Whether you manage one employee or a team or serve in your community or a commodity group, leadership is about investing in those around you. Little actions, such as the ones listed below, can equal big results.
Leaders are busy, which often makes them seem unreachable.
“Use your calendar as a forcing function to get you out and talk to employees,” says Vinny Boles, a retired Army major general and president of a leadership and consulting practice.
Ask: What are you working on? How is it going? “The answers will be the best indicator to find out how they are doing,” he says.
Employees might share concerns. “Good leaders look at what they can do to improve the situation—not just what caused the situation,” Boles says.
Be Brave In The Face Of Change
As a leader, you must motivate and encourage your team, particularly in uncertain times, says Jim Craig, goalie for the 1980 “Miracle on Ice” hockey team.
“Inspire your people to commit to the unknown,” he says. “Be proactive rather than inactive in dealing with change.”
Focus on the challenges you can influence, which will let you improve the skills that make your team competitive. “Success happens when you believe in winning and then you prepare to make it happen,” he says.
Showcase Servant Leadership
As the men’s basketball coach at the University of Kentucky, John Calipari focuses on inspiring his team. This concept of servant leadership turns the power pyramid upside down so the leader exists to support the team.
“Leadership is about serving everyone under you,” he says.
Calipari’s philosophy is for each teammate to serve as his brother’s keeper—on and off the court. “If they know ‘I got you,’ they can fail fast and try new things,” he says. “We win or we learn. We never lose.”
Seek Input On Decisions
Conflicts arise when people feel they weren’t involved in decisions that affect them, explains Daniel Shapiro, director of the Harvard International Negotiation Program. This concept of autonomy is imperative for leaders to understand. Strive to involve your team when making decisions.
“You still have the authority to make the decision, but you’ve engaged them in the process,” Shapiro says.
Openly Praise Good Work
A small acknowledgement pays dividends. “When someone does a good job, make sure you know about it, and let that person know you know about it,” says retired four-star Army general and former U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell. “I write notes to a lot of people in my organization on little 4"x6" cards. It’s always handwritten; it cost me 10¢ and takes 10 minutes. That little 10¢ note is put in a $150 frame.”
“Your goal as a leader is to make sure your team has high levels of self-efficacy,” says Dave Mitchell, founder of consulting firm The Leadership Difference.
Self-efficacy is having confidence in your own ability to achieve results. “Basically, it’s the feeling that I’ve got this,” Mitchell says.
Train and encourage your team, and let them know it’s OK to make mistakes.