7 Skills You Should Develop to Be an Effective Leader

Multicoloured ladders on wall. Pastel tones. Concept for success and growth.

Skill development is a never-ending process. Not only do the great ones in any field recognize this, but they have a borderline obsession to develop and improve their skills daily.

Merriam Webster defines a skill as “the ability to use one’s knowledge effectively and readily in execution or performance.” Skills are often divided into domain-general and domain-specific. For example, golf is a general skill; driving, putting, and chipping are specific skills that make someone an effective golfer.  

Leadership is a general skill; whereas, many domain-specific skills like coaching and empathy make a leader effective in performance. As a leader, you learn new skills every day. However, simply mastering a few skills isn’t enough to be a highly effective leader in today’s environment.

Just mastering a few skills isn’t enough to be a highly effective leader in today’s environment. 

As a ten-year veteran in the leadership coaching and speaking industry, I have been fortunate to have a front-row seat to many great leaders across various industries. If that wasn’t enough, the SkillsLoft Leadership Assessment has provided unbiased research of thousands of leaders. I want to share the seven leadership skills that are the most essential to your success.  

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Demonstrate Empathy

While many skills are essential in this new leadership era, empathy stands above the rest. Before you shake empathy off as a weak skill, let’s get clear on what it is, in the context of leadership. I have come to define it as how well you identify with others to understand their feelings and perceptions in order to guide your actions. I often describe it to coaching clients as “your ability to put yourself in someone else’s shoes and act differently because of it.”  

The one thing that every professional wants is to be understood, especially by their boss. 

Empathy is a critical leadership skill because people want to be understood, especially by their boss.

Feelings aren’t always directly communicated, so understanding them can be difficult to do and it’s an art that requires practice. If you want to improve your empathy skills, take a few lessons from an earlier column

Be a Great Communicator  

Effective communication is at the heart of effective leadership. James Humes famously said, “The art of communication is the language of leadership.” Leaders of high-performing teams leverage the proper amount of communication and are clear, concise, and conclusive. 

Consistent communication is tough, even for good orators. So often, quality communication is a skill that leaders believe they possess; in actuality, it is one of their most significant weaknesses. 

When leaders don’t communicate effectively, team members fill the silence with their own story.

Developing your communication skills around storytelling, writing, and listening is a lifelong journey. 

Act Like a Coach

A leader separates themselves from a manager in today’s modern business environment by coaching their people. A coach, by definition, trains and instructs. The late great John Whitmore took the formal definition even further, saying:

“Coaching is unlocking people’s potential and helping them learn rather than teaching them.”

Leaders who coach their team members have never been more critical than they are today. If coaching is a skill, you want to improve, check out the new Coaching for Excellence Program here

Model Servant Leadership

It might seem odd to read that modeling something is a skill, but it’s not. We have all heard the saying, “talk is cheap”; it’s never been more true than in leadership. The best way to create more leaders is to model outstanding leadership in one’s actions and behaviors.  

“The best way to create more leaders is to model servant leadership in your actions and behaviors.”

How you exemplify the standards and behaviors you expect from your team is connected to how committed you are to living out your character and values. This is easy to write, but to do it well takes immense wisdom and self-discipline daily.

Have Great Focus

If there is one thing this Pandemic has taught us, it is how easily distracted we are. Staying focused and prioritizing is not only a skill, but it’s essential for leaders today. If you are anything like me, you suffer from “shiny penny syndrome,” and you act like a squirrel moving quickly from one thing to the next. 

Suzanne Anschutz, Regional VP and Director of Leadership Development at Cora Physical Therapy, said it well, “The leaders of today need to be able to be fully present. There is such a strong sense of urgency and moving quickly in today’s world, but we should not underestimate the power of taking the time to be present in the moment. Understanding what is happening “right now” will allow you to strategize for a better future.”

Unite People and Create Belonging

Making people feel like they belong and uniting team members is a leadership superpower. Look no further than the hit show Ted Lasso on Apple TV. The show portrays an American coaching a European Soccer club. Coach Lasso knows the team can’t and won’t succeed without the team members feeling like they belong, and are a part of something bigger than themselves.  

While Lasso does his coaching in person, most managers don’t have this luxury today when leading a remote team. For those teams that plan on staying 100% WFH, leaders must think about one or two in-person events a year, with its primary mission to create teamwork and belonging. 

Make Accountability an Obligation

Last but certainly not least is accountability. Accountability is one of these words that has been hijacked. I define it in Building the Best as; the obligation of an individual or organization to account for its activities, accept responsibility for them and disclose the results in a transparent manner. 

It is the obligation of leaders to account for their actions and the actions of their people.  

Leaders are obligated to care for all their people equally and to serve their hearts, not their talents. 

 If you want to model how the best modern leaders leverage accountability, get comfortable with having difficult dialogues, which I wrote about here or join an upcoming Leverage Accountability Workshop.

Closing

There are many other key leadership skills that just missed the list like; decision-making, emotional intelligence, strategic thinking, and vision. Which of the 7 key skills do you believe are most important? Which skills are missing that deserve to be on the list? Tell me in the comments.

Free Downloadable Coaching Cheatsheet There is nothing easy about coaching. So we put together a list of eight of the best coaching questions to help you. Download it for free here.

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About the Author: John Eades is the CEO of LearnLoft, a leadership development company helping executives and managers to lead their best. He was named one of LinkedIn’s Top Voices in Management & Workplace. John is also the author of Building the Best: 8 Proven Leadership Principles to Elevate Others to Success. You can follow him on Instagram @johngeades.

Why Bad Managers Focus on Friendship Instead of Leadership

leadership or different concept with red and white paper airplane on blue background

Until you are a manager, you never really know the struggle of balancing friendship with leadership. In one sense, friendship shouldn’t even be on the radar, but on the other side of the coin, everyone wants to be liked, which puts leaders in a bit of a challenging position.  

Anyone who has led or has studied the field of leadership development will tell you that building and maintaining quality relationships is a key to success. However, having the goal of being best friends first with every team member will hurt you.  

