Leadership lessons

At a high level, I think leadership still comes down to what I previously observed: know your stuff, and be a good person. But there are a few specific practices I’ve learned from great leaders and discovered to be helpful myself:

  • Ask people what they think you should do – Regularly go to your team and ask for feedback and suggestions on your personal behaviors and the overall team operations. They’re supporting you, after all–why not use their full knowledge? As a leader, the ultimate decision may still be up to you, but start the decision process as fully informed as possible. At the very least, asking for input will give people ownership in the team strategy and operation. Show your intelligence by asking good questions, not making up answers.
  • Tell your team when and how decisions will be made, and have it be on a predictable, regular schedule. Similarly, make sure they know when it’s time to hold questions for later. Decision time and execution time should be separate but predictable and regular.
  • Keep everyone pointed forward. It’s tempting to look sideways at your competitors, backwards at where you were, or straight down at your current location. But as a leader you should keep the focus on your chosen target, encouraging discussion in that direction and discouraging diversions in the others.
  • When you ask people to any meeting, ask them to tell you what they want help with and answers to. Similarly, be clear about what you want them to help you with.
  • Help each person on your team be the best they can be–individually. People have a wide variety of skills, interests, and opportunities, even in the same type of job. Helping them achieve their individual potential will often seem at odds with achieving the goals you planned. But if you empower people and encourage them to grow, you’ll likely get things you never imagined possible.
  • Ask people what they need to do great things. This might be tools for their work, training to become better, resources for a project, connections to other people, or time to reflect and reset. As an individual, one of the best practices I’ve found is simply asking for what you want. As a leader, make sure your people do that.
  • Talk about things from others’ point of view. It’s easy to phrase everything in your terms, with your goals and milestones (“Everyone will report weekly to me”). Instead, try to explain changes and requirements from the perspective of your team–how this will change their work, or how it will help them (“Every week I will be available for reviews and feedback”).

More to come…I hope!