The new era we’ve entered feels hungry for improved leadership. Maybe it’s because we’ve had a nice nine-year run of economic growth that’s hidden our real business problems, and they are just starting to surface. Maybe it’s because more millennials are moving into leadership positions, and they are motivated by something deeper than monetary rewards. Whatever the reason is, this hunger is fantastic. The more people who care about improving their leadership skills, the better off our businesses and people will be.
As someone on a constant mission to improve as a leader, I have spent a lot of time evaluating, reading, and studying who I believe to be the best leaders in my life and in our society. Whether it’s Warren Buffett, Bill Gates, Pope Francis, Alan Mulally, Mike Krzyzewski, or Bill McDermott, I have noticed one potent insight about all of these leaders:
They understand their lives are not about them, there is a greater purpose and helping others is at the core of it.
If you’re part of the movement that’s craving to become a better leader, here are 5 things the best leaders do differently that you can emulate:
- Focus on the Fundamentals. I know I’m always making golf comparisons, but I just can help myself. The fundamentals of what the best leaders do differently are like grip, posture, and alignment in golf. Without being great at these, it’s tough to ever play great golf. These fundamentals include things like: having a mission; staying true to core values and beliefs; knowing how to hire the right people; and being committed to helping develop individuals.
- Set Attainable, but Challenging Goals. There are serious benefits to having a laser focus on attainable goals. Be sure to put some real thought into the goals you set for your team. Great leaders know how to challenge their team, but also help them reach their goals.
- Constantly Show Progress Towards Goals. Sports games have scoreboards for a reason, to show both teams and the fans the results of the game. Showing progress towards goals, whether it be daily, weekly, monthly, is a requirement to be a great leader. I keep my team’s goals written at the top of a whiteboard in our meeting room. Every time we have a meeting, they are there for everyone to see. And every time we take a step closer to the goal, it’s documented and progress is visible. By showing progress my team not only maintains their motivation to achieve the goal, their focus also remains on the steps needed to get there.
- Expect the Best From People. People want to work for people who not only expect the best from them, but also expect the best for them. In order to expect a lot and get it in return, you have to exhibit the traits that show you’ll do everything you can everyday for them as well. In other words, the proof is in the pudding. Things like trust, respect, confidence, and honesty are core characteristics you have to give in order to get from your people.
- Celebrate Successes. All humans crave appreciation – it’s a fact. As teams or individuals reach goals or hit milestones celebrate their successes. Tell them how much you appreciate them and the work they do. Many of the great leaders celebrate success verbally in front of the entire team. Others write a hand written thank you note. The key is that there is some recognition along the way. These small acts make a big difference and continue to drive your team in a positive direction.
Leaders have the amazing opportunity to influence and change people’s lives. What’s even more amazing is, positive energy you put out today will be paid forward tomorrow, and the next day. It will become the legacy you leave behind.