This doesn’t mean you or any leader should avoid or reject being friends with a team member. If a friendship grows, that is great, but that’s not the purpose of leadership. If being friends with a team member becomes more important than doing what’s in their or the team’s best interest, your priorities are out of alignment.

If being friends with a team member becomes more important than doing what’s in their or the team’s best interest, your priorities are out of alignment.

Healthy boundaries for both parties

Boundaries, respect, and trust are essential to the success of any relationship. For leaders, think, “friendly is essential; friendship isn’t required.”

It turns out; team members need healthy boundaries as well. Most professionals don’t want or even need a friend in their boss, but they do have to know their manager cares about them.

Professionals don’t need their manager to be a best friend, but they do have to know they care about them.  

How to focus on leadership over friendship

When you dig into friendship in the workplace deeper, it becomes less elusive identifying its five key components from research; (a)Affect (b) a Grand Project (c) Altruistic Reciprocity (d) Moral Obligations, (e) Equality.

In the workplace, one of these stands out, which is “a grand project.” C. S. Lewis said, “lovers are normally face to face, absorbed in each other; Friends, side by side, absorbed in some common interest.” Wikipedia defines friendship as a relationship of mutual affection between people. While there is nothing wrong with a platonic relationship between colleagues, the best leaders see the lines of friendship and leadership differently. They know their primary job is not friendship.

Instead, they know their job is to connect team members to a deeper cause, remove barriers to help them be successful, coach them up daily, and challenge them to become a better version of themselves.

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If you have fallen too much into the “friend zone” as a manager or want to get back to leaning into the shared common interests with team members, here are some ideas.  

1. Reconnect to the Team to a Deeper Purpose

No matter your business, there is a deeper purpose for why it exists. Maybe it’s to make the lives of your clients better, or perhaps it’s to transport joy around the world. Regardless of what it is, it’s the leader’s job to constantly reconnect people to the cause behind the work a team does.  

While this might sound corny, it’s not. By constantly talking about important things that matter, you elevate the conversation and relationship between the people you get the opportunity to lead.

2. Elevate the Standard

To ensure leadership comes before friendship, it’s a great idea to elevate the standard of what’s expected to be a team member. A standard is defined as what good looks like. However, managers define what good looks like, leaders define what great looks like. 

Your team’s behavior will default to the standards that you demonstrate and define for them. Be crystal clear, concise, and conclusive. Limit yourself to as few standards as possible so they can be remembered and applied. If you struggle to set clear standards, ask yourself the following three questions:

What’s the end result I want from my team?

What’s stopping us from getting there?

What can be done instead?

3. Act Like a Coach

The best way to demonstrate to team members that you are in your role to lead and not just be a friend is to help them perform at their best and be proactive in helping them reach their full potential. A great way to achieve this is to act as a coach for them.  

Just think of the best sports coaches in the world. They are constantly looking for ways to bring out the best in their players and to help them get from where they are to where they want or need to be. 

The best coaches help people get from where they are to where they want or need to be.

Arm yourself with a set of go-to coaching questions to get your people to think differently and solve their problems. Then, check out the Coaching for Excellence Program if you want to improve your coaching skills in less than 1 hour. 

4. Prepare to Be Tested

No one likes change, and there is a high likelihood you will be met with resistance or downright defiance. Be prepared and willing to follow up and follow through with your mindset of leadership over friendship. 

I don’t pretend this to be easy. In fact, you will be tempted to default to your old ways. Leaders aren’t immune to resisting change, and the path of least resistance can be tempting. Reject this with all your heart, soul, and mind. As I wrote in Building the Best, “only leaders who are tested become great. 

Only leaders who are tested become great.

Remember, it’s your job to elevate others and improve performance over time, and it doesn’t happen by accident. 

Closing

What’s interesting about this topic of friendship and leadership is there isn’t only one correct way. I have had team members where real legitimate lifelong friendships developed because of our work together and others where it didn’t. I am profoundly grateful for both.  

However, as long as leaders keep the main thing, the main thing, and focus on leadership over friendship, our teams and our performance will be in a better place.

Do you agree?

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About the Author: John Eades is the CEO of LearnLoft, a leadership development company helping executives and managers to lead their best. He was named one of LinkedIn’s Top Voices in Management & Workplace. John is also the author of Building the Best: 8 Proven Leadership Principles to Elevate Others to Success. You can follow him on Instagram @johngeades.

How Great Leaders Overcome the Current Talent Shortage

Search for talent or looking for employee

There is no shortage of challenges facing leaders today. Leading remote teamscommunicating the company return to the office policy, navigating a rapidly changing market, and handling a constricted supply chain, just to name a few. While these are all legitimate constraints, there is one challenge rising above the rest, acquiring talented professionals.  

Don’t just take my word for it; the stats regarding acquiring talent in the short term are staggering. According to the Allegis Group’s Global Workforce Trends Survey, 79% of respondents in North America experience challenges acquiring critical talent. In addition, Randstad Sourceright’s 2021 Talent Trends Report found, 40 percent of human capital leaders report that talent scarcity has negatively impacted their organization – the highest total in the past five years. 

As jaw-dropping as these statistics are, the talent shortfall appears to be here to stay. A recent Korn Ferry study found by 2030, there will be a global human talent shortage of more than 85 million people, resulting in $8.5 trillion in unrealized annual revenues. 

The Problem Isn’t Isolated.

The talent shortage isn’t just forcing some teams or businesses to have to close or pause operations; it’s also contributing to the rising employee burnout problem. When a team is short on staff, it causes team members to work longer and harder to pick up the slack. The managers of teams in this situation might not recognize it, but leaders certainly do. 

Managers care about short-term productivity regardless of the price. Leaders care about the long-term price of productivity.  

Most managers focus solely on results. Leaders recognize results matter, but they see a world beyond just immediate outcomes.  

Since the talent shortfall is here to stay and the problem isn’t isolated, what can you do to thrive in this challenging environment?

Recruit Year-Round, With Everyone

Coaches in NCAA Division 1 college athletics know that to be great over a long period of time, they must recruit year-round and not just during open recruiting periods. The same is true in the workplace.  

