If you’ve ever experienced such a leader, the reason you remember that person so vividly is because of how he or she made you feel. People tend to forget, leadership is not just a matter of cognitive ability (intelligence); it’s a matter of the heart.
The journey towards leadership greatness should never be taken lightly. And the starting point to your journey demands to face some tough truths about what truly defines leadership success.
Here are six truths that many aren’t willing to face.
1. You can’t call yourself a leader if you don’t communicate like one.
Having coached countless leaders over the years, I have noted that so many of them struggle with communication.
It’s not necessarily the inability to articulate thoughts and ideas at a high level (like on a stage or at a board meeting) to influence your key stakeholders. No, I speak of communication as a means to inspire, motivate, and include others in decisions that will benefit the team.
I speak of communication that lifts people up and empowers them in the pursuit of a common purpose. It’s communicating respectfully with people, seeing them as worthy colleagues rather than objects and a means to an end.
We may ultimately forget that effective communication isn’t just about talking; it’s listening intuitively to the other person’s story, asking questions, and searching conversations for depth, meaning, and understanding.
2. You can’t call yourself a leader if you don’t operate with integrity.
Warren Buffett, chairman, and CEO of Berkshire Hathaway offered up some sound advice to keep organizations from making crucial mistakes in the hiring process. He said:
We look for three things when we hire people. We look for intelligence, we look for initiative or energy, and we look for integrity. And if they don’t have the latter, the first two will kill you, because if you’re going to get someone without integrity, you want them lazy and dumb.
The pinnacle of a person’s character is his or her integrity. It should be explored more in-depth as a non-negotiable business value but is often overlooked in whom companies choose to hire for leadership positions.
3. You can’t call yourself a leader if you aren’t impacting people’s lives.
Ask yourself this question: Did I have an impact on someone today?
The best of leaders in the most desirable companies on the planet have a wholehearted commitment to change the lives of people.
The question posed above has to be a constant reminder that will help you take ownership of being the very best leader you can be for the people entrusted under your care.
By holding up the mirror and asking the question, it forces you to measure up against the high standards of leadership, which will open up a world of opportunities to make an immediate impact on people.
4. You can’t call yourself a leader if it’s all about you.
Leadership is about selflessness. It’s ultimately doing the unthinkable in the top-heavy world of command-and-control management styles: putting your followers’ interests ahead of your own. But when you do, it leads to unprecedented competitive advantage.
To seriously elevate your impact and influence as a leader, you have to remember that leadership is about service and making those around you better. To assess where you are against the high measure of a servant leader, there’s another very powerful question you need to ask right now: What am I doing every day to improve the life of an employee in the workplace?
5. You can’t call yourself a leader if you’re not humble.
Larry Bossidy, the former CEO of Honeywell and author of the book Execution: The Discipline of Getting Things Done, explains how humility gets results and makes you a more effective leader:
“The more you can contain your ego, the more realistic you are about your problems. You learn how to listen, and admit that you don’t know all the answers. Your pride doesn’t get in the way of gathering the information you need to achieve the best results. It doesn’t keep you from sharing the credit that needs to be shared. Humility allows you to acknowledge your mistakes.”
6. You can’t call yourself a leader if you don’t care for the people you lead.
Kelly Merbler, principal of The Kelly Merbler Company, elevates “caring for people” to a level most leaders aren’t willing to venture: you must love your employees
Merbler teaches and coaches her clients to unleash actionable love and care to achieve results. She says, “As a leader, it is critically important to show your employees that they are loved and that they are valued. It’s so important to create a culture that allows them to do their best work and feel they are creating a positive contribution.”
Merbler says there are three critical ways in which you can demonstrate actionable love for your No.1 customer–your employees:
- Ask them what they enjoy doing most in their job, and why, to understand what really makes them feel satisfied in their roles.
- Acknowledge everyone’s contributions, not just the revenue generators. “Everybody matters,” says Merbler.
- Create opportunities for employees to use their strengths and pay attention when an employee shows interest in different aspects of the business.