Elevate Your Leadership in 2016

When writing No-Drama Leadership which was published in 2015, I had the privilege to interview one of the greatest leaders of our time, Francis Hesselbein, former CEO of Girl Scouts of the USA. Frances defines leadership as a matter of how to be, not how to do, saying, “We have spent half of our lives learning how to do, and teaching other people how to do. But we know in the end it is the quality and character of the leader that determines the performance—the results.” My January article offers sixteen ways to elevate your leadership, with the emphasis on who you need to “BE” in order to achieve these simple but often neglected “to-dos.”

  1. Build Trust In order to build trust you must be trustworthy. This requires a habit of doing what you say you will do. You keep your word. You don’t say, “Let me get back to you” lightly. You speak truth kindly. You are careful not to give undeserved praise just to make someone feel good nor do you use honesty as an excuse to express your anger. Building trust takes a high degree of awareness and intentional actions.
  2. Master your Thinking We human beings think over 60,000 thoughts every day and over 70% of those thoughts are either repetitive or negative. When you think negatively and focus on what’s not working, you create new neurons for the purpose of negativity! To master your thinking requires the will to be a positive force.
  3. Use Powerful Language As a leader your language either makes you and others weak or makes you and others strong. What do you talk about more: what’s working or what’s not working? What’s possible or what’s impossible. What you want or what you don’t want? Using powerful language requires practicing new habits of talking, which also require new ways of thinking.
  4. Set Appropriate Boundaries One of the four reasons for relationship drama at home and at work is due to the inability to set appropriate boundaries. The key to setting appropriate boundaries is to let go of people-pleasing and pay attention to your emotions. If you find yourself feeling overwhelmed or resentful, chances are you have a boundaries issue, and you are sacrificing your own productivity and needs to make others happy.
  5. Connect and Communicate Leaders who connect know that it’s impossible to multi-task and listen to someone’s concerns. You have to listen. You have to pay attention. You have to have a dialogue. You have to carve out the time. The benefit is that connecting actually saves you time in the long run because you build trust, you get it right the first time, and you build loyalty.
  6. Promote Empowerment You don’t have to have all the answers, but you do need to ask good questions. Leaders who promote empowerment are willing to trust their people and mirror back to them that they are smart; they have answers, they are resourceful. When you find your choice you find your power. Leaders who promote empowerment stop rescuing others and instead, help others find their choices.
  7. See the Entire Picture The entire picture is different from the big picture. The entire picture includes all the parts and pieces, from shareholders, employees, vendors and customers. The shareholders want to get to the treasure chest on the island, the leaders want everyone to row harder and faster, and the rowers (employees) want a bigger seat cushion on the boat. And the vendors? They are there to sell you the key to the treasure chest and the better seat cushion to make the journey more pleasant. When you understand all viewpoints, you see the entire picture.
  8. Invest in Yourself Leaders who invest in themselves don’t wait for the company to pay for it. They read. They listen to podcasts. They even attend conferences and pay for coaching even if it has to come out of their own pocket. Investing in yourself requires an attitude of personal responsibility rather than an attitude of entitlement.
  9. Dial Up Certainty Dialing up certainty keeps everyone calm and productive. A leader can dial up the certainty factor through constant communication and keeping everyone updated on progress and upcoming changes. Too much uncertainty breeds gossip and the tendency to protect one’s turf. Leaders who want productive employees keep them updated regularly.
  10. See More for Others Leaders who see more for others also expect more from others. Leaders who see more for others are careful not to keep people in a box, for example, he is just a cashier, she just works in house-keeping. Speak to the vision of what is possible and inspire the employee to desire reaching his or her potential.
  11. Model Course-Correction Course-correction is as simple as admitting a past mistake, or owning the part you played in whatever problem is being experienced. Role-modeling constant public course-correction allows your employees to fully embrace personal responsibility and a learning mindset. The outcome is employees who are willing to accept responsibility and become accountable without fear of judgment.
  12. Avoid Ping Pong Leaders waste a lot of productive time getting distracted by arguments, innuendos and assumptions. Games of “Yes you did; No I did not,” why something is not fair, or who is to blame is a game of ping-pong with no real winner. Enlightened leaders know how to re-direct the energy to speak about the desired end result, while cleaning up any misunderstandings or past errors.
  13. Eliminate Defense Mechanisms We human beings are either in growth mode or protective mode. Evidence of protective mode include the observable behaviors known as defense mechanisms. Defense mechanisms include passive-aggressive behaviors such as eye-rolling, using sarcasm to make a point, and giving the silent treatment. Course-correct your own defense mechanisms first, set the expectations of the desired change, and then question those who exhibit these same behaviors.
  14. Declare Your Values Sometimes a leader’s personal values clash with corporate values. Knowing in advance what you hold dear will help you in times of change to be courageous and take a stand.
  15. Create a Learning Environment When people feel the freedom to learn they are more likely to take full responsibility and actually seek accountability. When perfection is valued over learning and over course-correction employees eventually learn how to beat the accountability system to ensure job security.
  16. Be the Change Give what you want to receive. If you want more peace, be peaceful. If you want more respect, be respectful. If you want to be acknowledged acknowledge others. Your way of being will inspire the changes you seek.