Mark Wojcik, Founder & President at HireLevel, told me, “Be consistent and be flexible. Be consistent in your interview process and your communication. Be flexible with requirements and with candidate qualifications. Because at the end of the day, great leaders can harness great potential.”

Great leaders can harness great potential.

Instead of waiting until the need is extreme, every single team member, from the CEO to a front-line employee, should feel responsible for attracting talented people to the organization consistently. 

Look for “Cultural Cofounders.”

In the middle of talent crunches, it’s easy to forget about hiring for a good culture fit and settle for the thinking that “any warm body will do.” While it might help you in the short-term, this will no doubt hurt your team in the long run.  

On a recent episode of The Masters of Scale podcast with Reid Hoffman, Workday’s CEO Annel Bhusri talked about personally interviewing their first 500 employees for what he called “cultural co-founders.” The idea was, “if we hired the right first 500, it would give us the next 5,000 because they would be with the company for 10+ years to uphold the culture and attract the people that fit our culture well.”

“The best leaders hire for culture fit and for people who desire to get better.”

While this might seem extreme, if you are going to create a development and people-first culture, you better be sure to hire the right people who fit your culture and desire to progress.

Be Proactive for Talent Outside Your Vertical

W. Chan Kim & Renée Mauborgne coined the terms red and blue oceans to denote the market universe in their book, Blue Ocean Shift. The idea being, Cutthroat competition turns the ocean bloody red. Hence, the term ‘red’ oceans. Blue oceans denote all the industries not in existence today – the unknown market space, unexplored and untainted by competition.

While seeking talent isn’t a perfect fit to their idea, there is excellent value, seeking talent in professionals outside your traditional vertical. For example, I have been helping an upstart in the automotive industry seek talented customer service and salespeople. Instead of looking for people with experience in the automotive industry, we are looking for people who have hospitality service experience, because technical knowledge is easier to teach than a servant’s heart.  

Find an alternative industry where talented people have developed great leadership skills and be proactive in getting them to make the switch. It might be precisely what they are looking for, and no one is reaching out to them. 

Closing

There is nothing easy about the current talent shortfall, especially in specific industries like hospitality and manufacturing. However, if you recruit year-round, look for cultural cofounders, and focus on the untapped people outside your vertical, you will be on your way to a more talented team.

Lastly, as I tell my team all the time, “if it were easy, everyone would do it well.”

Leverage Accountability in Leadership: The development of your accountability skills will make a tremendous difference in helping you lead your best in 2021. Join me for the next Leveraging Accountability in Leadership Workshop! https://bit.ly/3uCLzFF

Take the Free Leadership Style Quiz? Join over 55k leaders and discover your current leadership style for free.

About the Author: John Eades is the CEO of LearnLoft, a leadership development company helping executives and managers to lead their best. He was named one of LinkedIn’s Top Voices in Management & Workplace. John is also the author of Building the Best: 8 Proven Leadership Principles to Elevate Others to Success. You can follow him on Instagram @johngeades.

The Simple Rule You Should Adopt Before Firing an Employee

Boss firing a male subordinate

If you have chosen a position that comes with the responsibility of leading people, you have wrestled with this question, “Is this person the right fit?” There are times when that examination is silent in your mind, or it’s a full-fledged conversation with someone else for counsel.  

Unfortunately, the hard decisions around talent management are just part of the territory of leadership. Anyone involved in the talent management life cycle knows the three essential components; hiring, retaining and firing. 

Many phenomenal leaders have adopted the talent mantra “hire slow, fire fast,” and for good reason. Getting the right people on the team is the most critical decision any leader makes.  

Getting the right people on the team is the most critical decision any leader makes

When teams have the right people, leading is not only easier, it’s more enjoyable. But even the best leaders who spend a substantial amount of time vetting potential candidates for skill and culture fit make mistakes.  

Other managers are hired or promoted into their role and they assume responsibility for team members they didn’t choose or hire. This means their first two to four weeks are heavily focused on identifying whether they have the right team on the bus.  

For any manager that finds themselves in one of these positions or has recently asked the question, “Is this person the right fit?” It’s time to adopt the “45 Day Rule.”  

The “45 Day Rule”

Time and feelings are funny things when paired together. In one moment, we can be sure of something, and just a few days later, we can feel the opposite way. Because of this, the “fire fast” mantra is a little too hasty for my liking.  

Instead, I coach leaders to leverage the “45 Day Rule.” Here is how it works. Once you question whether someone is the right fit or in the right role, you set a date on your calendar 45 business days in the future. Then, on or before that date, a decision is made about their future employment.

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This approach provides the timeline and freedom to coach them up or move them out. 

Within the “45 Day Rule,” commit to doing three key things:

1. Communicate the Truth 

I have written before, “all improvement starts with the truth.” When it comes to talent-related decisions, communicating the truth is no different. Talented professionals deserve the truth when it comes to their future.

Now, there are different ways to communicate the thought or belief that this person might not be in the proper role. But, regardless of what you say, it should always start with something like this: “I care about you as a person, which means I care about your performance.”

Opening up your conversation this way demonstrates that you are sharing the truth with them because you want them to be successful and are not judging them as a person but how they are performing.

2. Coach Them Daily

It’s far common for managers who have mentally made up their minds that someone isn’t an excellent fit to ignore them to help justify their upcoming decision. I can’t stand this approach because it’s the easy way out.  

There is no denying that fact some people won’t work out. However, we owe it to ourselves and to them to do what’s in our power to help them succeed. One of those things is coaching.  

The development of team members should always be a priority, and coaching them should be a daily habit. However, when a team member is within the “45 Day Rule”, turning up the coaching dial is required.  

The development of team members should always be a priority, and coaching them should be a daily habit. 

Seek out opportunities to help develop their skills and be conscious of asking great coaching questions instead of just giving them answers.  Learn to be an effective coach in less than 1 hour with the Coaching for Excellence Program.

3. Provide Quality Feedback

Coaching and feedback are different things trying to achieve a similar result and both are important during the “45 Day Rule.”

Here are some general differences between coaching and feedback:

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There is a simple and effective way that researchers call “Magical feedback” that I described in Building the Best.

