There are plenty of good leaders out there, but what drives them to greatness? We’ve all heard the phrase “good is the enemy of great.” But what does that really mean? The journey to excellence begins with having the right people on your bus. According to management expert Jim Collins, having great people on your bus in the right seats will get you part-way there, but you still have to drive the bus.
There are plenty of good leaders out there, but what separates the good ones from the great? We have consistently seen ten actions, all of which must be juggled simultaneously, that great leaders demonstrate.
GREAT leaders know what motivates their employees.
Understand how your employees are motivated — some are driven by money or title, and others are inspired by achieving work/life balance and flexibility. Great leaders understand each employee’s priorities and find ways to create value for them and their business. The challenge is that there is no “one size fits all” approach. By spending time with your employees to understand their interests, both inside and outside of the office, you’ll be discovering what motivates them to do their best work.
GREAT leaders empower their teams with knowledge and coaching.
In “Establishing Culture and a Plan for Scaling,” Jeff Weiner mentions that leaders and organizations should coach their people to solve problems for themselves, which is where you start to achieve scale at the leadership level. This continues as you coach others to coach their teams. Coaching, mentorship, employee development, and understanding and taking the time to understand what someone wants to achieve in their career, their hopes and their dreams, their fears, their insecurities, their vulnerabilities — only then can you start to identify their true strengths and where you can then complement those areas where they need help.
GREAT leaders surround themselves with GREAT people.
You don’t always have to be the most intelligent person in the room, but you do need to surround yourself with the most intelligent people and people with the most varied backgrounds and skills that are different from yours — all focused on a shared vision.
GREAT leaders set their teams up for success.
It can be challenging for leaders to transition away from “if I want something done right, I should just do it myself.” Great leaders need to ensure that their employees have the opportunity to learn, make decisions, and operate independently. Loosening the reins fosters growth on your team and frees you up for higher-level tasks. A key part of this step is setting clear expectations with your employees from the start so that everyone is working under the same assumptions.
GREAT leaders challenge and stretch their teams – and raise the bar.
As employees demonstrate their capacity to work independently, great leaders will continue to find ways to challenge existing skill sets or stretch them to fully own areas of a project. Encouraging an open dialogue is critical to ensure that you’re not “piling on.” Building a culture of constant skills development will keep your employees from becoming stagnant and make your employees more valuable to the business. Encourage your teams to perform and achieve their own personal best without fear of failure or roadblocks hindering their growth, inspiring them to go beyond good performance to find their greatest and best performance.
GREAT leaders give employees the freedom to make and learn from mistakes.
Challenging employees to take on new tasks and expand their skills will inevitably lead to mistakes. Mistakes are a big part of success, and if you’re not making them, you’re not challenging yourself or your team enough. Great leaders give employees the freedom to make and learn from their errors. You can minimize the risk to the business by assigning tasks outside of someone’s comfort zone in low-risk environments whenever possible. Providing timely feedback on what went well and what could have been better is critical to the learning process. Also important is acknowledging your own mistakes to demonstrate accountability.
GREAT leaders know when to show some ‘tough love.’
The most effective leaders are often the ones that can give the most uncomfortable feedback. They know when and how to have tough conversations. This is about holding your employees to a high standard that you know they can live up to. By understanding your employees’ capabilities and having a constructive conversation if they are not performing at their best, you will build an unstoppable team!
GREAT leaders go to bat for their team. Do your employees view you as an ally? Building trust goes both ways in this working relationship. You need your employees to trust you just as much as you need to trust them to provide you with consistently great work. Often, you are their only representation in discussions with other leadership team members. If your employees trust that you have their back in these conversations, they are more motivated to do their best work for you and maintain a mutually beneficial relationship.
GREAT leaders teach their employees to act like owners.
Most successful companies at scale are companies where employees talk about the challenges a company faces as “we” and not the “company.” One of the most important attributes of any successful company at scale is an employees’ sense that they are part-owners and stakeholders in their work. This identity fosters a culture where problems can be spoken about as “we” versus just “the company.” The essence of scale is about participation. For an organization to grow, it needs people invested in that success – from the top down.
GREAT leaders never stop learning.
One of the most extraordinary things about life is that there are always new things to learn and experience. It’s a constant journey of self-improvement, where every day offers an opportunity for growth and success in whatever form it takes! Learning from others and believing in continuous improvement is essential for every great leader. Every day there is an opportunity to learn something new, grow as an individual, and make your successes happen. We never stop learning, and life never stops teaching.
GREAT leaders are thoughtful and deliberate, not impulsive and reactive. Leadership comes from the heart and evolves through years of learning, making mistakes, and growing. With every mistake, there is a lesson learned; with every win, there is a story to share about your journey. Great leaders know how to listen receptively to what is said and not said; they understand and empathize with others, all while being committed to the growth of each person on their team.
Leadership is more than just effective communication and problem-solving skills. It’s also about understanding people and creating a thriving work environment where everyone can grow and succeed together!