The One Thing Leaders Need More Than Anything
Everyone faces challenges with work colleagues; it’s unavoidable and can cause feelings of anger, frustration, and hostility.
While no one likes to feel these emotions, I highlight them because they are essential to your growth and development as a leader. Teams are made up of human beings from all different backgrounds, experiences, training, families, and cultures. It is inevitable to have conflict in this setting. Instead of avoiding the discord created by differences, great leaders know how to embrace and work through it.
Take Brittany, a new manager at an established professional services company. When she first received her promotion, Brittany didn’t think her new role would be that different. After being an employee at the same firm for an extended period, it seemed like the natural next step in her development.
At first, transitioning her relationships with colleagues from peers to direct reports didn’t seem like an issue. Inevitably, in a few months, two of Brittany’s team members resigned, and she couldn’t stop the constant train of gossip and negativity from those who were left.
After months of struggle and frustration, Brittany was on the brink of quitting. One day she got a call from Sean, a former colleague who retired before Brittany’s promotion who had gotten wind of her struggles. What she thought would be a minute-long call turned into an hour.
He spoke to her about the importance of not only her work for the company but how critical she was too elevating others on her team. He used words like, “Don’t you dare give up,” and “keep working on your development as a leader; it will only help you.”
As she hung up the phone, she had made a decision. Instead of quitting, she decided to develop herself from a leadership perspective. She dove headfirst into books, podcasts, and videos about leadership. She found a mentor in the company to help her navigate some of the internal politics. Lastly, she got an external coach to help her with direction and accountability.
Brittany began to soar, and so did her team’s performance. While she wasn’t immune to mistakes, she was much more aware of the issues and could handle them with ease. None of this would have been possible without Sean taking an hour out of his day to give the one thing today’s leaders need more than anything.
The word encourage means to give support, confidence, or hope to someone. When you provide it to someone, it goes right to their heart, whether you know it or not. The proof of this is in the word itself. The word encourage comes from the prefix en, which means “to put into” and the Latin root cor, which means “heart.”
If you don’t think of yourself as an encourager, here’s what you can do to start encouraging other leaders:
1. Start with empathy about their situation
One of my mentors told me early in my career, “everybody is going through something whether you know it or not.” Starting from a place of empathy, putting yourself in their shoes, and relating to where they are is a phenomenal place to start to encourage them.
Even if you haven’t been in their exact position, you can still empathize with them by trying to understand what they are experiencing. When you do this, they will be more open to the encouraging words you decide to use.
2. Use specific language to keep them moving forward
Encouraging words don’t have to be complicated. In fact, the simpler, the better. Short phrases like:
- “You can do this.”
- “You were born for this.”
- “The difference you are making will add up over time.”
- “If it were easy, everyone would do it.”
- “You haven’t given up yet for a reason, you know deep down your worthy.”
- “You are a blessing”
If you haven’t had someone encourage you lately. I will be that person for you with the words I used in the final chapter of Building the Best:
Leadership is hard. That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t pursue it or should give up, because failure is not final. Failure is a part of leadership, which means failure must become feedback. When you make mistakes, please don’t beat yourself up, learn from it. If leadership were easy, everyone would be doing it. I am encouraged that you have embraced the responsibility of leadership and have rejected passivity. This world needs you to lead in a way that elevates others.
This article is dedicated to Connie Hawkins, who has encouraged me. Who has been a leader who has encouraged you? Tell me in the comments section.
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About the Author: John Eades is the CEO of LearnLoft, a leadership development company that exists to turn managers into leaders and create healthier places to work. John was named one of LinkedIn’s 2017 Top Voices in Management & Workplace and was awarded the 2017 Readership Award by Training Industry.com. John is also the host of the “Follow My Lead” Podcast, a show that transfers stories and best practices from today’s leaders to the leaders of tomorrow. You follow him on Instagram @johngeades.