The Exception to the Rule

With any rule, there is always an exception. If the person whom you would add to the “45 Day Rule” is; an energy vampire, hurts your culture, is a terrible personality fit, or has shown no desire to develop the skills required to do the job, there is no need to wait.  

The sooner you decide someone is a bad cultural fit, the less time and energy both parties waste.  

Closing

Deciding to retain someone or removing them to help them find a better fit someone where else isn’t easy. But you are in your role for a reason and that’s to make decisions like this. So have courage and use the “45 Day Rule” to help you make the best decision possible. 

Coaching for Excellence: The development of your coaching skills will make a tremendous difference in helping you lead your best in 2021. Learn more here 

Take the Free Leadership Style Quiz? Join over 59k leaders and discover your current leadership style for free.

About the Author: John Eades is the CEO of LearnLoft, a leadership development company helping executives and managers to lead their best. He was named one of LinkedIn’s Top Voices in Management & Workplace. John is also the author of Building the Best: 8 Proven Leadership Principles to Elevate Others to Success. You can follow him on Instagram @johngeades.

How Great Leaders Make Big Decisions

One Way street signs

We all make bad decisions. Trust me, even the most level-headed exceptional leaders not only have made poor decisions in their career, but they will make them in the future. What matters when it comes to decision-making isn’t necessarily the outcome; it’s having a method or strategy to rely on before making significant decisions that matters most.  

Before you jump on my case in the comments, please let me explain by saying the outcome isn’t always the most important factor. In the vast majority of cases, we have little control over the final result, but what we do have control over is the process and effort we put in that produces the outcome. So the more significant the decision, the better our decision-making method should be.  

Take Paul, the CEO of a medium-sized business. When company growth sputtered, he began exploring the possibility of acquiring another company to fuel future growth. In one of our coaching conversations, he said, “I am going to go with my gut on this decision and move forward with the acquisition.” Since he didn’t have prior knowledge or experience in making acquisitions, I found it strange to rely on his gut.

So I passed along some wisdom to help him think differently since it affected so many people.  

“Great leaders don’t stop at just communicating the final decision; they articulate how and why they got to the final decision to gain maximum buy-in from the team.”

See, by definition, a decision is a conclusion or resolution reached after consideration. It comes from the Latin word, meaning “to cut off.” So in Paul’s case, if he couldn’t articulate how and why he reached the decision of acquiring another company to his management team or the employees at either company, the likelihood of its future success would be low. Because at the end of the day, it would be the people in both companies that would produce the results, not the decision itself. 

Proven Methods to Make Big Decisions

If you have a big decision, like taking a new job, buying a company, getting married, or hiring someone, run it through one of these simple methods to be more confident that you made the right decision.

Method 1: 3 Steps “Before You Decide”

Decisions come in all different sizes. Some research suggests we make as many as 35,000 decisions every day. Matt Confer of Abilitie has spent a significant amount of time and energy studying what organizational leaders do right and wrong when making decisions. In a recent episode of the Follow My Lead Podcast, Confer told me, “The best leaders get buy-in from above them and below them by sharing why they are making the decisions they are making.”

For any leader to describe “why” they are making a decision, Confer shared a 3 step method that leaders can use that enhances the way they come up with the final decision.  

  1. Challenge the Constraint – This is all about thinking outside of the box and not just solving the problem in the fastest way possible. This is a strategic step to think differently about the decision in front of you.  
  2. Embrace the Pre-Mortem – It’s human nature to decide or contemplate making a decision, and all one thinks about is envisioning success. While thinking positively about an outcome is never wrong, an essential question to embrace is, “If this decision fails, what are five ways it would fail miserably?” Thinking about how failure would happen will open up your eyes to problem areas that still need to be addressed. 
  3. Check the Basics – The more complex a decision, the more likely a small essential detail is missed, which can cause a big decision to fail. As the great Kobe Bryant used to say, “never get bored with the basics.”

Confer’s 3-step method of ” before you decide” has a whiteboard session written all over it to help make your significant decision. If done correctly, it will provide you with clarity about moving forward or put the brakes on a big decision.  

Method 2: The 40-70 Rule

In our virtual leadership workshops, I coach leaders to leverage Colin Powell’s 40-70 Rule when making a decision. If you aren’t familiar with the 40-70 Rule, Powell says, “Every time you face a tough decision, you should have no less than forty percent and no more than seventy percent of the information you need to make the decision.”  

If you decide with less than forty percent of the information, you are taking a wild guess, but if you wait until you have over 70% of the information, you are making it too late. 

If you have all the data, it’s no longer a decision; it’s a forgone conclusion.”

The art of this rule is using both your intuition, experience, expertise and also the priorities of short vs. long-term ramifications. Thus, the 40-70 Rule is a powerful strategy to get comfortable with making more intelligent decisions before they are needed most. 

Method 3: Remove the Emotion and Decide in the Morning

Not all decision-making methods have to be complicated. But just because it’s not complex doesn’t mean it’s easy. Many poor decisions have been made because of emotions and timing.

I am obsessed with Dr. Susan David’s quote: “Emotions are data, not directives. We get to choose who we want to be; our emotions don’t.” 

Science has shown that we make worse decisions when we are emotional and when we have decision fatigue. So instead of ignoring your emotions, embrace the uncomfortable pause, sleep on it, and then decide in the morning when you have lowered the feelings and have a fresh brain.  

Closing

If you happen to be like Paul in our opening story and you like making decisions by your gut, challenge yourself to articulate how and why you are making it. If you aren’t like Paul and you love every punch of data you can get before you make a decision, lean into the 40-70 rule or the “3 Steps Before You Decide.”

Regardless, all I ask is that you have the courage to make the decision and commit to it. Part of a leader’s job is to make significant decisions, and you are just the person to do it.

What methods do you use to make significant decisions?

Take the Free Leadership Style Quiz? Join over 59k leaders and discover your current leadership style for free.

About the Author: John Eades is the CEO of LearnLoft, a leadership development company helping executives and managers to lead their best. He was named one of LinkedIn’s Top Voices in Management & Workplace. John is also the author of Building the Best: 8 Proven Leadership Principles to Elevate Others to Success. You can follow him on Instagram @johngeades.

