Leadership is not easy. It’s tough. It’s unpredictable. It takes focus, determination, and most of all opportunity. Leadership cannot be planned – it happens in the moment.
So I’ve put together the top ten commandments of leadership to help you anticipate a leadership moment:
1. Think before you speak.
As leaders, we are always trying to help and solve the problem. Or when it’s time to take a team member out to the woodshed. We tend to speak and act first, and take prisoners later. Stop for a second and THINK. What’s the BEST way to go about this?
Instead of solving the problem, how about letting the person suggest some of their own solutions? Instead of getting angry at a team member, ask them what they think they did wrong. Sometimes people are harder on themselves — and in the end, these actions become learning experiences that stick forever.
2. Push your people. Get them to do scary things.
I’ve always had my people push themselves — take on at least one scary project which takes them WAYYY out of their comfort zone. This allows them to grow in their position, deliver the best they can do, and most of all NOT GET BORED.
If you keep them performing at an optimal level on one of their projects, these behaviors will spread to the other activities they execute. If they fail or fall short, you’re there to catch them and then help them at that point on.
3. What’s the right thing to do? Evangelize ethics in everything you do.
People look up to you and see what you do. In everything you do. If you gossip, they will gossip. If you cheat a client, they will too. As a leader, you become the moral mirror image for all of your people.
In addition, try to encourage the right behavior in your people — if they come to a philosophical crossroads, ask them what would be the RIGHT thing to do.
4. Show them the way. Be visionary.
We get too caught up in the politics and tactics of our job. Good leaders consistently keep their eye on the long term benefits and goals. Teach your people to goal-set, plan, monitor, and assess for every project and activity they do.
Give them the long picture — where you want to see the company go, the division, the department and ultimately, them. Give it life, make it visionary, get them involved.
5. Don’t take on any monkeys. You will never lead your team.
First, read this great HBR report (it’s from 1974 and it’s one of their most read reports). It’s the standard to help you lead and manage your team — don’t let them drop monkeys on your desk — help them solve their own problems.
In fact, this commandment should be emblazoned on the wall behind your desk: “Don’t come to me with a problem unless you have one or more solutions.”.
6. Fight the good fight. Take a stand.
Never be wishy-washy on anything important. Your people will see that immediately. Analyze the pros and cons, take the end result into account, and make a decision. If you’re wrong, admit it immediately and change course. But we get so caught up in the decision process — being afraid of making the wrong decision, we make the situation worse.
If someone or something is going after your department or one of your people and they are clearly wrong, defend them to the death. There might be some people who might say you’re committing political suicide, but I feel if you and your team are in the right, it will ultimately surface in your favor.
7. Be strategic, monitor tactical.
Too many leaders try to micromanage. Don’t make this mistake. Focus on the big picture and how all of the pieces fit together. Don’t worry about the day to day, monitor it with your people’s input, but keep them focused on the goalposts.
8. Communicate clearly.
Many leaders mistake intelligence with obfuscation. They use big words, grand designs, and ornate constructs to communicate their goals. BAD IDEA. If your people have to decipher what you are looking for, you exponentially increase the opportunity for them to misunderstand your message and do the wrong thing.
Be clear, concise, and straightforward in ALL of your communications — you’ll find things move that much faster and people get your drift immediately.
9. Be confident, not cocky.
The difference between cockiness and confidence:
- Cockiness – “I know that. We’ve been doing that for years.”
- Confidence – “Wow, I didn’t know that. Tell me more.”
Which person do you like to work with? Most everyone likes to work with a confident person — someone who is comfortable in their own shoes, someone who is not afraid to not know something and is inquisitive to find out more. One of the goals of leadership is to get your people to absorb and display your leadership attributes in their day-to-day work. Who do you want to work with — a confident ally or a cocky jerk?
10. Understand the ‘meta’ in every conversation.
This is a big one — what’s the BIG picture? When you are speaking with someone, giving a presentation, holding a status meeting — give people the 5,000 foot picture and then zoom up to the 50,000 level.
Tell them what really is happening, what is the REAL reason the company is doing something. Most of the time, your people don’t have a clue about what is going on and it’s your job to give them the big picture.