Leadership Style Points
“Tell me about your style of leadership.” I’ve heard some variation of this question a lot lately. This is generally how I answer it…
…But before we begin, let’s get one thing straight: I’m no expert on leadership. I’m just a guy doing his best to be a good human. I happen to land in positions of leadership because of my natural tendencies and the fact that I say what’s on my mind when needed. I don’t seek out titles of authority because I need to feel important…at all. So maybe there’s an implied first part to my answer…
I don’t think of leadership in a hierarchical manner. I work with people. People don’t work for me. My job as the designated leader is to make sure people on my team have what they need to do their job and gain satisfaction from their efforts. I’m in a support role. The term “servant leader” is somewhat clichéd at this point, but it doesn’t make it invalid. It’s a good approach. A humble approach. When my goal is to compose my team of people smarter than me, it’s easy to want to serve them.
I hire adults and treat them as adults. It’s amazing how awesome teams perform when they’re not treated like children. Adults take responsibility for their actions. They show up and get stuff done because their team depends on them and it’s what they’re paid to do. They don’t need constant praise, but appreciate recognition.
I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: All relationships — including work relationships — depend on trust and empathy to be healthy and to facilitate mutual respect. Trust depends on constant transparent communication. Empathy requires us to consider what battles someone might be fighting that we don’t necessarily know about. If we can lean on each other as teammates with mutual respect, there’s almost nothing we won’t do for one another to achieve common goals.
Experience is maybe the most valuable thing I can give my teammates (particularly younger teammates) as a leader. “Experience” is just another word for mistakes we’ve learned from. I‘ve been given a lot of experience in my career and have a lot of leaders to thank for trusting me enough to get it. I will always give folks enough rope to hang themselves and enough support to prevent them from doing so. When mistakes are made, we simply learn from them, celebrate them, and try to make sure we know how to prevent them in the future — hopefully with some system or automation. Errors of commission are always welcome over errors of omission.
Lastly, ownership is the key to a great team. Owning the challenge of the day/week/month/quarter/year will yield the best outcomes for the organization as well as the individual. At the organization level everyone will put their best effort forward to deliver results. At the individual level people will realize higher satisfaction from their efforts. It’s the proverbial win-win and harkens back to my points on experience a bit. Being given the opportunity to own whatever “it” is allows us to tackle challenges with purpose and empowers us to make decisions that we believe will get us the best results. Ownership also has built-in accountability — paramount when your team and the future of your organization depends on your efforts. On one of the best teams I’ve ever been a part of we literally ended our daily stand-ups by saying out loud as a group, “We will own it.”
That’s it. Simple. Simple doesn’t mean easy. Like I said at the beginning, I’m no expert. This is just a summary of what I’ve learned so far. I’m 100% positive that more years on this planet will evolve and refine much of what I’ve written today.
Here’s the TL;DR:
- Treat people like adults
- Trust + Empathy = Respect
- Create opportunity to gain valuable experience
- Own it at every level