Why Being Humble Makes You a Better Leader

chess board game concept for competition and strategy

There is something remarkable about humble leaders. It could be the way they make you feel when they communicate; it could be the fact that you feel drawn to going out of your way to be a part of what they’re doing; or it could be the way they model what you want to become.  

According to research in the Academy of Management Journal, humble leaders actually “embolden individuals to aspire to their highest potential and enables them to make the incremental improvements necessary to progress toward that potential.” 

Being a humble leader pays off in the performance category, but what’s most remarkable is the vast majority of humble leaders have every reason, because of their accomplishments to reject humility, but instead they embrace it. They don’t just talk about it, but it’s built into who they are and how they lead. It’s as if deep down, they understand that the path to effective leadership is paved with humility, not pride.  

Great leaders understand that the path to effective leadership is paved with humility, not pride.  

Most leaders grasp this concept because, before their achievements, they encountered strain in the form of failures, challenges, and or heartaches.  

What is Humility?

When you think of some famous recent leaders like Donald Trump, Elon Musk, or Jeff Bezos, humility is far from the first leadership trait that comes to mind. Whether you believe those leaders have humility or not, we often don’t think of humility in leaders because we don’t know what it is.

Websters defines it as; freedom from pride or arrogance, the quality or state of being humble. Being humble isn’t a lack of confidence or not believing in yourself. In fact, quite the opposite is true. To have freedom from pride and arrogance, it must start from a place of introspection.

C.S. Lewis said, “humility isn’t thinking less of yourself, it’s thinking of yourself less.” 

In an article a few years ago, the Washington Post found: “True humility, scientists have learned, is when someone has an accurate assessment of both his strengths and weaknesses, and he sees all this in the context of the larger whole. He’s a part of something far greater than he. He knows he isn’t the center of the universe. And he’s both grounded and liberated by this knowledge. Recognizing his abilities, he asks how he can contribute. Recognizing his flaws, he asks how he can grow.”

So the natural question is, if you struggle with humility or want to be a more humble leader, how do you do it? It won’t be easy, but here’s how to get started.

Start with the Truth

I have written before, “all improvement starts with the truth.” When it comes to humility, being a humble leader also starts with the truth. Philadelphia 76ers basketball coach Doc Rivers said, “Average players want to be left alone. Good players want to be coached. Great players want to be told the truth.”  

The truth is every position that exists today will one day be held by someone else. The President of the United States, The Pope, and even your current role will one day be someone else’s seat. Allow this truth to sink into your soul.  

You have a significant role to play while you have it, and you should give everything you can to do meet your potential, but it can’t and shouldn’t be all about you. It has to be about elevating others and helping those around you become the best version of themselves.

Stay a Student

Some of the signs of an arrogant leader include; not listening, always wanting to be right, avoiding accountability, and thinking they know it all. A humble leader looks and feels much different. They admit when they make mistakes and are obsessed with learning.  

TD Jakes mentioned in his new book, Don’t Drop the Mic, “The world is a university, and everyone in it is a teacher. Make sure you wake up and go to school your entire life learning from the good and the bad.”

It reminds me of when I interviewed Villanova’s head coach Jay Wright for an episode of the Follow My Lead Podcast right after they had won the national championship. He heard a quote from Napoleon about leadership during the show, and I watched him grab a pen and write it down. After we had finished recording, he said, “I hadn’t heard that quote, and I want to use it with my team.”

Wright had every right to feel like he had learned it all because of his team’s success, but instead, he continued to embrace the mindset of staying a student, which you and I must do as well. If at any point you stop learning, you will be dying.  

Embrace Accountability

One of the most significant mistakes leaders in choosing pride over humility is avoiding accountability. Instead of inviting people in their lives to be feedback vehicles, they decide to go it alone. In the beginning, it isn’t a big deal. But as time goes on, the lies and thoughts in one’s head become their reality. Those thoughts then become engrained in their behavior, and it’s what other people experience. 

The vaccine for this situation is to embrace accountability. Put people around you who keep you grounded and are willing to have difficult dialogues when they recognize something is off. Then you keep an open mind and heart to the words they say without getting defensive or making excuses.  

I recognize this is easy to write but difficult to put into practice. But the best part, is when your team sees you embracing accountability, they will embrace it as well.

Closing

The best leaders indeed understand that the path to effective leadership is paved with humility and not pride. However, it doesn’t mean it’s easy, or it doesn’t mean you won’t have moments where pride or ego win you over. The key is to recognize these moments and get back on the humility path as quickly as possible. 

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About the Author: John Eades is the CEO of LearnLoft, a leadership development company helping executives and managers to lead their best. He was named one of LinkedIn’s Top Voices in Management & Workplace. John is also the author of Building the Best: 8 Proven Leadership Principles to Elevate Others to Success. You can follow him on Instagram @johngeades.Report

One Word Micromanagers Use That You Must Avoid

Conflict management

With leadership comes responsibility. A significant portion of that responsibility includes being accountable for team members’ behaviors. While this might sound like no big deal, trying to influence or control what other people do is hard.  

The strategies and tactics managers leverage but are not limited to include; setting clear standards, aligning teams to core values, defining hiring processes, providing coaching, and having difficult dialogues. While all of these are effective and things I teach leaders to use, there is a less effective method many managers adhere to called micromanaging. 

Now before you act as you have never micromanaged, stop right there. You have been guilty of it, and I have as well. To closely observe, control, or remind others what they should be doing or how they should be doing is an easy thing to do when you are ultimately responsible for their choices. But just because it’s easy doesn’t mean it correct.

What is Micromanagement and Why Do We Do It?

The term micromanagement has skyrocketed in popularity in the last few decades. Webster defines it as “manage[ment] especially with excessive control or attention on details.” It has a negative connotation both in the marketplace and to employees because it limits the freedom to complete jobs or tasks instead of trusting things will be done correctly. 

Managers tend to micromanage for one of three reasons:

  • Comfort – Many managers were successful in the role the people they now lead are currently work in, so it’s comfortable for them to get in the weeds. 
  • Connectedness – There is a sense of being a unit when a manager helps do the work with their team. 
  • Importance – No manager wants to feel they aren’t necessary anymore. So they micromanage to feel important. 

