Let’s start this discussion with a shout out to Toastmasters International. I’ve been a member of the Toastmasters organization for almost two years now. The skills and increased ability for public speaking, clarity in my speech, meeting organization, and being able to adapt quickly during presentations and discussions have been aided tremendously through active participation with this group. I bring Toastmasters up now because; I recently was able to share my view of what I perceive great leadership to be during one of my formal speeches at my Toastmaster club event.
To start off, there are so many different perspectives, and definitions of what good leadership is. There are leaders and managers of all sorts of functions and faculties. These range from logistics, operations, people, and so many other areas. For the sake of discussion here I’m going to focus on Leaders of people. Although it is essential that you have the skills that would categorize you as “good enough” at most aspects of leadership to really excel as an effective leader of people.
As I was preparing for my speech I thought of where I receive my information of what an exceptional people leader is. Much comes from my education background and numerous business classes, but it mainly is derived from my personal experiences with my own supervisors, mentors and observing leadership done well around me.
Some basic principles that I firmly believe a person who wants to be an outstanding people leader needs in there life are:
· Treat everyone with respect, and find something to appreciate and learn from any person you encounter. (Know your team by name and speak their names frequently – Often the kindest word a person can hear is… There own name)
· Make sure you have at least 10 minutes of face-to-face interaction with each one of your direct contact employees at least once a week or as frequently as possible if you are at different locations. If there’s not time currently, make time. During those encounters make a point to know from their perspective 1) what is going well with work/projects, 2) what is going poorly, 3) what additional resources could they use, 4) what items would make their lives easier if they were fixed or alleviated.
· Empower your team to take risks. Put resources in front of them and be an advocate for getting those to them. Champion ideas for change, innovation, and fixing the problems that your staff identifies.
· When you are in meetings or speaking to those higher up then you or other divisions; give credit to the innovations to your team who worked so hard on them and address them by name as you do so. When there are problems with workflow or projects that don’t go as well or hit the desired targets take the blame for it. Something like this, “That project didn’t go as well as we had hoped. I wasn’t able to get the proper information to my team, or I set expectations that knowing what I know now were unrealistic, and I’ve addressed that issue and my team will do better on the next project now that they have the additional tools, or more realistic target.” Of course you need to address individually with team members these issues to ensure that they are able to make adjustments in the future. I think that you will find an empowered team of people who have the freedom to make small mistakes and is given resources when needed to excel will have results that are beyond what you would anticipate.
One of the most outstanding supervisors I have had over the years was my education director Brian Walsh at Peninsula College. Brian was recognized by the White House as a Champion of Change and one of 10 educators chosen in the US to fly to Washington DC, meet the President and share with other educational leaders. Brian is an example to me that I continue to refer to as how to lead a team well. He took a group of instructors and encouraged us to work together in a way that highlighted not only each of our individual talents but also the team dynamics. He exemplifies these leadership principles that I aim to emulate. If you listen to his TEDx Talk, you will see how this great leader who has done so much for Prison Education Reform highlights his team. If we all continue to seek to lead people well our organizations, foundations, and businesses will be a much more enjoyable, productive and creative place to be.