Last few months, I spent a considerable amount of time going through some leadership literature and conversations with a good friend in search for a valuable leadership development framework.
In the process, each of us crafted a list of leadership reminders: instructions we want to review frequently to help us avoid common pitfalls, and become the kind of leaders we want to be.
Here are my 22 leadership reminders:
1) My job is to “manage meaning” and make sense of where we are headed and why what they’re doing is crucial to get there. If I see further than others, it’s my responsibility to communicate that vision and path.
2) I’m expected to act with integrity and according to our values. When the leader doesn’t embody the values, everything crumbles. Without showing integrity, values are meaningless. Actionable values are the only way for leadership to permeate through every aspect of a team, community and institution.
3) My responsibilities are to lead us towards our vision, and to help each person reach their fullest potential. I’m not there to be their best friend. My job is to see that they do their part for our cause, and to be the discipline they sometimes may lack to grow, no matter how much it hurts me or them to do so.
4) My success as a leader depends on my capacity to create new leaders. I work as a vehicle of our vision and values, and I must focus on cultivating leadership throughout the system so everyone can embody our vision and values as well.
5) I must consistently find time to reflect on my actions, our direction and ways to improve my leadership skill set. The axe that is my mind can’t get dull.
6) Every person I work with has more facets than just their professional side. For people to have the kind of intrinsic motivation that brings the best results and requires no managing, we must align their impact in the organization with their path to the full life they aspire for themselves.
7) A leader is a coach that tries to bring out the best of people. As a coach, I’m not there to provide answers but to help them solve their problems on their own. A coach that tells people what to do is lazy and selfish. I must “tame the advice monster.”
8) To improve our culture I must focus on language and relationships. Individual actions follow the way people talk and relate to each other.
9) I must remind people that “failure” is part of any growth and experimental process, and it should not be punished but rather analyzed and improved upon. A leader helps people embed learning and the chance of failure into a work process, instead of encouraging goal setting that has no chance of failure.
10) As a leader I must show the ways of system thinking, and stress the superior effectiveness of creating systems to solve challenges that arise over and over again.
11) I must dispense credentials, labels and titles only as confidence builders when necessary, but never as signals of someone’s performance or potential.
12) A leader shows more appreciation for people that solve bigger problems by imagining new ways to collaborate with others, than for those that can only excel through their individual and isolated efforts.
13) I must carry out clear punishment when someone disobeys the rules or values of the organization. If/when necessary, I must carry out the punishment in public to make an example out of the transgressor.
14) If I want people to grow, I must show more appreciation for their resourcefulness, adaptability and grit over their delivery of results that come easily and are to be expected of them.
15) A leader is always recruiting, always looking for the right people to join us in our mission. Some recruiting reminders:
- Look for values before skills.
- Be 100% honest with my weaknesses and our team’s and search for people that can cover them.
- When trying to fill a position, set standards and expectations first, and find the people who can check the boxes second (no matter where they are).
- Choose thriving talent at weaker systems over any talent at thriving systems.
16) A leader keeps people in the present, and reminds them that we have already succeeded and that’s what success looks like at that moment. A leader doesn’t show defeat, pessimism, negativity or deflation. “A leader is a dealer in hope.”
17) Every day I should be able to have a clear, specific answer to these two questions: 1) what do I want of my team?, and 2) what do I want FOR my team?
(The last reminders I borrowed from my friend’s list, since I think they are valuable for me too and he phrased them perfectly).
18) One-on-one conversations are useful, but triads are the leader’s way of communicating. I always try to loop someone else in on conversations. When problems strike, I ask myself “What triad, if formed, could solve this problem?”
19) I must remind the organization that crazy ideas are safe. We’re all better if we share our ideas and work through them together. Holding things in is a sin; speaking up is not.
20) I hold people accountable to their expectations of themselves and of their team. They set their goals and ways to accomplish them, but I help them aim higher and hold up an honest mirror of how they are performing on their way to become “world-class” in their particular field.
21) It’s my fault if people think too much or too little of themselves. For them to see where they stand and how to grow, I must provide honest assessments that are always a combination of appreciation and criticism.
22) A leader trusts, but verifies.