“A leader is somebody who makes all the people around him or her better and that cuts across all levels,” Ethan Berstein.
Anyone can be a leader and it has nothing to do with elections or promotions. This is another hot topic that was left out on the school curriculum.
Take a moment to think of the leaders around you, what do you think is very common among leaders? The politician who only elect his tribesmen, the boss who blames everyone else for the organization’s failure, or the husband who barely leaves a good legacy for his family. There are a plethora of horrible bosses everywhere. There is such a huge gap in leadership. An alarming amount of organizations and nations lack the leadership they need. When we complain about the work environment, guess who set the tone? You, the leader.
“The leader sets the environment and we respond to the environment,” says Simon Sinek. “People will give you their blood, sweat and tears to advance your vision if they feel you care about them and they feel you want to help them grow, so they can accomplish more.”
In our culture, there is a tendency to either sugar coat, disguise or hide bad news or faulty results from followers, hoping it will eventually fade away and no one finds out. This is classic lack of accountability. Leaders often want to paint a flawless portrait of themselves or be liked by concealing their mistakes or avoiding confronting staff when they err. They think they can avoid the cold conversation of correction. Meanwhile, gossip brews among staff about the leader’s ‘weaknesses’ in dealing with issues and people. People really want things trashed out and that approach of making people like you by not confronting them may end up having a counter effect.
However, amid this gross lack of good leadership, there lies an opportunity for you to step up. Irrespective of your qualification or official designation, you can lead people.
Drop the Old-School Leadership Model
“You cannot force your will on people, if you want them to act differently, you need to inspire them to change themselves,” Phil Jackson.
Before we dive into what is new, we have to trash the old mindset. In the new school, flexibility is an advantage. You do not always have to be a ruthless and authoritative leader. That style has become outdated, especially when leading millennials. If you are under the age of 36, you will definitely agree with me that we hate being penalized, told what to do and when to do it. We rather prefer to feel like we are part of the decision making and that what were are doing aligns with our worldview. It is your role as a leader to be able to manage these young professionals, who would rather spend 5 hours on Bella Naija, social media or watching matches during work hours. Then turn up late the following morning wearing multi-coloured clothes and socks. I can see the frustration on the faces of middle-aged managers who think, “who on earth does she think she is, fire her.” Then every other month, another millennial loses her job. Do you wonder why it is so hard for our generation to keep a job for more than an average of 5 years? We want to feel fulfilled. We want higher pay, less work, and more freedom. This is a big challenge. How do you deal with a bunch of energetic, social media crazy people and how do you channel that energy to build your business? Staying flexible ensures that you can easily switch from being ruthless on some issues, to being gentle or sympathetic to others. You also have to play the role of a mentor, because as much as they act like they know what they want, the truth is, they still need your guidance. You also have to trust them with projects and have the patience to teach.
The Path to Better Leadership
- Define Your Fundamental Drive: Why are you in this? Do you want to improve your city? Do you want to build communities where unemployed youths find jobs easily? Many CEO’s become so engulfed in the numbers that they forget their purpose. They forget that building better people should be the goal and not attaining some arbitrary sales target. When you build your team, the results come in effortlessly. Your purpose statement should not just be on the wall, it should be in the work that you do. As a leader, you must only compare yourself with you! Here are some tips to analyse your performance.
- Do you get feedback from your team, if not, encourage feedback from your team?
- Reflect on and digest every interaction with your team. Do not just nod your head and move unto the next thing.
- Know where you got it right and where you got it wrong and adjust accordingly.
Leaders do not fail because they lack good people, they fail because the people do not believe in them or their words.
- Analyse What you are Doing Right and Wrong: The worst thing that can happen to a leader is to keep repeating the same management mistakes and wondering why staff turnover remains high. There are leaders who are too ashamed to admit they are wrong about something or that their ideas are less viable than their subordinates. In this age, it is impossible for one person to have all the information. Hence, your greatest asset is humility. Stay humble. When leaders show humility, the performance of the team significantly improves because they bond better and feel free to correct the leader.
- Hire Smart People and be Willing to Take Advice: We see a lot of African leaders constantly assume they are the smartest person in the room. They shoot down suggestions and comments that do not align with their worldview. You are not automatically the smartest person in the room because you are the CEO! “The best executive is the one who has the sense enough to pick good men to do what he wants to be done, and the self-restraint to keep from meddling with them while they do it,” Theodore Roosevelt.
- Be Teachable: There is a temptation to lead with an iron fist. You must admit that you do not know everything and you must be willing accept the correct opinions of other people, even if they are less qualified. There are so many companies that have folded up because the leaders refused to listen to advice from his staff. A lot of our best staff, business ideas and strategies are buried inside those who earn minimum wage in the organization. Never take anyone’s ideas to be cheap, because they are cheap labour.
- Give Constructive Criticism: It is easier to say thank you than to confront an action or criticize poor performance. These are my 4 easy steps to giving constructive criticism.
- Praise the person about something they are good at. Even though it may not be related to the issue.
- Criticize only the part of the job that they are not doing well. Do not start going on and on about how terrible their performance is without being specific to the area that they are not doing great at.
- Ask them for an explanation as to why the issue occurred.
- Let them make a resolution to change their behaviour to prevent the issue from recurring.
How to Gain Respect
Do not do anything that will sabotage your chances of being a good leader, erode the respect they have for you and eventually make your followers dislike you altogether. There is a very thin line between respect and disrespect. Here are my top ten tips for maintaining your power.
- Be prepared for the meeting, so you do not have your subordinates leading the meeting.
- Avoid dating or harassing staff of the opposite sex especially if you are the boss and they look up to you.
- Ensure that every extra effort goes rewarded or at least acknowledged. This will encourage your staff to go out of their comfort zone to do more for the organization. Do not forget to say thank you to the staff after the project has been completed successfully.
- Avoid petty fights, name calling or sharing their personal secrets to other staff.
- Avoid comparing one staff to another. This dampens their ego, leads to envy and negative competition.
- Do not put them down verbally or make disdainful or sarcastic comments.
- If you have any bad things to say about them, always tell them to their face instead of getting a third party involved. This makes you appear like a coward.
- Ask questions to show you were listening and to clarify certain things.
- Pocket your phone during meetings. When you show respect, you get it back in return.
- Be honest. Transparency builds trust. A lot of leaders lack the guts, to be honest and confrontational. Do what is right even if you feel uncomfortable
Did I miss out on an important area of leadership, then do not hesitate to leave a comment below to let other leaders like you know or write to us through firstname.lastname@example.org. Also, follow our various social media handles.
Ima Isip has been writing since she was a teenager and when she discovered motivational and business books at a young age, she has never stopped being so enthusiastic about personal development and helping other people build successful businesses. She is the CEO of outsourceries.com, an online outsourcing outfit. She has also authored several books and currently writes for nigerianbusinessguide.com.