1. Leaders Set The Culture – the tone and personality of any organization is established from the top. But the teams bring that culture to life – shaping it and morphing it and turning vision into practice – every single day.
2. Leaders Over-Communicate – you can’t share information too often, and you can’t be too transparent. Clear, concise, frequent communication is an amazingly powerful tool. Minimize ambiguity, keep lines of communication open, and remember that all good communication is two way.
3. Leaders Are Decisive – great leaders delegate supremely well, but above all, they are decisive. To the extent humanly possible, they don’t kick the can down the curb – they create frameworks for decision-making, and aren’t afraid to make the decision. Relatedly, they create an environment of decisiveness…too much analysis paralyzes all organizations. Great leaders empower their teams to be decisive, and to make decisions without fear of reprisal.
4. Leaders Aren’t Afraid of Failure – failure is a daily event, and great leaders get on with it. They embrace the fact failure happens, learn quickly from it, adapt, and move on. This gives the organization confidence to make smart informed decisions, and to course correct as necessary.
5. Leaders Give Praise, Often – you can never say thank you enough. Giving credit where credit is due, often and in full view of others, is perhaps the most important trait of great leaders.
6. Leaders Keep the Bar High – great leaders set high expectations for those around them. As important, they communicate these expectations often to remove any ambiguity, and at the same time, provide the necessary resources to enable their teams to meet, or exceed, those expectations.
6a. Leaders Instill Confidence – great leaders are confident, by definition, but much more importantly, instill confidence in those around them. They don’t have to have all the answers, but do have confidence in those around them to find solutions and to deliver the goods. And great leaders don’t get scared easily – bad stuff happens all the time, like lawsuits, great talent leaving, clients leaving, and more – and through it all, great leaders press on, keeping focused on the bigger picture while directly dealing with the issue at hand.
7. Leaders Are Human – the best leaders, like the best parents, aren’t afraid to say “hey, I blew that one.” Or “hey, you’re right…I made the wrong call on that one. Thanks for fixing my mistake.” Great leaders don’t tear up at every sentimental moment (companies, after all, aren’t confessionals), but they do show emotion, they do apologize, they do show that they bleed when cut. To stay connected to their teams, leaders must show that they are, from time to time, vulnerable without being wimpy. And above all, that they don’t take themselves too seriously, or get caught up in the cachet of their title/trapping of leadership. It’s all a facade, anyway, and the organization knows that.
7a. Leaders Know That Leadership Is Personal – corollary to #7, great leaders know that there’s no better question than “How are you today?” Remembering birthdays, anniversaries, spouses names…are all part of being connected to the teams that create organizational value every day. Great leaders walk the halls, sit and chat, and are intimately familiar with the work of their teams, and as importantly, the personal ambitions of their teams.
8. Leaders Know When to Leave the Party – no matter how much a leader thinks everyone loves them, in reality, the party always gets more fun when the leader heads home. Great leaders know when to say “hey, thanks everyone…the drinks are on me, but I’ve got to head out now. Have a blast, see you tomorrow”.
9. Leaders Don’t Ask of Others What They’re Unwilling to Do Themselves – if a leader asks others to go the extra mile, or three, the leader must be prepared to do it herself. Weekends, evenings, hard travel, whatever…leaders show up, offer the right assistance, lead by example.
10. Leaders Know How To Use These Phrases, Often – the most powerful words great leaders can share with their teams:
“I’m counting on you”
“I trust you completely…run with it, holler if you need me”
“You were great today”
“What can I do to ensure your complete success?”