Having worked in multiple industries with companies of various sizes, we’ve run into a lot of leaders. Some are good; some are not so good. Others are put in leadership because they are the best technical resource. Some are just ‘the next person’ based on seniority.
Being a good leader is a skill, and it is a perishable skill at that. We’ve been blessed with mostly good leaders in our dealings with various companies over the years, and below are the key points we’ve taken away from those experiences.
What a leader does
1. Provides clear vision to every member of their team, clearly defines their roles, and holds people accountable to their responsibilities.
This is number one for a reason. Leadership is about the people first. Clarity of vision helps guide team members to make good decisions that align with the company mission statement and team goals. Clearly defining roles eliminates most back-and-forth about who ‘owns’ an issue or a project. Accountability in this context is not about being punitive; it’s about finding opportunities for training and improvement (see #3 below).
2. Removes all barriers to success at every level.
Multiple factors can impede a teams’ (or individual members) ability to perform. This can mean everything from too many (or too few) meetings, lack of documentation, bad planning, no planning, office politics, etc. When a leader sees these kind of issues they should work to get these hurdles out of the way.
3. Arms the correct people in the correct positions with the correct skills and tools.
This is straight out of the EOS ecosystems’ right people in the right seats maxim. We append correct skills and tools because leaders should also strive to train and create a positive culture within their team members to enable optimum performance, improve work/life balance, and foster overall well-being within their team(s).
4. Shares and celebrates success with their team and shoulders the failures alone.
When the team wins, even through a monumental effort by one or a few individuals, the whole team wins. Life is good!
If things don’t go right, the blame starts with leadership. Part of being a leader is accepting responsibility for those in your charge. Authors Jocko Willink and Leif Babin, former Navy SEAL officers, lay out in Extreme Ownership some hard lessons learned on the battlefield and how they transfer to corporate America. It’s a good read, and it is insightful on how the operative root word of leadership is LEAD.