All too often new leaders are thrown to the wolves and expected to survive with nothing more than a quick go get em’ sentiment from the powers that be. Then about six-months (or 10 -years) later someone in HR says, “We should probably send you to a workshop on leadership.” And the leader is now thinking, that may have been helpful before sending me into the lion’s den.
Here’s my advice for new leaders. I guarantee if you follow this advice your role as a leader will be easier, and you’ll feel better about who you are and what you’ll accomplish in your career. I have just one request before sharing my insight. Pay it forward. Share the blog with a leader who needs a little help and inspiration today.
Here’s my advice for new leaders (or the new leader at heart):
- Leadership is service. Leadership is about serving people. Don’t let anyone tell you something different. Always make sure you’re facing the right direction–toward the people you’re leading and not the people leading you. If you follow this basic advice your team will work hard for YOU because they respect you, and your boss will thank you for it.
- You’re leading people not cogs. Every person on your team is a human being; a human being who loves, laughs, hurts, cries and suffers just like you. When you have a decision to make, remember this truth, and choose kindness. You will have moments in your career when you have to be firm, make decisions that impact the bottom-line and follow-through on consequences–that’s okay. That said, when you make those decisions, do so with respect and compassion for the people who give you their time and energy everyday.
- Don’t compromise. Some higher-ups and peers will try to convince you to “desensitize”, separate business from personal and play the harsh political game–they’re wrong. You can’t separate business and personal–you’re one person. Stay human-centered. And don’t become one of them. Choose to surround yourself with ethical role-models that can help you navigate the corporate world.
- Great leaders have heart. Great leaders inspire others and model the way with compassion and integrity. Always choose to lead with high-character and you will always prevail.
- Choose to be a maverick! Stand up for what is right, even when it’s not popular and it may cost you your job–who cares. There’s another job out there that won’t ask you to compromise your ethics and integrity. Walk your truth, people will respect you for it. Most importantly, you’ll respect yourself.
- Leadership is about relationships. Never compromise time spent with the people on your team–they need you. Everything else is less of a priority. Period. Reschedule that meeting, postpone a sales call, tell your boss that you can’t meet. Your #1 priority is meeting with everyone on your team for at least 30-minutes every week. If you feel that all you’re doing is meeting with your team, good! You’re here to serve the people on your team, it’s not the other way around. If you do this, you’ll become a top performer because people will work hard for you. Why? Because they care about YOU, not the company.
- Don’t make conversations all about business. When you meet with people on your team ask them how they’re doing, how their family is, what they did on the weekend, or if their child is feeling better. Make it personal. Spend the first 30 minutes of your day walking around and talking with the people on your team. Care about the people you lead and they will care about you.
- Network. Don’t put yourself in a silo. Spending time with the people on your team is #1 priority, meeting and building relationships with everyone else is priority #2. Your team will no doubt ask you to pull off miracles: get more money, hire more people, attain more space, etc. If you personally know the right people in the business, and they like you, you’ll be able to move mountains. That said, people will only like you if you’re authentic. Don’t play the harsh political game. Always remember, givers gain! People will want to help you if they know you genuinely care about them as a person and want to help them succeed.
- Keep your word. If you say you’re going to do something do it. Don’t lie, fudge the truth or withhold information for any reason. If you have been asked not to share confidential information simply say, “I’ve been asked not to share information at this time. The moment I have approval to share more I will let you know.” If you lie for any reason, your team will never trust you. Trust is the magic ingredient to engagement, performance and loyalty. Without trust you have nothing.
- Take care of yourself. Higher-ups and peers will try to convince you that working 12 – 14 hours a day is needed to get the job done. They’re wrong. One of the best executives I’ve had the privilege of working with once told me, “If you’re working more than 8-hours a day you’re doing something wrong.” And they were right. How is this possible? Remember, the people on your team are brilliant. In fact, they are most likely more brilliant than you at their job (this is a good thing). Ask them to help you. That brings me to my next piece of advice.
- Don’t be a control freak. Contrary to popular belief there are many different ways to get work done. You’re way is not always the best way. In fact, it probably isn’t. Give people the permission and protection to run the business in their own unique way. Yes, they will make mistakes. That’s okay. You’re job is to help them learn. If you find yourself working more than 8-hours a day, there’s a good chance you’re a control freak. Take a deep breath and let go. There’s hundreds of “tasks” that will come your way; your job is to figure out who can help you accomplish the work. Remember, your #1 priority is meeting with the people on your team, not writing the company memo. Yes, there will be times you need to roll up your sleeves to get the job done. That said, if your team is already helping, and you’re still working 12-14 hours a day, you may need to find another workplace that respects work/life balance.
- You are smart and talented. Although leadership can be incredibly rewarding and fun, it can also be incredibly hard. There are moments you will doubt yourself. There are times you’ll feel alone and that the world is against you. In those moments remember how brilliant you are. You were given the leadership role for a reason, you have the ability to succeed.
- Follow your intuition and honor your heart. Always follow your intuition, it will never steer you wrong. And most of all, follow your heart. If you’re not happy, don’t stay because of the “golden handcuffs”, you will serve no one well (especially yourself) if you’re acting from a place of obligation–and you will look back at your life with regret. Choose to love what you do, and people will love you for it.
- Last but not least…. have fun! Come on people, it’s not rocket science. Seriously, lighten up. At the end of the day, it’s a job. Life is about the lessons we learn and who we love. Keep perspective. And never sacrifice your happiness for the time clock.
Gina Soleil, is a speaker and acclaimed author of Fuel Your Business: How to energize people, ignite action and drive profit. She blogs and speaks about how to create a business where people are energized, feel good and are happy. Visit Gina Soleil and follow her on Twitter.