Throughout your career, you inevitably end up working for bosses you despise and others who you don’t want to work without. No matter the circumstance, good or bad, you are always left with takeaways that can help you grow tremendously and lend influence to your own leadership style.
No matter where you are in your corporate or entrepreneurial leadership role, understand that every leader has to start somewhere. You don’t have to be a “natural-born leader” to be a leader. No one wakes up one morning having the skills necessary to run an entire organization. While a leader’s ability to take charge might be wired into their DNA, their abilities to cultivate talent and lean into their strengths are learned with time. The following are the secrets that I believe can help anyone succeed as a modern-day leader, no matter what profession you’re in.
Keep your promises, period
No matter what you may think, your team members choose you. You may interview them and ultimately give them the golden invitation to be part of your organization, but they are the ones who are investing their most valuable assets with your team — their time and talent. It’s a common mistake for leaders to overpromise and underdeliver, especially when discussing the potential job’s long-term opportunities or compensation structure. Even with the best intentions, circumstances can change beyond that leader’s control, but ultimately it is still that leader’s responsibility to follow through with their promises.
If you ever find yourself in this situation as a leader, do whatever you can to provide creative solutions or compromises that are acceptable to your team member. They will appreciate your effort and feel valued even if things are different than they hoped.
Be authentic and vulnerable
The younger workforce wants more relatability and authenticity from their leaders than ever before. No one is expecting you to share every detail about how you’re feeling, but people can tell when you’re being disingenuous, even if the intention is good. Don’t be afraid to tell your team when you’re unsure of the answer or your fears around a situation. There is nothing worse than a leader who acts like everything is OK all the time.
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Speak from encouragement, not opportunity
There was a period of time in which I had a superior who constantly spoke to me from a place of opportunity. At first, it didn’t bother me at all because I was doing whatever I could to try to soak up her wisdom so I could do my job better. Over time, her constant feedback in this manner started to make me feel discouraged. Speaking only to what an associate is deficient in or what you as a leader aren’t satisfied with will create an uncomfortable working environment for that team member. They will dread conversations about their performance and start to feel hopeless in their ability to perform in their career.
Always cultivate your weakest link
Inevitably, there is always one person on a team who isn’t pulling their weight, but that doesn’t mean you should ever abandon your efforts as a leader to lead them to success. Many times, so I’ve learned, the “weakest link” is just the most misunderstood. Maybe they have heavy personal issues going on such as dealing with a health condition or a recent family death. It could also be possible that you as a leader need to adjust your communication style with that particular person.
For example, I coached someone in real estate who was completely disengaged from our mission. Every suggestion I made turned into an excuse as to why she couldn’t get it completed by our next visit. I became frustrated, so one day I decided to tell her how much potential I didn’t think she was realizing in herself. We did a visualization exercise together, where I asked her to describe a job she felt confident in versus how she felt as a real estate agent. In this small experiment, she discovered she was afraid to try because she was afraid to fail, because she felt less confident in sales than she did in her last career. It wasn’t long after that she started to thrive and had her first sale. If I would have given up on her, I would have given up on her unlocked potential and one of the most powerful advocates for my business.
Remember that leadership is a journey marked by the traits you can develop and skills you can acquire. Mastering these four traits and abilities can set anyone up for success as a modern-day leader.