Want to be a smart leader? You’ve come to the right place. Wearing glasses can help (I’ve tried that), but there are some better ways to go about it.
Smart leaders know that without their teams, they can’t accomplish anything. In fact, if our teams didn’t exist, there would be no reason for us to be employed at all!
As leaders, we need our teams to be taking our direction when managing the team or trying to make improvements to the way we’re working. If they don’t, we will struggle to gain traction and implement the things we need to move forward.
Smart Leaders Know That Respect Is Important
Smart leaders respect their people. Respect isn’t just about being courteous and polite. Respect means treating people like people, acknowledging their needs, feelings and challenges.
Does this mean you need to give your people what they want all the time?
No, showing respect doesn’t mean you just give in to whatever your team wants. You don’t need to always be the nice girl or guy.
But showing respect does mean letting your team know where they stand, and keeping them informed so they can make their own decisions about how they feel about their situation.
Sometimes, leaders need to work hard to remain aware of their behaviour to show respect. After all, you can just tell people what to do. And sometimes, it feels quicker just to order everyone around instead of trying to get people on board with what you’re trying to accomplish.
However, it can be good to “slow down, to speed up”. Getting your people on board with where you want to go is a good way to eliminate roadblocks down the track.
Let’s take a look at some of the things you can do to be a smart leader, for your team.
1. Smart Leaders Explain Their Reasons
We always need our teams to be taking direction and following our lead. But smart leaders know that the best way for people to follow is to understand “the why”.
When people understand the why, they can better understand how their work contributes to the bigger picture.
When people understand why, they can reconcile conflicting emotions in their head, and understand the reasons behind what might seem like a silly direction.
Better yet, when people understand the why, they can raise objections and suggestions that you might not have thought of. They can suggest improvements that may get you the same result, with less effort or reduced risk.
When leaders fail to explain their reasons, it shows a lack of respect. It comes across as a “just shut up and do it” directive, which is almost never one that will build trust from your team. You don’t need everybody to agree with your reasons, but you should show people the courtesy of explaining them.
Leader Checkpoint: If you can’t explain your reasons in a way that makes sense, then it might be time to rethink what you’re doing.
Related: Of course, don’t forget to watch this (now a little old, but still relevant) video from Simon Sinek about why you should “Start with why”.
2. Intelligent Leaders Acknowledge the Flaws & Issues
When leaders rush forward, failing to acknowledge potential issues, bad things can happen. Sometimes, we do this because we think that if people disagree with our approach, they are just “resisting change” and trying to slow us down.
Of course, if you just keep everything as it is all the time, nothing changes. There is no progress and no improvement. We can’t just let our teams resist all of our ideas and prevent what we’re trying to do.
We’ve already looked at why it’s important to explain our reasons. So the next part is to acknowledge any shortcomings in our approach. Your team might raise them as concerns.
Failing to do this can make you seem delusional, especially if your team has grave concerns with the direction you’re proposing. Failure to acknowledge the concerns, address them and even adapt your approach is risky as your team start to think you have no idea what you’re doing.
Or worse, if a leader keeps pushing forward without any concern for the risks, it may look like they are trying to push their own personal agenda, without any concern for the team.
Leader Checkpoint: Have you acknowledged and addressed any flaws, risks or issues in your plans? You don’t necessarily need to stop what you’re doing, but it could help to adapt your approach.
3. Smart Leaders Push Back and Say “No”
Smart leaders know that sometimes, agreeing with everything your boss says is a recipe for disaster. Failing to push back and say “No” can mean your team is overloaded with work, working on the wrong priorities or at worst, doing things that are unethical.
As a smart leader, you might need to push back when:
- People are pushing work onto you or your team which is unreasonable
- Deadlines are unachievable or unrealistic
- Pushing forward would result in burnout or other poor outcomes for your team
- There is a better approach you could take that would achieve a similar result.
Pushing back can be uncomfortable, but often doing so early can provide a better outcome in the long run. Pushing back also lets your team know that you have their best interests at heart.
A leader who fails to push back can turning into a punching bag that just keeps taking punishment and saying nothing, which quickly causes a leader to lose respect.
Failing to push back makes a leader into a “Yes-woman” or “Yes-man”. If organisations have too many “Yes-people”, this is a recipe for disaster.
The best ideas and approaches are often borne out of diversity of opinion and constructive discussion. This means that if everyone just agrees with the boss all the time, you’re only getting one opinion.
Leaders don’t know everything, so pushing back and raising concerns or suggesting alternative approaches can help shape a sub-optimal idea into a great strategy.
Leader Checkpoint: If you’re saying “Yes” to things you don’t agree with and have big concerns about, this is a big red flag suggesting a need for you to push back.
What other things do smart leaders do? Let me know in the comments below!