It’s the season of giving. The best gift I ever got was the gift of leadership. If you’ve ever experienced the misery of working for someone who lacks the gift, you know that it truly is a gift to work for a talented leader. Great leadership starts with a few choices. Here’s how you can start on your journey to becoming a great leader.
I vs we people. Imagine working on a team to develop a new strategy. It’s time for the presentation of your recommendations to upper management. The spokesman, the leader for the group, makes his way to the head of the room to present the group’s findings. He begins by saying, “Here’s what I decided.” Then he goes on to describe the group’s decision making process. “I thought it was best that we do…” How would you feel as a member of that group? When it happened to me I felt like I was being sabotaged. So did the other members of my team. If you want to be a leader, pay attention to the number of “I” statements versus “we” statements you make. True leaders understand that their success came not from themselves, but from the work of all the people on their team. They are “we” people, not “I” people. The very talented sports figure (and true gentleman—I know because I met him!!) Troy Aikman was also a very fine leader. One of his teammates said, “I worked with Troy for over 10 years. I never once heard him say ‘I’.” Great leaders who appreciate the contributions of the team recognize them by using “we.”
Get down in the trenches. Do you know what your subordinates go though every day? Some managers are so far removed from their staff that they don’t know what their staff does, the challenges they face and the concerns they have. How can you lead when you don’t have that information? Great leaders in sales make sales calls with their staff. Great leaders of programmers are in the office when a crisis arises so they can show support for their people working through the problem. Great leaders don’t schedule 7AM meetings the day after a tough project was completed and people were working late into the night. Great leaders know what their staff does. They do everything they can to remove obstacles to make the work easier. Even more important is that they are not the obstacle.
It’s the time of year that you have to think about the gifts you give. Why not think about the gift you can give yourself? It’s the gift of leadership. What’s even better is that the gift of leadership is one gift that keeps on giving to you and to others throughout the year and for many years to come. Happy Holidays!