Good leaders understand the importance of prioritizing the interests of those they are leading over their own. This is no easy task, even for the most accomplished leader. But it works because it inspires people to a higher purpose.
To evaluate and reflect on where you stand as a leader, and whether you are fit for the role, consider measuring your leadership skills against the high bar of the following five questions.
1. Are you open to feedback?
Many autocratic managers view feedback as a threat to their power, self-worth, and position, which explains why they are opposed to it and often react fearfully and defensively to feedback.
Great leaders, on the other hand, view feedback as a gift to improve their leadership so they can serve others and their mission better. They value truth and honesty and diverse perspectives for bettering themselves and their businesses. Even when feedback is negative, it prompts an exercise in curious exploration to find out where things went wrong so that it doesn’t happen again.
2. Is your work environment psychologically safe?
Research by Amy Edmondson of Harvard indicates that when leaders foster a culture of safety — where employees are free to speak up, experiment, give feedback, and ask for help — it leads to better learning and performance outcomes.
When psychological safety is absent, fear is present. And fear is detrimental to achieving a company’s full potential. We just can’t be engaged or innovative when we are afraid. Some subscribe to the notion that fear is a motivator in the short-term, but what fear does is kill trust — the ultimate demotivator.
3. Do you share the decision-making process?
Traditionally, an autocratic style of management has been effective in getting results. But the nature of work today, along with its workforce, has changed. Success in management today requires collaboration — not command. Asking people to take part in deciding the goals that they will be a part of is an essential component to engaging employees.
4. Are you communicative?
A leader’s ability to communicate is certainly a prized skill. The greatest investor of our time, Warren Buffett, remarks that investing in developing your communication skills — both in writing and in-person — “can increase your value by at least 50 percent.”
There is a difference between being a good communicator versus being communicative. When you’re communicative, you relay information consistently and clearly, in a way that makes you heard and understood.
Being communicative may also mean over-communicating a strategy or vision clearly and consistently over and over again. The message amplifies the why behind the work, brings shared direction to all teams, and allows everyone to focus on what really matters.
5. Do you lead with love?
Before you roll your eyes, love, in this case, is a verb packed with action behind it to help people flourish and businesses profit on a human level. According to Brian Paradis, author of Lead with Imagination and former president of Florida Hospital’s (now Advent Health) Central Region, a $ 4 billion company with more than 25,000 employees, love was one of the guiding forces he saw transform the interactions within his teams.
“Love is powerful and when you infuse it into anything, that thing gets better,” Paradis told me in an interview. He added that while love is often viewed as a soft skill in the often harsh, transactional business environment, “the concept should be hard-wired in day-to-day interactions and strategy meetings.”
By leading with actionable love and compassion, leaders set the tone of engagement within their businesses.