Many full-fledged micromanagers have been exposed and removed from their position in the last few years because of high turnover rates, engagement surveys, and 360° Leadership assessments. However, the best leaders know there is a fine line between setting high standards and coaching someone and reminding others what they should be doing and how they should be doing it.  

Small Changes Make a Big Difference

Since most managers don’t have an overt problem with micromanagement, they often do small things that lead to their people feeling micromanaged. These small things tend to be the words they use and when they use them.  

Leaders can make small changes in communication to lead to big changes in performance. 

One word managers use to modify the behavior of an employee is the word “Don’t.” Not only is it a micromanaging word, but it’s demotivating to people. Here is how managers typically use it:

  • Don’t do it that way.”
  • Don’t miss the deadline.”
  • Don’t say it like that; say it like this.”

Writing these statements that start with “don’t” exudes a manager trying to control, not inspire. Since inspiration is a key to elevating others, breathing life into team members will help change behavior with an internal trigger instead of an external motivator.  

The best leaders don’t control, they inspire.

The word “don’t” has a negative connotation, and it stirs up feelings of defensiveness in people. Instead of responding positively, more often than not, it will have someone responding a begrudgingly way.  

Just check out these same statements communicated without the word “don’t.”

  • “Do you need any help making the deadline?”
  • “Try saying it this way to see if you get a better response.”
  • “I love your effort; if you modify your technique there is a chance it’s easier for you.”

It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to see the enormous difference between a leader communicating like this versus one using the word “don’t.”

Closing

Eliminating or modifying a word from “don’t” from your managerial language won’t be easy. The challenge to you this week is to take a mental checklist around how often you say the word “don’t” to your colleagues, teammates, significant other, or even your kids.

Once you recognize the extent of your “don’t” habit, then it’s time to change your language moving forward to something more positive, inspirational, and encouraging.  

Leverage Accountability in Leadership: The development of your accountability skills will make a tremendous difference in helping you lead your best in 2021. Join me for the next Leveraging Accountability in LeadershipWorkshop! https://bit.ly/3uCLzFF

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About the Author: John Eades is the CEO of LearnLoft, a leadership development company helping executives and managers to lead their best. He was named one of LinkedIn’s Top Voices in Management & Workplace. John is also the author of Building the Best: 8 Proven Leadership Principles to Elevate Others to Success. You can follow him on Instagram @johngeades.

5 Things Modern Employees Need to Be Fully Engaged

education

Modern employees have needs—a lot of them. The typical needs revolve around fair compensation, exciting work, and being a part of a team. 

Meeting these basic needs as a leader is essential to have engaged, productive, and positive team members over time. However, it’s meeting a team member’s advanced needs where the difference between a manager and a leader begins to emerge.

Managers meet their team’s basic needs, leaders meet their team’s advanced needs.

Difference Between a Want, Need, and an Advanced Need

It’s common to use the words want and need interchangeably. Just for the sake of clarity, there is a slight distinction between the two. 

Want: have a desire to possess or do something; wish for

Need: require something because it’s essential or very important rather than just desirable.

The difference between an employee’s basic needs and their advanced needs is slightly more complicated. Most people are familiar with Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs; when it comes to employees, the basic needs are essential and fall within Maslow’s “deficiency needs” (physiological, safety, belonging, esteem). Maslow’s top-level, known as “growth needs,” by definition, growth needs do not stem from the lack of something, but rather the desire to grow as a person. This is precisely where most of the advanced needs employees desire now live.   

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Since this pandemic has changed many of us in ways we couldn’t imagine, the advanced needs of employees have evolved. Here are five things modern employees need, whether they know it or not, that all leaders must know.  

1. They “Need” a Flexible Schedule

The jury is still out on what companies will do with the work from home model post-pandemic. Companies like Ford and others have adopted permanent work from home policies. The future of work is almost certainly a hybrid model.  

Regardless of your company’s WFH policy moving forward, professionals have had a taste of flexibility, and they loved it. Whether it be having family dinner at 5:30, workouts during breaks in the calendar, working from a tropical desk, or avoiding rush hour traffic, flexibility is now essential. I would go as far as to say, companies and bosses that offer no flexibility will be forced to overpay for talented team members.  

“The best leaders will embrace calendar flexibility to attract and retain top talent.”

While there are industries and situations where being in the same room has enormous advantages and will always be required, leaders who embrace flexibility will attract and retain top talent.  

2. They “Need” Development Opportunities

A lightbulb has turned on for many professionals thanks to the ease of access to educational content. We no longer need to wait for the next company-wide training event to grow and develop our skills. It turns out that having a growth mindset is one of the essential things professionals need to adopt. 

The best leaders provide development opportunities to encourage their people to have a growth mindset. Things like workshops, seminars, conferences, books, and lunch & learns are great ways to help employees scratch their development needs. 

3. They “Need” to Be Empowered to Make Decisions

No one likes to be micromanaged, but most managers ignore this because they don’t believe they are the micromanaging type. Indeed defines micromanagement as; a management style that involves the close supervision of an employee by their manager.  

Too many managers second guess every decision their people make in fear of losing control or the belief that no one can do the work as well as they can. Micromanagement is a hurdle every manager can and must overcome because employees have an advanced need to be empowered to make decisions.  

In his new book Winning the War in Your Mind, Craig Groeschel said, “The strength of your organization is not a reflection of what you control, it’s who you empower.”

Not only is Groeschel correct but he should have you asking yourself the question, “Can you let go and allow your people to do their best work?

4. They “Need” You to Behave Like a Coach

You might think I am a broken record, writing about managers behaving and acting like a coach, but I will not stop until it starts to become a reality. It is the most crucial skill for a manager to develop today.  (See if the next Coaching for Excellence workshop is for you.)

Coaching is the most crucial skill for managers to develop in the modern workforce. 

We love to believe people are self-made, but that has never been true. It’s often the coaching of someone else that helps us become the best version of ourselves and grow our self-belief. Since most professionals or HR budgets don’t set aside a budget for an external coach, this responsibility falls squarely on the manager’s shoulder.  

