Elevating your leadership | If your actions inspire others to dream more, learn more, do more and become more, you are a leader. – John Quincy Adams

Leaders ask questions

As you get an opportunity to meet with people who are tasking you and your team with a project or an operational or strategic need please remember to ask relevant, clarifying questions. Clarify all that isn’t clear and ask questions as soon as you have an opportunity. Don’t make assumptions that someone else sitting around that table will ask the questions you want and need answered, do it yourself. Leaders ask question, they ask good, relevant questions and you should begin making this part of your repertoire.

Having the answers will enable you and your team to make educated and informed decisions and take decisive actions as you move forward so ask questions when in doubt. It’s for your own good.

Hire people for their personality, character and abilities, not prestige

As you are expanding your team or replacing an employee who has recently left the company make sure to focus on the personality and abilities of that new individual, not the prestige they may bring. While the education and previous employment are absolutely important, don’t become enamored with “glamorous” companies or universities such as MIT, Harvard, Yale, Oxford, Stanford, Cambridge…as that alone will not guarantee a perfect fit for your needs. Quality of education and previous employment experience are certainly important, but don’t hire based on the names and brand awareness of those institutions.

In order to find that perfect fit needed today and valuable in years to come, one must focus on the individual as a whole, their character, personality and abilities. Seeing how they fit your team and how they will address immediate need and grow with the company is of crucial importance.

Managing stress of your team

As a leader, your reaction to stress and challenges speaks volumes to others around you. Your team looks up to you for queues and guidance of how to handle and resolve stressful situations no matter what they may be. So keep that in mind next time your are dealing with a challenging project, process, partner, client or an under performing quarter.

You need to stay cool, calm and collected and clearly communicate to your team that you are in it together and that you will work collaboratively to find a way out of this temporarily unpleasant situation.

Support your team unequivocally

As we know, in order to be successful if is imperative to be customer focused, yet employee aware at the same time. However, at times, these two important groups may come at odds which is when you as a leader need to act. Ideally, you would have been involved all along to avoid any negative escalation of issues, challenges or problems, but that is a story for another time.

When someone attacks your team members you must educate yourself on what has happened and if no fault can be found you need to respectfully stand by your staff. Leaders must step up and provide safe environment for their teams no matter who might be on the other side of the table or how loud they get. Leadership must clearly demonstrate commitment towards conflict resolution and support for staff alongside zero tolerance for any type of abuse by anyone at any time.

After all, this is your team, support them.

Elevate yourself above the crowd

You are not average, you are not mundane, and don’t belong right in the middle of the scale. So stop acting and performing that way and elevate yourself about the crowd, above the average. Being right in the middle is the worst place to be as you are not memorable, you don’t stand out, you don’t contribute at the highest levels and that can be damaging to your career long term.

Do what needs to be done to put a strategy in place along with a series of carefully planned tactical moves to elevate yourself above the crowd and begin your ascent to the new heights where you know you belong.

Set clear expectations, you are not a puppet

As the (wo)man, the myth, the legend continues to grow and your capabilities, accomplishments and skills become known to a wider audience you will often begin receiving invitations to join projects and tasks outside your current core responsibilities. These are great opportunities to learn new things, meet new people and help others with what you know so please take advantage of them.

However, while I strongly advise all to explore new opportunities, make sure that they are indeed what they are presented as. What I mean by this is, make sure that your knowledge and experience is needed and valued and that you are not simply being asked to be a passenger on a ride with predetermined specifications and destination.

After all, you are not a puppet.

Charisma is not leadership

People often confuse charisma for leadership and consider it one and the same. While charisma is a component embraced by many successful leaders, it is not what makes one a leader and as such it should be considered as one of their attributes, not an entire representation of that individual.

Leaders put others ahead of themselves; they act with benefits of others in mind and while being charismatic can certainly help, it is not what defines them in any sense. Charisma is not leadership.

I’m stressed, help me!

Sooner or later, a time will come for most when they will feel overwhelmed, stressed and stretched too thin. It will feel like 24 hours in a day are simply not enough to accomplish it all. Well, when that time comes (or if it is already here) please note that you are not alone and that solutions exist.

Focusing on your professional lives only, I would strongly recommend speaking with your boss (director, manager, supervisor…) and have them understand what’s taking place (details are not necessary, it’s the overall sentiment that is of importance). During this conversation you will find that the overwhelming majority of people are understanding and supportive and will do what they can to help you during this process by lightening your workload if possible (which can be done in several ways).

No matter what may be happening, talking to others will frequently be very helpful, even therapeutic and have actual, positive results which will get you that much closer to the place where you belong, a place of happiness.

Why value is greater than recognition

In all you do, focus on providing value to others over getting small wins in a form of a personal recognition. While it is nice to be recognized for your accomplishments that cannot be your focus as it has a potential of developing into something very negative which is an impression of a self-centered individual.

Continue providing value to your clients, employees, coworkers…and the recognition will arrive once it is earned and often least expected.

Providing value > Individual recognition

Build diverse teams

Build teams that are as diverse as possible. Hiring carbon copies of yourself is counterproductive and provides no value to you, the team or the organization as a whole. You want and need people of different races, ethnicity, education, experiences…as you never know where that next great idea may come from. You want originality and uniqueness to be embodied in this diversity where each person is valued, appreciated and respected.

Finally, each individual needs to equally respect others on their team and work collaboratively towards common vision, mission and goals.