Being a good leader isn’t a popularity contest. It isn’t about who likes you or who wants to be your friend. But it is about people. And it is flat out impossible to be a truly effective leader without being a good person, and without having others’ best interest in mind. Being liked as a leader stems from giving people what they want and making sure their needs are fulfilled. Even from the standpoint of big business, it is possible to lead a successful company without these things, but your profits will never be what they could if morale, turnover and customer service were at their best. The most effective leaders get people, and in turn are liked. But, as simple as that sounds, it also involves doing enough work on oneself that you are able to let go of ego and lead with heart. So here are a few things you can do to take on the challenge of leading with heart.
- Get to know who/what you’re leading.
Being a leader requires having an understanding of the dynamics you’re working with. Not everyone responds to the same kind of leadership. Different things will motivate different people, and everyone has a different preferred style of communication or interaction. It’s your responsibility as a leader to know what makes people tick, and to offer up some of their preferred flavor of “kool-aid” if you want them to respond well to you. This isn’t about trickery or babying people to ensure they do what you want, but about respecting the diversity within human nature enough to give people what works best for them innately.
The only way to set someone up for success is to actually believe first that they will be successful. It’s that simple. You can’t guarantee someone’s success just by believing in them, but if we don’t, their success is far less likely. Why wouldn’t you set your employees (or children, or community members) up with success by providing them with inspiration and motivation in knowing we believe in them? If people know they are backed by us, they will trust themselves, and trust us if they need to ask for extra support in order to be successful.
- See the beauty.
Yes, I may sound like a Mary Poppins here, but there truly is beauty in everyone. And it’s not only important to see the beauty in people to relish in it, or to enjoy their presence – it’s also much more pragmatic than that. Finding the beauty in those you’re leading will help you to know how and when to delegate. You will know who has what gifts and how to best put them to use. And it will also serve as a fall back when the chips are down. When things don’t go well, and you find yourself not being able to depend upon someone, you can always come back to what you love about them to recreate something new.
- Recreate what’s not working.
Don’t ever think you know everything about someone, or that you have them “pegged”. We create how people appear to us, as much as they do. When triggered by someone or something, we have power in creating what happens next. When someone exhibits behaviors or shows up in a way that doesn’t work for you, or for the organization you’re leading, don’t continue expecting them to show up that way, as it will only perpetuate what hasn’t been working. I have recreated my experience of people by letting go of the things in their personality or behavior that weren’t working for me, and focusing instead on the beauty I can see in them. It’s worked with even the most volatile relationships.It’s integral to have to ability to come back to what you do love about someone’s personality, behavior or performance to uncreate what it is that wasn’t working for you. You’re not seeking to change them, but giving yourself the opportunity to see something new – on the chance that your belief in them (or lack thereof) was somehow contributing to the perpetuated behavior, or how you were viewing it. It’s important to focus in on what you’re grateful for to allow more of that good stuff to show up.
- Take responsibility. Yes, always.
We have mirrors everywhere. Anytime something doesn’t go as we planned, or something triggers us in any way, we can always take responsibility for where we could have done things differently. It’s not about placing blame, its about utilizing every situation to grow and expand. So before discussing something that could be considered blaming or accusatory with anyone, look into the proverbial (or literal) mirror first, and check in with what you might have to learn, and where you could shift in the situation.
- Have crunchy conversations (but don’t anticipate them to be crunchy).
A friend of mine recently acknowledged me for “always being ready and willing to have crunchy conversations”. I laughed. She was right; spot on, in fact. And yet (perhaps because I often go into them having done the aforementioned work as well), to me, they generally feel smooth and easeful. I’ve found that when a challenging conversation is entered into with ease and transparency, it will usually culminate in understanding and happy resolution for both parties. There are many methods to cultivate such a sense of openness and flow in conversation, but an integral aspect is losing the expectation that it will be difficult, and instead anticipating understanding and resolution.
It’s not enough simply to see where people are doing well. It’s pertinent that they are aware of what you see. Acknowledgement breeds success. When we feel seen, we also feel loved and respected, and we continue to show up as our best selves. We bring our A-game because we know it’s worth our while. We strive to do even better because we like ourselves and have respect for those we’re working for. We feel we matter, and therefore what we do matters. Being liberal with acknowledgement results in leading people who are generous with what they have to offer.
- Create and maintain wide open space.
It’s no coincidence that environments with wide open space breed productivity. Look at Central Park in New York, for example. Wide open space creates room for things to function well. As life is ever changing, if all of the gaps are filled, there will be no room for things to move around as they are needed. An organization that does not have wide open space for its members (and therefore, a leader who does not have the same for those they are leading) is not likely to function smoothly. People need room to speak up, be heard and remedy shifting situations.