5 Insightful Tips for How to Become a Great Leader
Who should listen: Anyone, regardless of job title, who wants to discover some small but highly significant actions that will set them apart as a great leader.
Key idea: Great leaders are intent on seeing what others do not see in themselves and helping them to achieve what they want.
Action item: Select someone with whom you have some influence and recognize them in a way that inspires even greater achievement.
There are tens of thousands of books that address the topic of leadership. Among the consequences of having so many choices is the near impossibility of developing a comprehensive list of actions someone can take to become a great leader. However, some lists are better than others, and we think the list we’ve put together for this week’s Silver Dollar episode is darn good:
- Take extreme ownership.
- Lead by example.
- Speak using radical candor.
- Give recognition.
- Trust your people.
We’ll hit the highlights of each action on this list, but we want to encourage you to listen to the full episode. It’s in the discussion where you’ll hear details (like examples) that will make it easier to apply these suggestions at work and in other parts of your life.
1. Take extreme ownership
Extreme ownership is an idea first introduced by Jocko Willink and Leif Babin, two retired Navy SEALs officers, in their wildly successful book, Extreme Ownership: How U.S. Navy SEALs Lead and Win. In the book, these decorated officers take the mindset and guiding principles they learned and taught as part of the U.S. military’s primary special operations force and apply them to business leadership and management practices.
As an idea, extreme ownership is easy to understand: in your life, you own everything, which means you are responsible for everything that happens, regardless of whether what happens is under your direct control.
It’s that last part—“regardless of whether what happens is under your direct control”—that makes this idea of ownership extreme and its practice rare. In your life, consider how often you’ve blamed circumstances, luck, timing, other people, the universe, or your god for something bad that has happened. Each time, you failed to take ownership.
To be a great leader, you’ll want to start with the mindset and principle that you own the problems, the solutions, the failures, and the decisions that affect your team and your organization.
“But what about the wins?” you may wonder. “Do I own them too?”
For the answer, we suggest you listen to the episode (or read the book).
2. Lead by example
“Do as I say, not as I do” might work if you’re a parent talking to a child, but as someone who is supposed to be leading a group of people, there may be no quicker way to lose their respect and encourage poor performance than saying one thing and doing another.
Think about it for just a moment—if work is supposed to start at 8 a.m. and the manager routinely walks in at 9 a.m., what kind of message does that send?
In leading by example, you want to show others what is possible. If there is a task to be completed or a goal to be reached, your example demonstrates that it can be done.
During this episode, we offer a few key examples of what you can do to lead by example and become a great leader.
3. Speak using radical candor
Of the five tips, this one may be the most difficult to implement because it requires you to rethink the reason for feedback and examine your reluctance to be honest when it’s most critical.
In her book Radical Candor (Be a Kick-Ass Boss Without Losing Your Humanity), Kim Scott claims you can be direct with someone about what’s not working and still be able to show that you care about them if you speak with “radical candor.”
Pick up the book to learn what radical candor is, along with what “obnoxious aggressiveness,” “manipulative insincerity,” and “ruinous empathy” are.
4. Give recognition
It’s difficult to think that leaders still need to be reminded to give their employees recognition—including a simple “thank you”— for a job well done, but with 65% of employees reporting that they haven’t received any recognition for good work in the last year, we felt it was important to include it on our list.
When you listen, you’ll discover six ways to help ensure that the recognition you give is received as you intend and that it will continue to inspire good work—including that the recognition is proportionate to the achievement.
5. Trust your people
Trusting your people to do the job they were hired to do may seem like a no-brainer, but many leaders find it difficult—especially when they are trying to balance extreme ownership with empowering their teams.
Employees who have been newly promoted to leadership roles may have a difficult time relinquishing the job they used to do to those employees they now supervise. They want to minimize the risk of failure and can be prone to micromanaging. The key is to be willing to let people fail—not in any career-ending way—but in ways that encourage them to learn from their mistakes.
It’s important when assuming a new leadership role that you listen to the people who report to you. Let them offer ideas about how things can be done. Their suggestions likely wouldn’t be the way you might do something, but it’s important to their confidence that you show you trust them.
Please enjoy this episode, and we’d appreciate it if you would give us a five-star rating and leave a review on Apple Podcasts. (Not sure how to leave a review? Click here.)
Connect | Resources
Ep. 188: “How to Apply Extreme Ownership to Your Business”
Extreme Ownership: How U.S. Navy SEALs Lead and Win by Jocko Willink and Leif Babin
Radical Candor (Be a Kick-Ass Boss Without Losing Your Humanity) by Kim Scott
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