It’s easy to recognize great leadership when you see it. There’s something about those leaders that makes everyone want to work for them. Their teams are productive; they not only know how to get things done, but they actually get them done. Great leaders seem to know how to inspire people to close the gap between knowing and doing.
They also know how to make it fun and enjoyable, as well as rewarding, for their people to come to work… not just because they make a paycheck, but because they make a difference.
There are many individual actions that connect leaders with their teams. But there are a few key ingredients that are common to all WOW leaders. How many do you practice on a daily basis?
- WOW leaders make their workplace safe… I’m not talking about OSHA-safe; I’m talking about safe for their people to take reasonable and appropriate risks to help improve something: to serve a customer better, make a process more efficient, or suggest improvements to policies and procedures. They realize no one is perfect and that people will make mistakes when trying something new, so their people don’t have to worry that they’ll pay the ultimate price if they make a mistake when going for a stretch goal.
- WOW leaders never demand respect. Instead, they command it through their respectful and considerate words and actions toward others. They understand that it doesn’t matter how many great things they’ve done in the past, respect is never an entitlement… it is earned and re-earned every day. And they know that the best way to earn respect is to give it first.
- WOW leaders are “human” and relatable to their teams. They don’t create an artificial barrier between themselves and the people they lead. Their teams know who they are behind and beyond the title because the leader shares at least some part of him/herself with them beyond the P&L and the bottom line. These leaders recognize that there are “human duties” that accompany every job and remember that people will usually do the bare minimum for a stranger with a title (in order to make the paycheck), but they will often go to the wall for someone they know, like and respect (because they make a difference).
- WOW leaders are innovative, creative and fun to be around. They don’t slam new ideas simply because they’re new, or “We’ve never done that before” or“That’s not my responsibility or department.” They understand that innovation is the only way to stay competitive, and they are not threatened by new ideas, but appreciative of the courage it takes to present them, as well as the initiative of the person doing so. So, they solicit input, suggestions, and feedback – yes, even on their own performance (appropriately and judiciously) in order to foster continuous improvement on the part of theentire team. And when good ideas are presented, they help the team implement those ideas and create higher results. More importantly, they allow people to enjoy their work and understand that laughter in the halls isn’t a sign of people slacking off, but a sign of people enjoying themselves and engaging with each other on a deeper level.
- WOW leaders make the work and the environment rewarding. They understand that rewards come in many forms, often the least of which is monetary. They realize that if they don’t want employees to focus on the paycheck as their sole reason for being on the job, then the leaders themselves can’t focus on the paycheck as the sole reward they offer their people. Emotional rewards in the form of encouragement and praise are crucial – not just once a year, but on a continual basis. Just receiving a simple “thank you” is a coveted award that is given too infrequently in most organizations. Coaching is another reward they can offer; simply by sharing their guidance, knowledge and insights, they can help their team members grow to be better workers – and better people! Most people want to learn and grow on the job, discover their career path, and feel good about having the power and authority to perform their jobs to the best of their ability.
- WOW leaders understand that their job is not to manage people, but toinspire them and help them succeed. So, they enthusiastically and energetically share their vision, and their passion, understanding that everyone on their team has merit and most want to contribute at higher levels. To that end, they use their position and power to provide not only the tools, training and equipment their people need to do their jobs well, but also the opportunity to grow and learn and feel good about what they do for 20, 30, 40 (or more) hours every week.
- In addition to all of the above, the overriding factor for most WOW leaders is that they are consistent. People can count on them: to be the “rock” in their organization or department; to keep their promises; to treat people fairly; to be approachable. They know that the best way to lose the respect and engagement of their teams is by being moody, unpredictable or tyrannical. Dr. Jekyll doesn’t show up one day, only to be replaced by Mr. Hyde the next.
The upshot here is that WOW leaders don’t focus on being better leaders… but on being better “humans.” And when they show their teams their humanity, their authentically caring attitude toward others and their sincere desire to help their people succeed, that’s when their teams engage and not only get the job done, but find ways to go above and beyond and continually get it done better and better.