As you approach the end of the year, there's so much to wrap up and consider as you move forward with your business. Hopefully you're able to find some time to reflect on how you did this past year as a leader, employer, and owner.
We've done a lot of research this year, and have been inspired by the shift in thought leadership. There's so much change going on, and many old qualities of leadership have truly become outdated and archaic. The new qualities that foster innovation have more to do with generosity and empathy than the former days of power and control.
Find out which 11 qualities of leadership will cultivate an innovative spirit in your small business this coming year:
“Life's most persistent and urgent question is, 'What are you doing for others?” -Martin Luther King, Jr.
We all need daily reminders to look up from our calendars and spreadsheets. Look around you. How are your employees really doing? An aware leader can be proactive and prevent burnout before it happens. He/she is also self-aware, and takes care not to fall into the common pitfalls that lead owners/employers to blindness.
02. Think Before Speaking
Honesty is definitely a virtue, but self-indulgent honesty can be really harmful. Yes, your employee might be consistently late, but pointing it out in front of the whole team when you're frustrated probably isn't the right time or way to be honest. Think about making corrections or suggestions before you actually say them. Ask yourself a few questions, "Why is Michelle consistently late? Is there something I could help out with?," "Why is Matt giving in to frustrations and getting short with his team? Is he overwhelmed?"
Before you decide to be honest and open about anything, think about it.
Good leaders are not independent, working alone on a pedestal. Great leaders realize that their company relies heavily on internal and external relationships. Your employees, vendors, and customers all play a role in the success of the company. Are you paying attention to all players, and giving them what they need?
If you're willing to admit when you've made a mistake, don't have the answer, or are afraid to take a risk, you open the door for the rest of your team to see that it's ok to fail sometimes. They need to see that you're afraid of taking that next big leap, but you're doing it anyway--imperfectly--but you're doing it. If they hear you admit fault, they're much more likely to own up when they, too, fall short. Be vulnerable. Be human.
"The good news is that I think people are tired of the hustle – they’re tired of doing it and tired of watching it. We’re hungry for people who have the courage to say, “I need help” or “I own that mistake” or “I’m not willing to define success simply by my title or income any longer.” - Brene Brown
This is similar to #4, but let's take it one step further. YOU did not build this company. Yes, you started it, and worked long hours to get it to where it was, but you really couldn't have come this far without your team. They took you to the next level. Acknowledge their efforts daily, and be authentic about it. False humility stinks. Real humility is empowering and inspiring.
One of our favorite qualities that's getting a lot of attention is generosity. Adam Grant at Wharton has been preaching the value of generous leaders. He argues that the people who win aren't the people who are only interested in getting to the top, no matter what the means. Rather, he sees the people who are truly winning are the leaders who support causes that really help people--and that includes helping their own employees as well as people all over the globe.
"There are three payoffs associated with teaching employees about the power of agency, boundaries on availability, and perspective taking. The first is saving your best employees—those who exemplify collegial generosity—from being taken advantage of and helping them to gain stature as successful givers instead. The second is enabling employees who fear the risks of giving to contribute more to others and to the success of the enterprise. The third is creating a culture of and reputation for generosity that attracts more givers to your organization and appeals less to takers." - Adam Grant
No more dictators. Executive officers won't get very far if they continue to believe exclusively in top-down strategies. Real leaders understand that the company's success relies on employees' ability to own what goes on. If they feel they are heard, they are more likely to put their best efforts into projects and products. In 2015, turn up the listening and follow through with what you're hearing.
Stretch goals are over-rated. Only 10% of stretch goals are really effective. Start with finding your own sense of purpose and throw out your goal checklist. Being a leader is a lifestyle, not a task list. If you love what you're doing, and have a strong vision you'll get things done. Once you've got a strong sense of purpose, help your employees find their own sense of purpose? Help them get beyond feeling like a drone.
There's a new generation fully integrated into the workplace now: Millennials. Have you heard of them? Are you one of them? They are truly unconventional when it comes to career expectations, and if you want the best and the brightest at your company, you'll have to embrace a few things: flexible schedules, time off for family, a sense of purpose and meaning, pathways for promotion and growth, etc.
In short, more and more people value a better work-life balance.
Emotional intelligence, anyone? How well can you read people? Are you able to put yourself in someone else's shoes--truly? A great leader shouldn't be "putting out fires." They should be preventing fires. If you are able to see when someone is taking on too much, you can find a way to help them distribute their workload or give them a sense of what your priorities are.
Fun quiz: can you read people's emotions just by looking at their eyes?
It's difficult to focus on today when you're concerned about hitting all of your goals, but you might be surprised how you'll hit those goals if you break things down to day-to-day tasks. Multitasking is nobody's friend. Well, maybe only a friend for 2%. Mashable reported that multitasking only works for about 2% of the population.