In a coaching session earlier this week, the person I was meeting with asked if I had a “top ten leadership tips”. After giving it some thought, I offer the following list (which should come as no surprise to those who follow my blog as I am sure I have touched on all of these — many more than once — in the last five years):
1. Holding a position of authority is not the same as being a leader.
A clear vision and engaged followers are what makes a strong leader, not the ability to demand compliance.
2. Take the time to get crystal clear on where you are going.
Going slow to go fast may seem counter-intuitive, but every decision becomes easier when you and your team know the destination.
3. Nice matters.
Make the hard decisions you need to make, and then be kinder than you have to be in carrying them out. It’s not about whether the other party is “deserving” of such treatment. Your behavior is a reflection on you.
4. Stand firm in your values, and remain open to change in everything else.
Unexpected variables will happen and may require a shift in tactics. Clarity on your underlying intent, however, will keep you on course.
5. Talk less. Listen more.
. . . And not to just those who confirm your thinking. Listen to people who disagree with you, people whose ideas seem unrealistic, who have life experiences that are different from your own. Wisdom and insight come from considering diverse perspectives.
6. As soon as you see yourself as an expert, you are sunk.
The minute you stop learning — when you think you have “arrived” — is when you start falling behind. You may know a lot, but there is always more to learn. Stay curious.
7. Don’t mistake a clear view for a short distance.
The really important stuff almost always takes longer and is harder than you predict at the outset. Persistence wins far more races that bursts of enthusiasm, so don’t quit too soon.
8. It’s not about you . . . really.
Leadership is hard, and it can be lonely, and at times requires a good pair of iron shorts. Presumably you didn’t step into this role for the glory, but because you believed in the larger mission. When you keep your focus there, the hard stuff feels less personal.
9. Be brutally honest about your current reality AND confident you’ll reach your goal.
Sugar-coating a situation does nothing to help you and your team move to a different spot. Acknowledging where you are increases the likelihood you’ll find a path to where you want to be.
10. You always have a choice.
Rationalizing that “you don’t have a choice” takes your power away as a leader. You always have a choice. It may be choosing between two difficult options, but part of being a leader is making hard choices. If it was easy, anyone could do it.
What would you add to this list?