If you aren’t comfortable with playing the role of a coach, at a minimum, equip yourself with a couple of great coaching questions:

  • What do you think we should do to create the best result for everyone?
  • If you are saying yes to this, what are you saying no to? (Out of the Michael Bungay Stanier Playbook)

5. They “Need” You to Share the Truth

This one might have caught you by surprise, but in order to grow, people need the truth. Unfortunately, too many managers and executives avoid sharing the truth with people in fear of how they might react or them leaving altogether.

Take Brent the CEO of a small business as an example. During a coaching conversation, he said something that caught me by surprise. “John, I just can’t fire this person on my team. She has been there too long and has added value over the years. Having said that, she doesn’t put in the maximum effort anymore and brings a lot of negativity into the office.” Without beating him up, I just asked him a simple question, “If someone had information about you that was true that would help you improve, would you want them to share it with you?” Without hesitation, he said “yes.”  

Part of your job as a leader is to share the truth with people and that requires courage. I wrote about courage here, but I define it in Building the Best as, “Being frightened and deciding to do it anyway.” Choose courage and share the truth with your team.

In the comments below, tell me what you think. What advanced employee needs are you experiencing yourself or have observed with your people?

Leveraging Accountability in Leadership: The development of your accountability skills will make a tremendous difference in helping you lead your best in 2021. Join me for the next Leveraging Accountability in Leadership Workshop.  

Take the Free Leadership Style Quiz? Join over 55k leaders and discover your current leadership style for free.

About the Author: John Eades is the CEO of LearnLoft, a leadership development company helping executives and managers to lead their best. He was named one of LinkedIn’s Top Voices in Management & Workplace. John is also the author of Building the Best: 8 Proven Leadership Principles to Elevate Others to Success. You can follow him on Instagram @johngeades.

Simple Phrases Great Leaders Say to Their Team

communication

Managers are constantly communicating with their employees to transfer knowledge and information. This communication is crucial to the success of any team or organization; but, only if it is performed appropriately. Barking orders, giving directives, inserting negative comments, and providing unempathetic feedback are also communication methods, but they won’t give you the same success rate.  

Anyone is susceptible to getting caught up in the daily hustle and forget the weight and consequences of the words they use, neglect to use, or how they affect other people.  

Great leaders don’t lose sight of the power of their words, even long after they have said them.

John Eades

Early in my career leading a business division, I had yet to grasp this important concept. At the end of a one-on-one performance review, a team member asked if they could provide feedback to me after I finished her review. My team member said, “Recently, your attitude and words have taken a pessimistic and negative turn with myself and others. It seems you are highlighting everything the group is doing wrong versus the things we are doing right. While I know you are a positive person, this has become a pattern, and it’s wearing on the team and me.”  

My first reaction was to get defensive and make excuses. Instead, I thanked her for her courage and agreed to do some self-reflection. Over the next few days, I evaluated her specific examples and concluded she was speaking the truth. She told me because she cared and wanted me to improve. 

It taught me an important lesson that I have since seen in many of the great leaders I have studied:

Leaders don’t take things personally; they seek the truth because all improvement starts with it.  

While no leader is a perfect communicator, there are phrases the best leaders say consistently to their team members that make them more effective.   

1. “I’m not going to be perfect, and I don’t expect you to be either.”

It’s easy for professionals to look up to someone in a leadership position and fool themselves into believing they are perfect. For a leader to put the truth on the table and say, “I’m not going to be perfect, and I don’t expect you to be either,” creates a foundation of empathy and forgiveness. It expresses to your people that you are human and you know that they are human. Together you are allowed to make mistakes.

When those mistakes happen, we will admit the mistake, learn from it, and then work to not make the same ones in the future. As I wrote in Building the Best, “Failure is not final, failure is feedback.”

2. “Thank you.”

Saying “thank you” is simple, and it must be done often because it means a lot to your team. Those two little words are magical; people desperately want to be acknowledged for the work they do.  

Don’t just take my words for it. A recent study by US psychologists in the journal Psychological Science provides clinical proof of what many of us already knew: Saying “thank you” can positively transform your relationship with others. 

3. “What Have You Done Today to Help Yourself Tomorrow?”

The best leaders are obsessed with helping others reach their potential. Even with this obsession, they know they can’t do it all for their team. Each person has to make the daily decisions and self-disciplined choices to get a little better today than they were yesterday.  

The best leaders are obsessed with helping others reach their potential

By using a phrase like, “what have you done today to help yourself tomorrow,” challenges your team to not only think but act differently. I share a great story on the topic of a grasshopper and the ant in a video on LinkedIn that’s worth your time. Maybe you will share the story with your team when you ask them the question.

4. “Tell Me More.”

One way a leader separates themselves from being a manager is the mindset they take to coaching others. A coach, by definition, is one who trains and instructs. Coaching comes from the word “carriage,” meaning to take someone from point A to point B.  

In our Coaching for Excellence workshops, I teach leaders to leverage questions and statements to help their team solve their own problems. A simple statement like “tell me more” is a fantastic coaching technique to allow others to get their entire point across before a leader swoops in to solve it for them.  

Leaders withhold answers as long as possible to give people the space to solve their own problems first.  

Reject your instincts to interject your insight and opinions by using “tell me more” daily. Often people will answer their own questions without you having to be the hero. 

5. “What can I do to help you?”

There are many forms of leadership, but the concept of servant leadership has emerged as an effective leadership style. The concept behind servant leadership is to flip the traditional hierarchical management model on its head. Instead of your team working for you, you work for them.  

Gary Vaynerchuck shared this LinkedIn post recently that describes it perfectly, “Do for them, not what can they do for you! Good workers come from great bosses.”

6. “What are your personal goals?”

Work and careers have changed dramatically in the last 30 years. It was typical for someone to stay with one company for 30+ years, which is now an anomaly. Professionals have embraced the idea of movement and side hustles to achieve their professional goals. 

While most managers put their heads in the sand or reject this reality, the best leaders do the opposite. They embrace this shift and participate in helping their people achieve their personal goals.  

