Over the past 30 years of my professional career, I have been a leader to others in many capacities. I have led others as a manager, mentor, and peer. Along the way, I have learned many things no one tells you about the responsibility of leadership. In today’s blog, I am sharing three tips to know about being a leader.
Thing 1, Non-verbal Actions Speak Volumes.
Yes, we have all heard about “leading by example.” It is a cliche if not backed by action, so it is better to act and not speak. What most will not tell you is that people will work based on what they see others do. You can change people’s behavior without speaking a word. A mentor of mine said, “people do what they see, not what they hear.” If you want others to come early to work, you should arrive before everyone else. After two months of me starting my day early, half of my staff started doing the same. They were showing up about 40 minutes earlier than their start time. Picking up a piece of trash when others have walked past it is a non-verbal example of leading without needing a title. Being the first to act when others only think about acting will distinguish yourself as a leader without speaking a single command.
Thing 2, You Are Now A Therapist.
Like it or not, when you manage people, you will need to do more than tell people what to do. You are managing people, not robots. They have good and bad days, emotional highs and lows, and they each will respond to you differently. Aside from work, there will times you will need to be a referee, counselor, parental figure, or dictator. You will need to give empathy as well as tough love. You will also need to know when a problem is beyond you, and you must be able to guide them to the resources that will provide the best help. Most importantly, you will need to perform therapy on yourself each day, so you always maintain a level of professionalism no matter what circumstance comes up. If you stay “in touch” with those you manage, you will be able to recognize a problem and resolve it while it is still manageable and minor.
Thing 3, You Are Now A Four Letter Word
You are now the BOSS. The buck has to stop with you. You will need to resolve issues decisively, quickly, and firmly. How you act in “the heat of the moment” will determine how others will feel about you leading them. Are you worthy of their respect? Rest assured, even if you think you are treating everyone fairly and respectfully, someone will lash out at you. You will be called a four-letter word other than “boss.” An employee I thought I had been treating well came to my office to speak with me. They told me how they felt I was always giving the best projects to others and passing them over. This criticism came out of “left field,” and I had never, ever expected it from this employee. Situations like this will materialize in many shapes and forms. Sometimes, you will upset the ones you lead. They may not like you at times, but they will need to respect you if you all are to be successful.
Leaving early for lunch and coming back late while holding others to a tight timeframe sends the wrong message. It says, “do as I say and not as I do.” It will breed resentment and disrespect. Striking a balance between being the hard-ass boss and the push-over will be crucial to everyone’s success. Being one way more than the other can push good people away or start a revolt. Being the “boss” will always mean someone will not like you at some point.
Follow this simple advice, and you will create a solid foundation to build on: Treat everyone like they are family, but always remember you are the parent. Eat lunch (or have break-time) regularly with your team. There is no better way to build camaraderie and build trust, not to mention keeping “your finger on the pulse” of your group. And lastly, hold yourself accountable to the same degree as your team. Problems are not always created the people doing the work but sometimes by the person directing the action.
Additional Good Reads:
Here are some other well-written articles that can give you additional insight and leadership tips: