Over the last week, our Vantage colleagues were asked to provide the most impactful leadership lessons that they had learned over their career, or shared most often with other leaders. The answers were insightful, enriching, and far-reaching, and hopefully will be useful for other leaders. Below are the ten leadership lessons as learned by Vantage:
- Leaders cast long shadows and seldom understand the full impact they have, both good and bad. A leader always tends to be much more influential than he or she realizes, and thus needs to learn to track responses to their style and communication. With this in mind, think, “What shadow do I want to cast? How do I want to impact my organization? Do I like how I am currently impacting my people?”
- A focused and aligned team always stands a better chance. The adage “united we stand, divided we fall” is never more true than in organizations. Your job as a leader is to create high performance teams and hold them to a high standard, stressing a shared commitment to goals, accountability for results, transparent communication, constructive conflict, and mutual respect and camaraderie.
- In a dynamic environment, organizations can become increasingly irrational and fragile places. Some amount of noise is always to be expected within an organization; a leader should be concerned when the noise hinders their business’s ability to be productive. It is up to a good leader to be attuned to the pulse of their company so as to recognize abnormal dynamism and stop it before it hurts productivity and morale.
- If you don’t know the answer, don’t pretend as though you do. As simple as this advice may sound, many leaders believe they must have the solutions to all problems. The reason you surround yourself with capable individuals is to have a knowledge base upon which to draw. Doing so does not show weakness; it engages your peers and shows you value their input.
- A compelling vision can capture an organization’s imagination and commitment. Such a vision has rigor in its analysis and an emotional component that is hard to define, but equally engaging. Shape your organization’s vision, and clearly communicate its foundation and its merits.
- Don’t react to less-than-ideal situations personally. Too often, people will assume that business decisions are done “to” them. Poor performance reviews, a lost client relationship, all can be taken to heart in a way that is unproductive. Take agency, and choose how you want to respond.
- People leave their managers, not their organizations. This underscores the importance of a leader being aware of the shadow they cast and working proactively to see the impact they are having on their employees.
- When your values are clear, your decisions are easy. What is important to you as a leader? What beliefs drive your actions? Keeping these at the foundation of any work you do aligns your thinking and helps you to ascertain that the decisions you are making are good ones.
- You can act your way into new thinking. Anyone who has tried to alter behavior understands how difficult it is. When attempting to start a new habit, such as exercising more often or keeping in better touch with your professional connections, it’s best to do before you think your way out of action. This isn’t to say that weighty decisions should be made haphazardly; rather, if you’re trying to instigate new practices for yourself or for your organization, making small changes is more effective than weighing pros and cons of action.
- Leaders must help people see long-term rewards to get them past short-term change aversion. Loss aversion is often a person’s default; if people anticipate short-term consequences, no matter how unlikely, ill-founded, or temporary, they will avoid making change. Your responsibility is to draw a vivid picture of where your company is headed to help your people get past what will happen immediately.
What have been the most impactful leadership lessons you have learned over your career?