What does it mean to be a leader? Being a leader is about responsibility to yourself, your organization, and, most importantly, your team members. A great leader understands the power of building a winning process for a sustainable, high-performing team.
In the nearly 20 years since I created the human performance company EXOS, I’ve discovered there’s nothing more fulfilling than bringing a group of people together to achieve a far greater goal. And those decades also taught me so much about leadership.
Here’s what I’ve learned, and how you can apply it to your own leadership.
1. Never stop learning
If you look at a leader you admire, you’ll likely see a diverse resume with a variety of roles in the organization or even a completely different industry. Why is that? Leadership skills are transferable. Once you’ve built them, you can use them in any environment. And building these skills starts with learning everything about an organization’s vision, purpose, responsibilities, and strengths and weaknesses. Only with this information in hand can you start to prioritize problems, assign tasks to teammates, and excel.
2. Be a helper
Leadership is often mistaken as authority or power. But it’s exactly the opposite. Great leaders are focused on helping those around them, regardless of whether they’re above, below, or alongside them on an organizational chart.
The priority is to create an optimal environment and position each teammate to achieve success in their role. Each teammate’s success will then trickle to other parts of the business, helping move the organization closer to its goals.
Leaving behind the need to be the smartest person in the room or prove their idea is right allows leaders to focus on serving and solving in the best interest of the organization.
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3. Talk less, listen more
You’ve seen the pictures of leaders standing at a podium speaking to large groups of people. While these speeches come as part of any leadership role, they’re only a small part of how a leader spends his or her time.
The information and successes shared in those public moments come from countless hours spent in collaborative meetings. It’s in these meetings that the leader asks the right questions and listens as the teammates on the ground share insights and problem-solving techniques.
4. Look at the big picture
Setbacks are part of any career, and leaders aren’t immune. But great leaders can look past the disappointment and use their creativity to see all possible paths to success. They’re then able to map an efficient, lasting solution.
It’s in these tough moments that leaders need to know that they can achieve success — it’s just a matter of how long it might take. This growth mindset allows them to navigate a complex, evolving journey to long-term, sustainable solutions.
5. Live the culture
Organizations often tout their culture, but what is your organization’s culture?
If it’s about healthy living and creative collaboration and you’re driving yourself into the ground and shouting orders, your teammates see that. And what they take from that is that you don’t embody the vision and values of the company you’re leading. The result: a lack of trust in you and your organization.
So, build a genuine foundation for trust with your teammates by embracing your organization’s culture and leading by example.