Leading Through Change
Leadership is most tested during times of great change. If COVID-19 isn’t a time of great change, I don’t know what is! For some, there have been one or all of these stressors on their business:
System & Logistical - shift to remote, pivot to new systems
Workload - influx or decrease, burnout
People & Culture - conflict, remote communication, changes in focus, layoffs
The pivots businesses are forced to make to deal with the pandemic are highlighting what we’re doing right and where we can continue to grow. These are uncharted territories, and all of us can find new ways to rise to this occasion.
As John Quincy Adams put it, “If your actions inspire others to dream more, learn more, do more and become more, you are a leader.” But is your leadership style reaping the rewards you want it to, or do you find yourself constantly looking for ways to motivate and inspire your disengaged employees? Are you suffering from an outdated notion of a leader being the metaphorical loudest person in the room inflated by their own self-importance or do you simply want to improve your leadership style?
When we think of some of the greatest leaders of all time-- Gandhi, Churchill, Martin Luther King, Jr. as examples -- they were all inspired by something much bigger than themselves. Their leadership was never about their personal improvement it always had the greater good in mind. So how do we bring that to our own leadership challenges? Here are 10 mindset shifts to elevate your leadership skills today.
Lead by Example
If you want your team to be the finest at what they do, then walk the walk. Give it your all every day and have a positive attitude while you’re doing it. You can’t expect 100% if you’re only bringing 85% yourself. Be the embodiment of your company values, but don’t be untouchable. Make sure you’re accessible to your employees.
Trust Your Instincts
If you believe in and are passionate about your work, it’s much easier to inspire and energize other people. But leaders also have to know when to stay strong. Part of leadership is being innovative. That often means going against the grain of popular thinking and staying your course when most others disagree with you. Know when an idea is worth standing by, and don’t let yourself be swayed from what you truly believe.
Be Firm, but Flexible
On the other hand, you must be flexible. The best leaders aren’t authoritarian; they truly want to know what team members think and need to excel. They keep an open mind and are flexible enough to shift their position when needed. The more open-minded you can be, the more your employees will feel heard and valued. When people feel valued, they want to bring their best ideas to the table.
Cultivate Life-Work Balance
Don’t run your staff into the ground expecting them to have their nose to the grindstone 24/7. Make sure you help them to incorporate a life-work balance. Make it possible for other people to stick to this by practicing it yourself. It’s difficult to stop work on time to prepare the family dinner if you know your boss works late every night of the week. It creates an insidious culture where the company forever comes first.
Don’t Be A One-Man-Band
Show your team that you trust them by delegating responsibility for tasks. No one wants to work for a control freak who doesn’t believe anyone else can do the job as well as they can. Play to other people’s strengths and give them tasks that challenge and stretch them but are still attainable. Giving others responsibility shows that you believe in and value them.
Make sure your vision of the company mission and any tasks you assign are clear. If you’re concerned that you don’t communicate as effectively as you should, then get your employee to repeat back to you what they think you’ve said so you can make sure you’re both on the same page. Make sure your employees have all the info they need at the beginning of a task to make their job as smooth as possible rather than creating the need for them to pivot halfway through.
Show you Care
Have empathy for your staff, not just at work but within their life-work balance as well. Care about their advancement and how it helps them satisfy their goals as well as how it links to the company vision. Create a strong company culture that’s inclusive and considers everyone’s needs.
Don’t expect perfection. Give people the space to try and fail. If people are too afraid to make mistakes, the result is a team that plays small and never creates anything innovative. Big risks equal big rewards. Encourage creativity and autonomy within them. That doesn’t advocate being reckless, so make sure employees know their parameters.
When things do go well, make sure that you’re acknowledging the accomplishment. It can be a simple thank you or a grander gesture like recognizing the team member of the month. Either way, giving praise where it's due makes people feel recognized and inspires them to work harder.
Lead from the Back
"He stays behind the flock, letting the most nimble go out ahead, whereupon the others follow, not realizing that all along they are being directed from behind." – Nelson Mandela
This is how Nelson Mandela perceived leadership. Not charging along in front assuming people will follow your lead, but behaving as a shepherd walking behind to encourage the stragglers. Make sure no gets lost or goes too far off track along the way. This way, everyone arrives at the same destination together.
Be well. Be patient. Be kind to yourself and your team. We’re all going through a collective shift, and everyone is doing their best. You’re investing in your leadership skills and your team by reading this blog about how to keep growing. That is a clear sign you are on the right track.
Anna Wright is a freelance blogger and social media marketing maven. She lives in Los Angeles, CA with her husband Adam and son Eden.
Sarah Hunt is the client relations and marketing executive for David Couper Consulting. She also lives in LA and enjoys coupling writing with her hope to help people and organizations grow by DCC's mission.