Editor’s Note: Our next series of newsletters will focus on culture shift. Since shifting culture starts at the top, this newsletter focuses on leadership. We’ll be jumping into culture in our next article.
The idea of “leadership” has evolved to become so complicated and overwhelming; we’ve lost the plot. With over 70,000 Amazon titles about leadership alone, it’s no wonder everyone squabbles and can’t agree about what we need to do every day to be great leaders. The simple fact is being a leader is challenging, so it’s far easier for us to crusade with to-do lists than to actually lead our team.
We were recently struck by this point when one of our mentors mentioned the best speech she’d heard lately came from a college senior JROTC captain. The captain summarized his leadership in four key traits:
Be an Example: I am responsible for being the example of what I want to see.
This is a big one for us. We’re often asked for a set of behaviors from our teams we ourselves are not exhibiting. Do you pay attention to your everyday micro-actions and what example you are setting for your team? It sounds simplistic but take a step back and think about it – really think about it.
Pro Tip: We live in a lightning fast world – and an even faster one when we manage and lead a team. It’s important to make time for personal reflection. Be it meditation, journaling, or finding a quite space to ground yourself, take the time to reflect on your actions as a leader. Are you being the example of what you want to be within your team?
Own Team Moral: I am responsible for my unit’s morale.
We are responsible for feeding our team – it’s no one else’s duty. That means ensuring the big stuff is happening (training, tools, etc), but also the small stuff (daily check-ins). This means honest, open, real conversations with your directs.
Pro Tip: Everyone always asks, “how do you manage morale?” Plain and simple – morale cannot be managed, but behavior can. Morale is an outcome from behavior and culture. To manage morale, think about what behaviors need to be added, modified, or removed to impact morale?
Set a Direction: I am responsible to point the direction.
Giving everyone the gift of direction is core to staff feeling like there is meaning and purpose in their work. Where we are failing often is communicating it regularly and compellingly AND letting everyone know where we are along the path. How clear is the direction you are pointing? Does everyone know how they are part of making that future a reality.
Pro Tip: Strategic planning is often the catalyst to defining and driving towards your future state. One of the most pivotal pieces of success during the planning and implementation process is clearly and effectively communicating where you’re going and why in a meaningful way. Look for ways to integrate it into your organization everyday – post it on the walls, put it as the header in your agendas, and communicate it in a meaningful way to your everyone.
Deliver Results: I am accountable for my unit’s results.
Yes, it takes a team, but ultimately the buck stops with you. We can’t blame it on the economy or the market or the competition. Leaders need to deliver results WHILE doing the three principles above NOT at the expense of delivering results.
Pro Tip: This isn’t so much a pro tip as a means to encourage you to watch Jocko Willink’s Ted Talk about Extreme Ownership. He’s a big, scary Navy Seal with an important message about the power of ownership and accountability as a leader.
Can it really be explained in four points?
There are a million different ways to express leadership, but these are four simple and implementable ideas you can quickly follow to be a better leader. In case you feel like something is missing from the four points above, it’s worth pointing out that the JROTC has a well-worn list of 14 leadership traits known as the J.J.D.I.D.T.I.E.B.U.C.K.L.E. (We just love this, but it reinforces why we can’t remember to be leaders.) This senior decided to boil it down to four that he could remember. Not a bad idea for us seasoned professionals to do the same.
Speaking personally, I’m confident that as long as I don’t muddle my thinking with too many good ideas, I can deliver all of these principles everyday. Join me because I have NEVER heard from any executive that they would like their team to lead less! The world needs more leaders at every level of every organization!