How to Be a Great Leader

Just to give you a little bit of background I worked for my company for just over 12 years.  At the time of my resignation I oversaw 5 locations in the East Bay.  I had a 6-figure salary, a company car, and 30+ employees on my team.  To make it to this level in the company there are number of things needed to even be considered.  One of them is the ability to get a team to follow you.  

In this company you are measured by your overall performance and that is how you qualify for a position.  I wasn't #1 in everything, I was top 10 in everything.  However, a few intangibles that I was measured on were coach ability, and leadership.  Whether you have just been put in a leadership role, or have been in it for awhile I think that these 5 things will help you to be a better leader.  

1. You Are Not the Boss

I have seen managers come and go who have been put in a position of power and fail.  They assume that their title gives them automatic respect.  There are simple ways to gain buy-in without being a jerk.  Unfortunately, it doesn't work like that.  I understood very early on in my career that being a leader means you direct, not dictate.  Some of the best plans that I have implemented have come from the people on my own team - not me.  I believe in empowering the people on your team because I am only as good as they are.  By following this mantra I have been able to accomplish many things.  Not only that, my team took ownership, and initiative in what they implemented.  In addition, I needed to get buy-in.  You are able to get more accomplished when your team believes in you.  Let's be honest, you are more likely to do things outside of your job description when you like your boss right?  When we don't, it's so easy for us to say no.  Let's make your job easier by these 2 things; empower your team, and gain buy-in. 


2. Explain the Why's

Building a great team means that everyone believes in your vision or goal.  Well in order for people to believe in it - they have to understand it.  Everyone on the team should know your mission, vision, and goal.  However, they also should know the why's and how's.  This is an awesome video on what this means:

Everyone knows the quote about giving a man a fish vs teaching a man how to fish right? Same concept.  The why's and the how's are just as important as to the what we are trying to achieve.  

3. Over-communicate

In my experience I found, the more information I gave my team, the quicker we arrived to the solution.  Of course the specific information given had everything to do with our progress, performance, or anything needed for them to be successful.  As a leader you receive way more information that your team does.  It is your responsibility to figure out what information to send down to your team.  You will be surprised at what kind of ideas will come up when your team is given all of the information.  Think about it - a simple word problem with all of the information is easier to solve when you're only given a piece right?  On top of that - 2 heads are better than 1, 3 are better than 2 and so on.  Trust your team to USE THEIR BRAINS!

4. Embrace Differences

How many times have we been told there is more than 1 way to the solution? How many times do we fail and only think that our way is the right way?  *raises hand*  So many times throughout my career my stubbornness has gotten in the way.  I would assume that my way is the best way.  But! The way I got there was by first failing 100 times before that!  In order for your team to be great just like you - they need to get to the solution on their own!  Remember!  You are there to direct - not to dictate!  There was a guy who was a really good account of mine.  He was extremely nice and professional.  However, his managers were completely opposite.  They were pushy, a little rude, but all about their money.  He explained that his goal was to hire people completely opposite of him.  He was the guy that wrote the checks, but the managers he hired went out and got the money.  He said that they were sharks - and he was not  As for me, I hired people not completely opposite of me, but who were different and made me go, "Hmm, that's an interesting way to think about that."  I am not that smart - but I do know how to utilize people's strengths, and make them great in their own territory not just mine.  Let me tell you, just by listening to others and taking in other suggestions I learned so much.  I grew as a manager because of my team.  There was no way I got to the level I was at by myself.  It was all because of my amazing team. 


5. Be a Human

YOU ARE A PERSON. duh!  Not a robot or a person without feelings.  You are a human being that shows compassion and empathy.  Your team needs to see your true self.  Of course there is a fine line between manager and friend which is definitely something to keep in mind.  However, a team is bought in to YOU, not the company.  Something we would tell our managers is when someone quits - they quit you , not the company.  Show feelings, show when you're disappointed, show emotion.  We do things based on emotions and how we feel about that particular subject or topic.  Now I'm not saying go out and be an emotional roller coaster.  This is something you definitely have to control and be aware of.  But you need to listen, and show genuinely that you care.  If you want a team that will work smart not just hard - show that you are human.  

I'm not saying that doing these things will magically get your team to perform, love you, and go above and beyond for you.  This is just my experience.  There are different approaches to achieve greatness.  However, I feel very strong about these 5 things.  After 12 years watching managers succeed and fail; most have had done these 5 things to be successful.  I have also taught a number of managers to do the same and grow in amazing people.  If you are doing something different I would love to hear about it! Leave a comment below and let's talk about it!