5 Uncommon Things Great Leaders Do
I have read dozens of leadership books and articles by now and have also been fortunate enough to see some amazing leaders in action, both at work and on the personal front.
There are some important traits that many of these articles talk about, and most good leaders share. Things like delegation, communication, influence, leading by example, openness to feedback, humility, etc., are commonly spoken about and seen in them (well, humility not quite often).
However, there are some other qualities that great leaders possess and things that they do that are extremely important but not often spoken about. This article is an attempt to shine a light on those.
#1 They don’t have an open-door policy
We established open-door policies to empower employees and enhance collaboration within teams and organizations. It worked well back in hierarchical structures wherein employees were afraid to communicate with their superiors. Open door policy provided these employees a medium and a channel to seek guidance and express concern.
However, we don’t work in those rigid hierarchical structures today. This differs from company to company and from culture to culture but no matter where you are, communicating with your managers and company leadership isn’t that difficult today. In fact, we are at the other end of the spectrum wherein we run the risk of overcommunicating and seeking more help than needed.
Good leaders understand that. They refrain from an open-door policy for 2 main reasons.
- It helps them protect their and their team members’ focus
- It helps their team members become independent and resourceful
Don’t get me wrong. It’s not that they shy away from helping their team members. On the contrary, they create communication protocols and processes such that their team members are empowered and don’t feel left out. They ensure that their team members are better than before in the long term, which brings me to my next point.
#2 They think long term and promote this thinking within the teams
They prioritize long-term gains over short-term wins even if that is unpopular and causes immediate pain.
They know very well that it takes time to achieve key results. More often than not, those results come only when you’re willing to sacrifice immediate gains and instant gratification of short-term jumps.
Not just that. Sometimes, the pursuit of short-term gains can harm your long-term strategy. Those wins require patience and focus and good leaders know that.
They ensure that their team members also understand that and incorporate it into their behavior. They also work with their leadership team and set their expectations in line with that.
#3 They focus on their team’s personal growth (along with their growth at work)
Even though everyone says, it is none of their business.
Quite often, we set up lofty goals and ambitious execution plans without addressing the person and the team tasked with getting this done. Good leaders know that that’s a gaping hole right there.
Unless their team members get better than what they were yesterday, they won’t achieve the higher goals set today. And if they aren’t achieving higher goals each year, they are stagnating.
They work with their team members to help them upgrade their knowledge, skills, and habits continuously. They do that not by commanding (Honestly, I don’t see how that would even work) but by coaching and by leading with example.
#4 They aren’t afraid to expose their vulnerability & ignorance
Do you know the commonality between an executive, a manager, a VP, and a CEO? They are all humans.
Yes, I know, what a stupid question. However, it’s astounding to see some smartest leaders and managers forget this very basic fact.
Your team knows that you are a human with your own flaws, weaknesses, quirkiness, and vulnerabilities. Great leaders understand that and don’t try to act all perfect. They instead admit their shortcomings upfront. They do that to make their team aware and, more importantly, have their team members complement them and fill those gaps collectively as a unit.
No Rules Rules, a book by Reed Hastings that describes the Netflix culture has detailed this out and explained how it has helped them grow collectively as a unit.
Perfection is overrated, good leaders don’t obsess over that.
#5 They obsess over execution & processes and not over outcomes
This one is critical.
Good leaders focus on setting winning processes and pursue superlative execution. They understand that if these are set right, results are bound to follow.
It is easy to focus only on the end outcomes, but there is very little that you can do to change it if your execution is not monitored and processes aren’t set right. On the other hand, if one focuses on execution (lead measures) and coaches team members to get that right, results will take care of themselves.
Good leaders understand that if results are not up to the mark, even if the execution is spot on, it is their responsibility, more than their team members, to get it right. It is quite possible that the processes aren’t aligned to the results expected, and the execution plan may have to be tweaked to get to that.
They take ownership of processes and alignment.