One of the most powerful questions any leader can ask their team is, “what are your personal goals?” If you want to take it a step further, at the beginning of every year, ask each team member, “What are your goals for this year?” this will help you align your activities and coaching to ensure they achieve them.  

Coaching for Excellence: The development of your coaching skills will make a tremendous difference in helping you lead your best in 2021. Join me for the next Coaching for Excellence Workshop. Sign up and get “8 Questions to Leverage to Be a Better Coach” for free today! https://bit.ly/3goZLv2

Take the Free Leadership Style Quiz? Join over 55k leaders and discover your current leadership style for free.

About the Author: John Eades is the CEO of LearnLoft, a leadership development company helping executives and managers to lead their best. He was named one of LinkedIn’s Top Voices in Management & Workplace. John is also the author of Building the Best: 8 Proven Leadership Principles to Elevate Others to Success. You can follow him on Instagram @johngeades.

How to Lead With Courage

One old and plenty of new pencils on black background

Leaders must develop many attributes or skills if they want to have a meaningful impact in the workplace. Having a positive attitude will change your life, empathy improves your ability to connect with team members, while a focus on goal setting and accountability ensures that your team members meet their professional potential.  

But among all these essential elements of leadership, the value of courage is consistently overlooked. Part of this is because when we first think of courage, we tend to think of heroic acts like landing a plane on the Hudson or running into a burning building to save someone. Right behind a heroic act, courage is often thought of as an attribute that only a few extraordinary leaders possess. One’s that walk around with a big S on the chest like the comic Superman.

While these are widely popular views of courage, it is a far cry from how it’s used by great leaders on a daily basis and the word’s actual meaning. I defined it in my book Building the Best as the “ability to do something that frightens you.”

C.S. Lewis famously said, “Courage is not simply one of the virtues but the form of every virtue at the testing point, which means at the point of highest reality.” Lewis got it right because each and every virtue a leader needs to possess will meet its testing point at some time. If that wasn’t enough the great William Wallace said it well in Braveheart; “people don’t follow titles; they follow courage.”

People don’t follow titles; they follow courage.  

In other words, a courageous leader is precisely the kind of leader required in today’s hyper-changing marketplace. 

What Happens When You’re Courageous

When you haven’t made many courageous decisions in your life or career, it’s tempting to believe you are just not a fearless leader. Reject this negative thinking with all your might. Courage can be exercised at any time with situations big and small by anyone willing to embrace it. 

While neuroscience research suggests that some people innately possess a thrill-seeking or “Type T” personality, courage is still required to act whether you are wired with higher risk tolerance levels or not.  

In working with leaders from all different backgrounds and industries, two significant outcomes happen when leaders are courageous. 

  1. Clarity in the Future
  2. Increased Opportunities

Clarity in the Future

One of the things many professionals are struggling with right now is clarity in their journey. There is so much uncertainty and doubt surrounding us right now; it has many questioning their purpose and pathway. What is ironic is when you are frightened and decide to do something anyway, it creates clarity, not confusion. It shows us that we are on the right or wrong path whereas if we did not act, we would remain stuck in the same place filled with uncertainty. 

Leaders Who Act Courageously Create Clarity, Not Confusion

While we aspire to have clarity as quickly as possible, it is also true that the clarity we want may not find us at our own timeline, but at at later time. However, it should provide confidence to know that when you are choosing courage, you are on the path towards clarity. 

Increase in Opportunities

Something funny happens when you act courageously as a leader, opportunity finds you. With an increase in opportunities comes the ability to make a significant impact on others and drive additional revenue. 

Entrepreneur John Wiesehan told me, “Opportunity dances with those already on the dance floor. When you act courageously, these new opportunities have a funny way of finding you. Which then allows you to make calculated decisions about which opportunities to pursue.” 

Courageous leaders can examine new opportunities quickly, as Wiesehan suggests, to reject recklessness. If they feel they lack information or the bandwidth to pursue something, it allows them to choose the right time to act courageously in the future.

How to Be More Courageous

Since courage is essential in leadership and provides significant upside, we must work hard to exercise it. Here are a few of the strategies I have seen be effective:

  1. Write Down the Worst Possible Outcome. Our brains are fascinating because we have an almond-shaped mass in them called an Amygdala. This part of our brain has become best known for its role in fear processing. This means that this area in our brain controls fear and our responses to it. You are naturally wired to run from or avoid things that can be harmful.  Getting in the habit of writing down the worst possible outcome from acting on something that frightens you often provides insight that the worst scenario isn’t actually all that bad.  
  2. Quantify the Best Possible Outcome. Since our brains constantly evaluate either the pain or gain in every situation, highlighting the benefits of courageous leadership is a powerful method to encourage action. Regardless if the end outcome meets or even exceeds our expectations, the practice of allowing your brain to visualize the possible benefits in a situation is a decisive step in the process of being more courageous. 
  3. Lean Into the Emotions. Acting as if emotions such as doubt or fear do not exist is a false path to courage. Being open and honest about your emotions is not a weakness; it is a strength. In a recent episode of Brene Brown’s Dare to Lead Podcast, Dr. Susan David was speaking about the dangers of Toxic Positivity and said, “Emotions are data, not directives. We get to choose who we want to be; our emotions don’t.” The wisdom in Dr. David’s words can’t be overstated. Allow yourself to experience the emotions that would cause you not to act courageously and then decide to move forward despite them when it makes sense. 

“Emotions are data, not directives. We get to choose who we want to be; our emotions don’t.” Dr. Susan David

Closing

The better you get at acting as a courageous leader, the easier it will be to set your fear aside and lead people, teams, and organizations to a better place than they are today. To quote the great Nelson Mandela, “I learned that courage was not the absence of fear, but the triumph over it. The brave man is not he who does not feel afraid, but he who conquers that fear.” 

Take the Free Leadership Style Quiz? Join over 55k leaders and discover your current leadership style for free.

About the Author: John Eades is the CEO of LearnLoft, a leadership development company helping executives and managers to lead their best. He was named one of LinkedIn’s Top Voices in Management & Workplace. John is also the author of Building the Best: 8 Proven Leadership Principles to Elevate Others to Success. You can follow him on Instagram @johngeades.