26 Leadership Thoughts

(Ideas Related to Each Letter of the Alphabet)

Authenticity: It sounds like a challenging concept but it’s actually quite easy – simply be yourself.  No B.S.  No facades.  That authenticity builds trust between you and your team. 

Bench Strength: If you’re not thinking about and doing rigorous succession planning, think again…Your job as a leader isn’t just managing today’s team – it’s also preparing tomorrow’s team and being ready for the inevitable turnover that comes with any organization.  Build your succession plan.  Now.

Courage: Take a stand for your beliefs.  Don’t let people get thrown under the bus – instead jump between them and the bus and take the hit.  Have some intestinal fortitude to right the wrongs around you despite the cost and risk to you personally.

Delegation: You can’t do it all yourself (even if you think you’ll do it better than they will).  The hallmark of a great leader is being able to let go and let one’s people do things while the leader sets direction, procures resources, and provides motivation.  Let go.

Entrepreneurship: Foster it.  Even huge companies were start-ups at one point in their growth.  Encourage your people to take risks, to build new things, and to challenge existing ways of doing business.  Your business will change.  Either you can change it or the world will change it for you.

Feedback: if you’re not delivering difficult messages to the members of your team when they need to hear those messages, you’re doing them a disservice.  Delivering a tough message is essential to great leadership. Learn how to deliver it well, and don’t forget to “feed-forward” for what you want to see in the future.

Gratitude: Demonstrate it.  Let people know you’re thankful for all they do to make you and the company look good.  Your team needs to know you appreciate their hard work.  A simple thank you note can go a long way.

Humor: See the funny in the frustrating.  When you step back from the frustration and the seriousness, work is pretty absurd and silly.  If you can see the humor in it (and help others to do so as well), the stress level in your organization will be significantly lower than it is today.

Initiative: Take it. Yes, this requires you to assume risk.  That’s the mantle of leadership.  Go out and make mistakes.  Who knows? You may actually get it right and have a huge positive impact.  And if you don’t, you’ve certainly learned something new.

Justice: Dish it out.  When you see unjust behavior, no matter how small, if you let it go without consequences, you’re implicitly condoning it.  Be fair, be fast, and be just.  No one said your job was easy and this will require you to deliver some tough messages. 

Knowledge: Build your knowledge daily.  Read.  Do research.  Look up words or facts you don’t know.  Talk with experts outside your field.  If you constantly seek new sources of knowledge, you’ll be better at spotting risks and opportunities than your competitors.

Leadership: You manage things; you lead people.  Remember – leadership is the art of influencing, setting direction, and inspiring others to take action because they share your vision and goals.  Stop thinking the management tasks you’re performing are leadership.

Managing Up: A major part of your job is buffering for your team.  You need to protect them from distractions and so they can get their work done.  You may be the only shield between them and corporate/company demands.

Negativity: Stop right now.  When the team hears you complaining, not only does it destroy morale, concern them, and make you look immature, it also gives them the right to complain themselves.  Negativity is a cancer.  Prevent it starting with yourself.

Opportunities: Are you creating opportunities for your people to grow, fail, learn, and succeed?  You have to create those stretch assignments and projects if you ever expect them to become more than they are today.

Philosophy: Every leader should have and share their own personal leadership philosophy.  It’s a simple statement of your beliefs and it will help you set expectations and maintain standards. Craft a clear concise philosophy.  

Quitting Time: We work to live, not live to work.  You set an example for balance for your team.  If you don’t know when to quit and go home, they’ll follow your bad example and you’ll burn them out.  Be reasonable about what you ask of yourself because implicitly you’re asking the same of them.

Responsibility: Accountability is an external force holding you to a standard of performance.  Ownership is holding yourself accountable to meeting the standard.  It’s intrinsic.  Make the leap from accountability to ownership.

Strategy: Have one.  It doesn’t matter how big or small your organization is – as a leader you need to articulate a clear destination, goals, and define the path to get there.  If you don’t, your people are wandering aimlessly.

Thinking Time: Carve out at least 4 hours per month to do nothing but think.  Remove distractions and evaluate the major issues your organization faces.  Your job is to look out over the horizon – not to look down at the road you’re driving on.

Under-promise – Over-deliver: Make commitments you know you can keep but always seek to surprise to the upside.  Too many people over-promise and under-deliver, which is a recipe for disaster.  Manage expectations well but then give people more than they thought they’d ever get.

Vision: You need to look into the future and tell people what to expect. Create a picture of the future that is inspiring. Their job is to drive and maintain the bus. Your job is to set the destination and keep your eyes on the horizon to look for unexpected bumps in the road.

Why?:  Ask this question a lot.  Ask why you do things the way you do and if there are new/better ways to do it.  Ask your people why they did something or why they feel a certain way.  You’ll understand them better and be better able to lead them. 

Xenophobia: Avoid it. We’re increasingly global and interconnected.  Celebrate the diversity of your team, your partners, and your customers.  Go to faraway lands to find new people, new opportunities, and new perspectives.  Stop being insular. 

Yelling: Seriously?  No yelling in the workplace unless you’re trying to get someone’s attention as a 1 ton anvil falls from the sky toward their head.  Yelling is crass not to mention ineffective.  Besides, speaking calmly and softly is much, much more effective.

Zebra Cakes: always have some on hand.  They’re good for boosting blood sugar during afternoon doldrums.  I mean, who doesn’t love Zebra Cakes?

Which letters are your favorites?  What would you add to this list?  Adapted from:

Mike Figliuolo – thoughtLEADERS LLC