Leadership. It tends to be an overused word. There are lots of managers in companies, but very few leaders. Even the ones who call themselves leaders have attributes that leave much to be desired. Great leaders have a few qualities that make them special and their companies extraordinary for people and profits.
So what’s the definition of leadership? Great leaders are not the people who you’re forced to follow—they’re the ones you want to follow. They are humble, care more about others than themselves and understand that it’s not about the leader, it’s about the followers. Most of the best leaders have a dream and turn that dream into reality with others.
So what’s in the DNA of great leaders? What values do they stand for? And what makes them VIPs?
Value lies in the values. Great leaders know they’re responsible for establishing the culture of the company. They know that culture is their No. 1 responsibility and work on it daily. The best leaders work on the values and behaviors of their people and make sure they work on culture first. Because without people knowing and living the values you stand for, you may be doomed to get people to follow you.
So, the best leaders work on culture first and have unique values that they all know and train on, and it is at the core of how they hire, fire and promote. What are some things you can do today that would make you a better leader? Here are some ideas:
- Select or pare down your values to one to three values (no more than that) that are unique to what makes you successful.
- Define how these values should be lived down to details like, “Our people smile with teeth.”
- Hire, fire and promote for these behaviors and make sure to hire people who already believe in them as they are more likely to do what you are going to ask them to do anyway. Emphasize and train the specific behaviors in detail. Success or failure in companies is all about people and how they behave.
Leaders should work on “Why—Culture First” through values and daily behaviors; “How—Structure” second through coaches and paying attention to how to serve the customers; and “What—Strategy” third through managers. Identify your sustainable competitive advantages and when they will be executed to produce results and profits. The best leaders are also master communicators.
Inspire on purpose. Great leaders make sure everyone knows, is inspired by and lives the purpose of why they are there. Many great leaders talk about the purpose of the company often and make sure everyone cares about why they’re there in the first place.
People in companies don’t get frustrated necessarily by what they do; they get burned out because they don’t know why they do it or don’t like who they’re doing it for. Purpose-driven companies continually outperform companies that lack purpose.
What is your purpose? Define this transcendent or noble purpose.
- Talk about why you’re in business. What is the ultimate outcome if you do great work? Who will it benefit?
- Decide what your purpose will be—some made-up examples are, “We Believe in Better Living,” “We Help People Be Better,” and “We Inspire, Inspiration.”
- Communicate and inspire people to live the purpose daily.
Leaders can inspire on purpose if they have a purpose. Make sure you develop a purpose that others are willing to follow voluntarily.
Be in the people business. The best leaders realize that if you don’t put people before profits, you will make fewer profits. The leaders who connect with the front line and have the support of the people who make money are the ones who are willing to follow voluntarily.
There are leaders who care about the money, others about the customers, and still others about people (starting with the employees). The best leaders care deeply about their employees and put them first, knowing that if the employees live the purpose and values (culture), they will be great to customers and produce more profits.
Great leaders are not the people who you’re forced to follow—
they’re the ones you want to follow.
The best leaders are loved by their people, not feared. They care about each one of them even more than they care about themselves. They know they’re the examples for how they want others to behave. The best ones eat in the employee cafeteria, spend time with the front line, and value them. These leaders are especially adept at communicating with actions before words.
Some ways to focus on people first are:
- No matter what industry you’re in, you should become an expert in people; because if you think about it, you’re in the people business. First, you must understand your people and need to serve them so they can serve the customer. Most companies are strong in technical skills and weak in people skills.
- Train on people skills and benchmark internally and externally against the best in the business.
- Make your headquarters “the people headquarters” and make sure you focus on hiring for purpose and values. Make sure your leaders are humble and believe they are and know how to be in the people business.
Want to be the best leader? Become a VIP who focuses on Values, Inspiration and Purpose, and you will also be a VIP for your employees, customers and the bottom line.