As Matt and I have been doing our Leader.Team business podcast, I’ve been thinking more and more about leadership.
I don’t do these perfectly every day, but reflecting back on what’s worked, and essential, to do consistently, here are the 5 things I believe great leaders do daily:
1. Shows up.
Leaders have to simply show up, do the work, alongside their team.
This should be assumed, but it isn’t always.
I said “daily” instead of “every day” because you can’t possibly show up 365 days a year, never taking time off, and show up for the long haul.
There are times you can’t or shouldn’t show up. We all need rest and recharging.
There are times when you’re not right or healthy (see next point) and then you shouldn’t show up, but you should as best you can, explain why you aren’t showing up. But if you’re “on the clock,” you gotta show up, be available and do the work.
Showing up says, “I’m with you. Let’s do this.”
2. Shows up healthy.
You have to tend to your own happiness and health first as a leader because if you’re not healthy, your team won’t be either. And I’ve shown up very unhappy and very unhealthy.
I know though that when I walk through my office door I need to be healthy. If my mood is terrible, it cascades to the team.
So I take my health and happiness seriously. Thus, I see my counselor several times a year, and in between when I am struggling through something. And try to maintain health in all areas of my life, not just for myself, but for my team.
A happy, healthy leader permeates through a team … it helps raise everyone up.
If leadership had a one-word definition, it would be: Care.
Or three …. Genuinely, consistently cares.
It is all about empathy — “understanding and sharing the feelings of another.”
When I don’t take the time to listen and understand others, I make mistakes.
I know every decision I make affects people. If I don’t care about people, I make stupid, selfish, team-eroding decisions.
Put communication on repeat. The more I clearly, consistently communicate the better we are together.
Most good communication I’ve found is more about the why, then the how.
And honestly — sometimes I get really tired of saying the same things over and over and over again, even if it’s to different people. But good, consistent communication is the key to leading people. It’s an essential part of the gig.
I can always tell when I’m not communicating because that’s when rumors and conspiracy theories begin to fester.
In the absence of good communication, we, humans, will make things up. When we’re left to create stories that too often end up as horror, “end of the world” stories.
I can instantly recount numerous past experiences on teams where the leader didn’t communicate adequately with their team and I/we went straight to making it up for them. And in the process, it destroys morale and motivation.
The better word might be “collaborates” but I like partner better.
People are not cogs in a machine. We are a group of people on the same journey together.
It’s one of the reasons I don’t ever use the word “employee” for our people. I go to great lengths to say, “my team” or “team members” whenever I speak about them to others.
Using this kind of verbage is more positive, more respectful and view them as people and care about who they are on our team and to me.
It says: “We’re in this together. And you’re invaluable to us and to me for reaching our shared goal together.”
There’s been a theme throughout these 5 things great leaders to daily — it’s consistency. In fact, I shouldn’t have titled this post with the word “daily” but “consistently.”
I can simply set and forget it. They need to be tended to continually.
To become and remain a great leader, I have to do all these things over and over and over and over again.
If I don’t, it withers trust and respect for those who have signed up for our team, and can seriously jeopardize the journey we’re all on together.
Check out our Leader.Team business podcast for more thoughts and experiences Matt and I have had building and growing our team at iThemes.