I admit it. I’ve adjusted my email filters to tighten down on the numerous solicitations that I receive about “HR stuff”. It took me a long time. I thought I might miss something; whatever the newest thing may be. More recently, I’ve noticed the proliferation of information about “leadership”. Not a day goes by that I am not bombarded with incoming messages about the latest theory, practice, workshop or book about leadership. I have to ask myself, is it really that complicated?
Early in my career, I worked with someone whom I still regard as one of the best leaders I have ever known. He was a business owner, a civic leader, a musician, scholar, family man, engineer, sportsman; a true renaissance man. He was my Dad.
I recall many days walking through Dad’s manufacturing plant and listening to his conversations with his team of 300 employees. Rarely did these exchanges involve the technicalities of work. Rather, Dad asked his team about family, their bowling scores or golf game, or just exchanged a joke. He always asked their opinions about all manner of issues and concerns. He truly wanted to know. He listened intently and made sure to follow up with each employee to thank them for their input.
I once asked my Dad what he thought made for a successful company. He simply said, “If you get the leadership thing right, the rest will follow”. It took some prodding, but I got him to elaborate on what I felt was his oversimplified theory. Dad believed that leadership is the linchpin in a company’s success. “Bad leaders make for bad companies”, he said. “It’s as simple as that”. He went on to say, “great leaders are genuine, they are earnest and they are always working on behalf of the company and the employees; not themselves”.
Could it really be that simple?
Be genuine: Know yourself, your strengths and your limitations. Don’t be afraid to admit mistakes or to say you don’t know something. And have a sense of humor.
Be earnest: Listen intentionally. Engage people in conversations that matter to them. Work hard on the things that matter most.
Be active: Engage at all levels of the company. Inspire people to contribute and to be accountable. Show your appreciation for their efforts and help them see that their work and their ideas really matter.
It may seem like a simple equation; however it can be challenging for leaders to make it all happen. I had the benefit of a great coach, my Dad. I also have seen the positive impact that great coaching has had on colleagues and clients. We all need a trusted network of support and expertise to help us leverage our strengths, work on our weaknesses and help us navigate our lives as leaders. It is definitely not a journey to go alone.
If you agree with my Dad that a great leader is the linchpin to a great organization, who better to invest in and support? Leaders matter, don’t forget to invest in them, too.
It’s that simple.