Like all great personal accomplishments, leadership is something you must work relentlessly to get better at. Even then, the gains are incremental at best and always subject to setbacks. Just when you think you’ve figured the leadership puzzle out, you do something kind of dumb like compromise one of your own rules, rip into one of your employees in public, or launch a new project and then tell everyone about it.
There may be no limit to the number of faux pas a leader can commit, but with determination and a commitment to personal change, all leaders can find that elusive path to integrity, improved communication and good judgment.
Collectively, it is the leader’s thinking and behavior that defines a company and its culture. The challenge is getting a leader to shed the stuff that detracts and interferes with a company’s ability to perform at optimum levels of consistency.
For leaders of companies large and small, functional and dysfunctional, I offer the following no-compromise leadership daily workout program:
- Show up as fearless leader: I use the term “fearless leader” to remind owners and leaders that they are the ones under the microscope. Employees take their cue from their leaders. If you show up in a bad mood, the company will be in a bad mood. If you show up defeated, employees will have little inspiration to fight to achieve goal. Yes, it’s hard to be “always on,” but isn’t that what you signed up for as leader?
- Set the drumbeat: If you want your company to move faster, beat the drum faster. Everyone needs help keeping up with the beat that establishes your company’s rhythm and sense of urgency. If your sense of urgency dial is set on ten, it’s your job to set everyone’s sense of urgency dial on ten.
- Everyone matters: Leaders that put themselves above others are contaminating their company’s culture. Their thinking and behavior communicates that some people - especially themselves - matter more than others. Everyone deserves a “good morning.” Everyone appreciates a leader who takes a personal interest in his or her work or personal life. Everyone deserves respect. Being ignored or taken for granted is a common demotivator that is easily rectified by paying attention to those around you.
- Track and keep score: It’s hard to play and win the business game when no one knows the score. It’s even worse when the leader says, “we gotta do more,” but gives little attention to the score or where the company’s critical numbers are. Every day is another chance to drive progress toward goals. Every day should begin with a fast briefing on where you’re at and what needs to be done.
- Let information flow: In business, surprises are not usually a good thing. Predictability and consistency is what every leader strives for - and that means fast and furious information flow at all levels of the company. Everyone must know the vision, mission and plan. Everyone must know what the new promotions are. Everyone must know and understand performance expectations. Everyone must know who to go to get an answer. Everyone must know deadlines.
- Own it first: Blame wastes time and feeds needless drama and stress. Sure, someone down the line may have made a mistake or a poor judgment call. The faster you own it as the leader, the faster you and those involved can find a solution to fix it. It’s hard for people to learn from mistakes when they get beat to a pulp. It’s better to reach out your hand and help with the fix.
- Trim your tough decision checklist: Every leader has a list of tough decisions that need to be made. Procrastination makes every tough decision tougher. Pick one on your list and commit to checking it off. Before you know it, you’ll have less stress and see that many of those tough decisions weren’t so tough after all.
- Acknowledgement: You have people doing great things in your company every day. People that step up when others don’t. They are the unsung heroes that rarely get to interact with their leader. Take time every day to show a little love and appreciation for individuals that give their all and believe in what the company stands for.