I often say that not all managers are leaders. They’re supposed to be, but they’re not. They either don’t have the skills to do it properly or don’t care as long as they think they can get what they want. I say it that way because sometimes they do… but it’s never sustaining.


It’s not always easy to be a good leader. Depending on circumstances, it can be taxing. As much as I like to think I was always a pretty good leader, there were times when the stress got to me for brief periods here and there.

With that said, I can honestly say that, though I wasn’t perfect, I was pretty good when it came to dealing with things and interacting with employees an overwhelming amount of time. That’s because I stuck with certain standards of leadership that, if one can master, will lead to way more success and calmness than not following them. Let’s take a look at these 5 items:

1. Leaders Listen

I’ve always been a pretty good listener… to a degree. I was good at hearing what people were saying to me, but early on I wasn’t always good at interpreting what people were meaning to convey. I’ve always been pretty literal, so I acted on what people said without realizing that their meaning might not have been as specific.

Years later, I became a much better listener. It’s not that I wasn’t still literal, but I would affirm what I was hearing to see if we were communicating properly. It’s in following that process that I learned that my employees didn’t understand all of the terms we were using on a regular basis that defined our departmental success. We really started to hum once I took care of that issue, which I’d have never known about if I hadn’t, in this case, listened to what they “weren’t” saying. Listening isn’t always related to sound.

2. Leaders Set The Tone


When I had my first job in health care, the overall manager of the department was one of those people who spoke quietly but wielded a very heavy stick. It was so powerful that, instead of most of the supervisors actually doing their job, then became spies against other supervisors and the employees under them. This made the manager thrive at what she wanted but made the working conditions for the employees and most of the supervisors untenable.

When I was in the direction position I set a much different tone than that. Each supervisor was responsible for the employees in their team and had to work as a team themselves. Not only did I have meetings with the supervisors but I set things up so they had their own meetings with each other at least once every few weeks. I didn’t want them ratting on each other; I wanted them working with each other and me so that we could succeed as a unified group.

We did very well working like that, but the best thing that happened is that we had not only a structure that worked but general peace and trust. We set a standard that led other directors to ask me how I achieved what I did; that was pretty cool.

3. Leaders Support Those Who They Lead

I have a friend who worked at a company for nearly 25 years. We’d sometimes have lunch together, and most of the time she’d spend the entire lunch complaining about the manager she reported to. The woman was vindictive, stole ideas from other employees, didn’t know her job and was all around miserable to everyone. I tried giving her advice, telling her what I’d do in her situation, but she was always too scared to follow it.

I’ve always taken the position that my employees come first, and that their needs have to be addressed before those of others outside of the department. That comes with the caveat that you have to make sure you support them when others are abusing or accusing them of something.

I often tell the tale here of how I had to support the employees who reported to me on the very first day I started one job. I’ve actually had to do that 2 other times, once as an employee and once as a consultant, before I even knew who they were. It helps to establish a camaraderie with people from the beginning and often results in undying loyalty. It’s also always the right thing to do.

4. Leaders Make Sure Everyone Can Win

I’ve never made it a secret that I hate the term servant leadership. With that said, I do believe that when there’s a leadership – follower situation (since it’s not always about work) that each side has to get something out of it for everything to work properly.

Two Fairfax Leaders
Will Marlow via Compfight

Have you ever wondered why drug cartel leaders get unfailing loyalty from those who work for them, even though they can be very cruel? One reason is that they share the wealth; maybe not all of it, but when compared to corporate leaders they share more with their followers than corporations do.

They also give those who work for them a lot more leeway in making their own decisions, a chance to show what they can do to prove themselves so they might possibly advance later on. Making a mistake can get them killed, but compare that to someone who works at a company for 20 years hoping to get a chance to prove themselves but always being overlooked. The stakes are definitely higher but the rewards can make it seem like it’s worth the risk.

Good leaders make sure everyone has a chance to win. This might mean making sure everyone has access to the best training and tools. It might mean giving employees the chance to prove themselves without too much oversight by letting them make certain decisions on their own.

In a book titled The Baby Boomer / Millennial Divide by my friend Beverly Mahone, she quoted a statistic from the University of North Carolina’s Kenan-Flager Business School which stated that 80% of millennials want not only instant feedback and praise for doing a good job, but they want to know that they helped with the company’s bottom line. That’s how they feel they’re winning; that’s not too big of a price to pay is it?

5. Leaders Are Selfless

How hard is it to have an open door policy? How hard is it to acknowledge someone else in your department who showed themselves to be heroic in some way that helped both the department and the company? How hard is it to greet people in the morning, or say a kind word every once in a while?

From where I sit, these are common courtesy actions, but they’re also indicative of a selfless leader, someone who doesn’t worry about the glory or money they might receive over that of anyone else, especially if it’s an employee of theirs. Satisfaction should come in the fact that if you followed any of the previous points mentioned above to the extent that your employees showed what they’ve learned and had an opportunity to shine. When one person benefits, everyone does; that what being selfless is all about.
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