believe the most powerful way to effect change within yourself when facing failure is to help someone else. Pay it forward, and begin the journey of discovering what you are truly made of. You can start by reflecting on your working relationships with customers and colleagues; new opportunities might be uncovered just by changing your perspective a bit.
From my perspective, if you want to lead, you must assume the role of a teacher as well. True leadership means thinking about others before you think of yourself. In my experience, a leader who takes the time to teach will feel like they are on the right track by keeping their team close, informed, aware and ready for anything that might arise.
And remember that by teaching, you inadvertently raise the bar for your team to perform. It serves as a way to always be on your game with a laser focus. If you show the way, you can lead the way and help your team follow.