Tuesday, September 27, 2022

Thoughts on leadership

 I often find, as I trip through my days, that patterns emerge. I suspect it has a lot to do with the availability heuristics (I love the availability heuristic, and the word heuristic) but also, I think the universe kind of hits you in the face until you pay attention. Lately one of the themes that keeps coming up has to do with leadership. 

I've been having conversations about leadership seemingly everywhere: at home, in client sessions, in casual conversations. Even more specifically the conversations have focused on the differences felt when you are in the presence of strong leadership versus when you are not. My response, when I'm asked, is often to advise people to pay attention in those situations because this is all great data whether you can actually affect change in the situation or not. It sucks when you first recognize that someone is falling short but it's such a gift for the future. 

But what are those intangible things that make great leaders? There's only about seven billion books written on the subject and honestly I find much of it bullshit. All the books and theories and motivational speeches feel so faddy (is that even a word?) and superficial. Here's what it boils down to (in my humble, obviously not superficial and faddish [that is definitely not a word] opinion) 

Don't be an asshole. Pretty straightforward, but surprisingly easy for people to screw up. Essentially, don't act in a way that you'd be embarrassed for your mom to see. Don't be mean to people. 

Promote the whole as greater than the sum of the parts. Your team, whoever or however it's made up, will not succeed on the shoulders of a single superstar and so if you focus on a single person it will fail. They will crack under the pressure and everyone else will underperform. In this same vein, you're not the leader because you're the best, so don't act like it. I have the most respect for leaders who are quick to take blame and give credit. I think it shows a huge amount of both confidence and humility and in my experience, people will move mountains for them. 

Be the person willing to go to bat for people. I have a couple of tests for leaders and one is, would this person back me up? It's a conversation I had with Eli about coaches. Someone can be super gruff and abrasive, but you will work your ass off for them if you know that if it hits the fan they'd be right behind you. 

Promote awesomeness. One of my greatest joys is seeing people succeed, and when I'm working for someone or observing someone in leadership you can tell that when they are focused on the success of the people around them. These are the people who don't use information as currency, who are constantly looking for opportunities to let people shine or grow, who are focused on people's successes and strengths. Who doesn't love that? But here's the clincher. Everyone is awesome at SOMETHING and people who are really good at what they do recognize that. 

I'm curious what other people think of when they think of good leaders? What do you look for, or what do you specifically try to avoid? And how do you manage when you're in the unfortunate situation of knowing you're not being led by a good leader? 

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