We’ve all experienced great leadership at some point in our lives. What defines great leadership? When I consider the greatest leaders in my own life – the ones who have moved me, helped me reach new heights, and the ones who I’d go to the end of the earth for, to make our vision happen – certain characteristics standout. These leaders exemplify the art of great leadership with a few simple and foundational practices:
- Bring out the best in others: A leader who takes time to understand each person’s strengths, helping them build on those strengths and creating an environment of personal growth will develop employees who are passionate about their work and enthusiastic to contribute. These employees love to come to work, because they continually build on each success with new successes. What leader in your life has recognized your gifts and helped you reach new heights? How can you build on your employees’ strengths and gifts?
- Paint the vision: You create a work place of inspiration when you paint a vivid picture of where you’re going! Take time to create sweeping, stretching and yet grounded views of the future – views that portray a future that everyone wants to be a part of. Your team will be engaged and willing to go that extra mile each day to make it happen. Who has painted big visions that you wanted to be part of in your own career? Do your team members share a common vision with you today?
- Give everyone whose future it is a voice: If people are involved in defining a path, they are much more likely to become part of creating that future. Engaging people early in the game creates a culture of ownership and participation. Do you remember initiatives when you contributed to the dreams of what might be – one where you helped define what the future looked like, how it would impact or help others? Chances are you went to great lengths to make that project a success. Do you give voice to our employees?
- Asking questions, and more questions, and more questions: Do you want to build on the wisdom of your organization? Your organization is filled with answers, ideas and thoughts. Provocative questions – questions that are far reaching and thought provoking – create a foundation of openness, learning and the spawning of innovative ideas. Consider your organization’s last big idea. Chances are there were provocative questions that provided the seeds to possibilities. Are you asking the questions that create new innovations?
- Lead with integrity: Integrity starts with your own values and honoring those each and every day. Integrity means honoring each team members’ values, strengths, and the essence of who they are as an individual. Honor the whole of your team, the whole of your company. Integrity means balancing both people and profit. Do you lead with integrity? Is it grounding your actions, your words and your interactions with others? Try the litmus test each day!
I’m certain that each of you have stories that exemplify these leadership qualities. I’d love to hear them! In the coming weeks, I’ll share my own stories, and explore each of these qualities in greater depth. In the meantime, I invite you to experiment. Engage your teams in new ways. Start the conversations, honor each individual. Chances are a few small gestures on your behalf will start a wave of change. A wave that creates engagement, passion, respect and action. A wave that grows with the passing of each day that we practice these leadership characteristics. Yes, I invite you to experiment!