Corporate America can often be a bottomless pit of pressure, stress, long hours, troubled relationships, competition and angst. Leaders can be slaves to the “bottom line,” and employees can be the rats on the proverbial wheel that builds the bottom line. The best leaders, however, are able to manage the pressure for themselves and their employees, minimize outrageous demands placed on staff and, most importantly, create an environment that is supportive and dynamic rather than cutthroat.
Great leaders do several things that set them apart. These include:
1. Lead with their hearts. Great leaders are influential human beings who care about other human beings. They establish genuine relationships with their employees and care what happens to them both personally and professionally. They are not governed first and foremost by the bottom line, even-though they repeatedly increase the bottom line.
2. Encourage creativity rather than being threatened by it. Great leaders encourage creativity and understand that with new ideas come mistakes, challenges and perhaps steep learning curves. They want their staff to be innovative and understand that not allowing ingenuity will lead to robotic employees and stifled companies.
3. Guide, don’t shame. Along with innovation come mistakes. Great leaders help their staff to learn from their mistakes and grow from them rather than shaming them for making any.
4. Create an atmosphere of collaboration, not competition. They’re quick to set limits on in-fighting among staff, they set up a clear set of rules to be followed in and outside of team meetings and they have no tolerance for undermining, employee bullying or any toxic behaviors done in front of them or out of their sight.
5. Model what they want their employees to master. They’re respectful at all times, available and open to critical feedback. They’re accountable, authentic and transparent in their actions and thinking and ask the same of those around them.
6. Manage conflict rather than being managed by conflict. Great leaders are not hotheads, over-reactive or emotionally unsafe to their employees. They’re able to manage their emotions calmly, rationally and powerfully—their “power” is power from within rather than power over. They lead; they don’t bully. Great leaders have nothing to prove and no need to put staff “in their place” for any reason.
7. Tackle issues head on. Great leaders do not duck from hard conversations—they have them with compassion and respect and… they have them. They address issues in the moment whenever possible, make difficult decisions that may not be popular and teach their staff to do the same. They address any fallout from these conversations directly and with compassion as well.
There is no doubt that the demands in business can be very high. Leaders have enormous expectations placed on them daily and companies are going under all the time. However, great leaders lead greatly. They’re clean in their energy, their behavior and in their leadership style—and everyone around them feels that healthy energy. Their leadership is inspiring, and a refreshing change from the traditional power over leadership style of old. The environment they create is dynamic, respectful, innovative and demanding (of a person’s best work), while also having a lightness about it that’s exciting, inspiring and supportive.
Challenge: When and if you find a leader able to do the above—learn from them; stay as long as you can, soak up their knowledge, watch how they interact under pressure, note how they get the necessary results without burning out their staff and count your blessings for having a true mentor—there are so few.