Leadership takes many forms. When you think about the leaders who have inspired you, you’ll likely come up with a list of people whose leadership styles differ greatly, from Steve Jobs’ quiet tenacity to Richard Branson’s flamboyance. Regardless of style, great leaders share a few key underlying principles in common. Below are five of the most powerful tenets of effective leadership.
Show, Don’t Tell
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Having a clever catchphrase or being a great orator is not enough. As Leadership Now’s article on Gen. Douglas MacArthur’s leadership principles illustrates, your employees look to you as an example of what it means to be a part of the team. Do you demand that your staff keep a positive attitude when times get tough? Do you lose your temper or take your frustrations out on others? If you do, consider how you’re undermining your message. Hold yourself to the same standards you set for your staff.
See and Be Seen
You can’t lead by example if people never get a chance to see you in action. Per Medium.com’s Joe Purzycki, quoted in an ACS report on good leadership in bad times, “This is my Number One rule for my direct reports — be seen and be heard.” Build relationships with team members at every level of the organization. Ask meaningful questions and listen to the answers, even — or especially — when they’re hard to hear.
Motivate Through Meaning
If you studied leadership in a master’s-level management degree program, you learned that as a leader, you’re responsible for keeping an eye on the bottom line. But as powerful a motivator as money can be, it’s not enough to keep a team engaged on a long-term basis. As Dave and Wendy Ulrich assert in an Ivey Business Journal article, one of a leader’s most important roles is that of “meaning maker.” What core values are driving your business? What is the vision you’re collectively working toward? Great leaders put principle ahead of profit.
Find Strength in Vulnerability
Everyone makes mistakes, leaders included. How you react when inevitable missteps occur is far more important. Too many leaders wrongly believe that any admission of error is a sign of weakness. In fact, these moments offer the perfect chance to lead by example. Take responsibility for your actions and seize the opportunity to demonstrate what it looks like to learn, grow, and improve through tough times.
Invest in Your Most Important Resource
A strong leader and compelling product won’t go far without a skilled team and loyal customers. In an Inc.com interview, JetBlue Chairman Joel Peterson says, “Great businesses aren’t built on products or services — they’re built on the people who create and use them.” Put together the best team you can and empower them with the resources and freedom they need to show you what they’re capable of. Take customer feedback seriously and use it to help steer your decision-making. By investing in people, you’re investing in the most powerful resource your company has.
Whatever your style, the foundation of good leadership is universal. Check in periodically to see how you’re putting these tenets into action in your day-to-day work. Think about new ways to challenge yourself to be a better leader and watch how your efforts get reflected back at you in the effectiveness, productivity, and fulfillment of your team.