Whether you have been thrust into a new leadership role or you have you been in a leadership position for awhile and need some new motivation, the New Year is a great time to renew your focus. I will not try to sell you the line that I am the best leader there is and that is what qualifies me to write this post. I’m not the best leader, in fact, I am new to leadership. I’ve been in many roles that have had some leadership aspect, but actually taking on a role that is clearly a leadership role such as a manager, Chief Master Sergeant, CEO or other roles, is something I am very new to.
When you think about the best leaders in the history of our nation, who do you think of? Some might think of Abraham Lincoln, Martin Luther King, Jr. or John F. Kennedy. What defines those leaders? All were leaders during a time of extreme struggle and hardship. Other great leaders such as Vince Lombardi, Billy Graham, and John Wooden all took a more inspirational approach to leadership. Whatever situation you find yourself in, you can find a leader that has eschewed the traits you aspire toward. Here are some key traits you should look to improve or become a better leader – whether you’re a CEO, Chief Master Sergeant, or leader of the Zoom posse at your house.
create a Call to Action
If you’re a leader who’s wondering why your team isn’t stepping up to the plate, maybe it’s because you haven’t given them a platform to stand on. On August 28th, 1963, Martin Luther King, Jr. stood at a pulpit on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, D.C. to give a speech in front of 250,000 people. Why did those people show up to hear this leader? It wasn’t because he was popular or a good speaker. They showed up because they were called to action. Simon Sinek points this out in his book Start with Why. Martin Luther King, Jr. got people to come because he called them to affect a change and there was no better place to do it than in our nation’s capital, and in close proximity to the White House. At the height of the civil rights movement, people were called to action, to change, be better, and work together. To be a better leader, get your teams to take ownership of their responsibilities and projects, call them to action, and watch them succeed.
Inspire and Motivate
Many leaders today believe they are inspiring people and motivating them, when the opposite is happening. Yes, they are motivating their people, but doing so out of fear. Don’t be one of those leaders, rise above and use positive reinforcement to motivate your teams. Recognition, kindness, and active listening toward every member of your team will motivate them more than you can imagine. Think of who inspires you. The people who inspire us the most are the ones who demonstrate the personality traits we aspire to. The golden rule applies here: treat your team and/or employees the way in which you expect to be treated. This will inspire them to be better and work harder not just for you but for the betterment of the entire organization.
Another great book by Simon Sinek called Leaders Eat Last, is a great resource for understanding how to become a better leader. In his book, Sinek talks about some of the military personnel he’s been able to meet. He relays a story about how he observed an officer, likely the leader of the unit, allowing his men and women to go ahead of him in line at dinner. He made sure every troop had been served before he was. This story demonstrates selflessness and how putting others in front of you and your needs earns their respect and will create trust between yourself as the leader and your “troops.” Take a note out of Simon’s book, and this officer’s behavior, to see how you can improve your leadership abilities. You may not be eating together but maybe you’re jumping at every high profile or important project, rather than letting your team take on visible opportunities within the organization. Maybe it’s giving team members more chances to speak in meetings, or present ideas to leadership. Regardless of your position, there are probably more chances for you to give your employees a seat at the table.
The New Year is a chance to take charge of your career. Even if you don’t think you are – you’re a leader. Make sure to give your teams a call to action, the motivation to perform, and a seat on the table.