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What is great leadership?


What is great leadership?

One of the hardest things a leader can do is to continue to care for others despite all the reasons not to.

True greatness is to refuse to get angry or frustrated in the face of bad things done to you or by those around you.  To never seek revenge or retaliation, but instead seek to understand the other’s point of view with care – this takes great patience and much practice.  

This starts with you and the example you set.  As a leader, you will make mistakes.  You will do things that don’t work.  You will say things that hurt people’s feelings.  This will just happen.  Your ability to forgive yourself and openly apologize to the entire group will set an example for all those you work with.  You will be admired for it.  It takes courage.  It will prove to them that it is safe to make mistakes and that it is okay to openly discuss mistakes.  

How will a team improve if they cannot talk about mistakes?

The team that is willing to discuss mistakes without anger, frustration, discipline, or punishment will learn from mistakes and understand better how to avoid them in the future.  The team that is worried about ridicule, discipline, looking stupid, punishment, and anger will avoid talking about mistakes and continue to make them forever.

Understanding is at the center of great leadership.  Understanding that most of your peers want to do things right and well.  Understanding that their intentions, no matter how it may appear on the surface, are probably good – no matter how bad it may look.  

It is easy to find fault or wrong in the work done around you.  It is easy to cast judgement and make harsh remarks.  You may want to act stern.  You may feel it is important to really impress on the other person the gravity of what they have done.  It is a trap.  It is why people don’t enjoy coming to work.  

It takes a genuine effort to patiently gather information in order to understand the other person’s point of view or why they felt what they did was right – despite how wrong it may have been.  To do so without harshness in your tone of voice and with patience on your face – this takes courage and hard work.  

You need those around you to succeed.  You cannot do it all alone.  You need them to come to you with problems and mistakes and issues.  They will never do so if they fear punishment.  Make it safe.  Make it okay.  Lead them with patience and understanding.  Share with them openly the mistakes you have made and be patient with them.  Make it safe.

Here is the challenge.  How do you make it safe enough for them to come to you with problems and mistakes?  How do you make it safe for them to do their job and complete tasks?  How do you positively encourage them to quickly bring things to your attention what you would want brought to your attention?

You have to make it safe by how you act.  No matter how much you may want to scold them or tell them how wrong they were, no matter how bad the situation may be, no matter how upset you may be – listen patiently.  Show care in your eyes and your tone of voice.  Focus on understanding the issue or problem and find a safe way to solve it.  Bring them with you.  Pick them up – help them rise above it.  Support them.  They want to be led.  Lead them.  They need you.  Ignore the bad, focus on what they did right and help solve it with them.  Let them know it will all be okay.  Then show them that it is.

It requires great courage and patience to care for others when things go wrong.  When a person argues with you or disagrees or does something that is just not okay.  Never shy away from handling the situation.  Just do so with patience and a desire to understand.  Do so without harsh words, an angry face, or impatience in your tone of voice.  

It takes practice.  You will mess it up.  All great leaders do.  It is okay.  Apologize when you do and work on doing it better next time.  

Happiness, a great work environment, and improving people’s lives will only exist in the absence of hate, fear, and punishment.  You don’t have to do any of this to be financially successful.  You can make money without any of what is written here.

Years from now, if you want your legacy to be one where people think fondly of their professional life and you in it, take what is written here to heart.  They will remember you as a great leader and one they prefer over all other leaders.  To care for and seek to understand those around you may be the single greatest thing a leader can do.  Do it well.  You will improve people’s lives in so doing.