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3 Secrets of Great Leadership

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When Marissa Mayer decided all Yahoo! employees – including remote workers – needed to work in the office, her leadership as well as whole efficacy of telecommuting and virtual collaboration was questioned.

Not only did this decision stir controversy among remote professionals, but also amongst mothers when news broke that she had a crib installed in her office for her newborn. Although Mayer explained her decision was in the best interest of the company, and should not affect other companies’ decision to allow remote working, people still questioned whether this was the result of poor and hypocritical leadership.

Who else would be allowed to bring their newborn to work?

Whether you have 10 employees or 1,000 employees, do you project great leadership? Keep the following in mind about the difference between a manager and a leader:

– Leaders innovate, managers administer.
– Leaders inspire trust, managers rely on control.
– Leaders ask “what” and “why”, managers ask “how” and “when.”

Until recently, leadership was more about position and power than empowerment. This has since evolved into a stronger focus on real, healthy company culture and unity of thought.

“A great leader’s courage to fulfill his vision comes from passion, not position,” said John Maxwell, one of the most influential leadership trainers in the world.

Does your leadership style translate empowerment into employees that are loyal and driven by your cause (or mission)? Is your workplace doomed to fail due to old ways and stale ideas around employee morale? You have the power to change it, and carry out your vision for a better workforce.

Let’s take a look at some of the hidden secrets of a great leader.

1. Great Leaders Ask for Employee Feedback

There is more to leading a team of employees than simply telling them what to do. Are you perceived as more than just a manager? Are you even perceived as a leader and respected as such? Ask your employees. They will tell you.

Encouraging feedback from employees can be daunting for fear that you may not like what they have to say. However, it is this feedback that will make or break whether you take your leadership to the next level or not. But you can’t just ask a question for the sake of asking, you must ask the right question.

It’s more important to be clear with what you want to get out of the question and asking it in a way that people feel they can safely answer with truth and transparency. While we always recommend real conversations in place of digital reviews, our own solution lessens the reliance on performance reviews and tedious weekly meetings to extract the quality from the quantity and the personal (meaningful) from the impersonal. Why someone leaves a company may be just as important as why they stay. Learning from failures is more important than learning from successes.

The baseline things you need to know about your employees:

– How they want to be rewarded.
– How they work best.
– What they do (and don’t) like about your management style.
– What you can do to make their jobs better.

Asking for their feedback earns trust and respect with your employees. It shows them you genuinely care about their success more than your own. Scott Moorehead, CEO of The Cellular Connection, the largest Verizon retailer told Inc., “My secret to success is to be the same person at work that you are when you’re having a great day with your best friend. You listen to your friends, right? So listen to your employees. Then just be that person, each and every day. If you are brave, honest, forthcoming, and transparent you don’t have to try to be a leader. You can be yourself.”

This is a concept that IDEO highly values. They hire based on whole people, not just from experience/education. While they wouldn’t discriminate if you chose to dress differently, they do look at your whole range of experience and breadth and depth of character. People chose a lifetime of work at IDEO for the culture and the people, and may sacrifice a larger salary elsewhere to be with such a visionary team.

2. Great Leaders Help Employees Get What They Want

The old saying, “Help enough people get what they want, and you will in turn get what you want” still reigns true. Great leaders who focus on helping employees reach their goals often reach business success of their own. It’s the universe working for them.

Great leaders also understand that all employees aren’t created equal. This doesn’t mean unfair treatment, however.  They just understand their management style may translate differently to each employee, and must be tailored accordingly. What may motivate one employee may annoy another. Understand the differences to develop more symbolic and meaningful relationships with each person.

Even though employees have different goals, the success of the company can be achieved through connecting their goals with the company’s larger goals. “Managers direct or tell people what needs to be done while leaders achieve outcomes by influencing others to work to achieve a common goal,” said Cindy Novak, president of Communication Leadership Network. You can be involved in this process by helping them create a plan to achieve their goals, track their progress and communicate with them when unforeseen challenges arise.

When you discover what they want, being accountable to them to get it is what defines your leadership. Hold and be held accountable. Broken promises lead to a breach of trust between you and employees.

3. Great Leaders Give Them a Reason to Stay

A recent study found 31 percent of employees quit because they don’t get along with their boss, and an equally 31 percent quit due to lack of empowerment. These are telltale signs of the growing need for good leadership.

Do you know how much employee turnover is costing you?

How well they get along with you reflects both positively and negatively on their performance. Create an environment where employees feel comfortable talking to you. Encourage feedback to keep the lines of communication open for improvement. People will stay with (or leave) the company because of you, not because of the company.

The leader-employee relationship should be based on clear expectations, transparency and opportunity for advancement. Recognize them for a job well done, and reward them for their achievements. Lead by example, to constantly build trust whether they are a top performer or a newbie learning the ropes of the business.

What are other secrets of great leadership? Share with us in the comments!