I like to call a certain typical leadership style “shock and awe.” You know, people who deploy yelling, profanity and anger to ‘motivate’ employees. Unsurprisingly, these techniques are not exactly effective in creating a devoted and engaged corps willing to go the extra mile for a growing business.
That said, I understand that it can be hard to figure out how to walk the line between motivation and authority. Here are eight leadership traits that engage employees so your firm can soar:
1. Think Cool Hand Luke. Employees like to work in an environment where their supervisor is soft spoken and comfortable in his or her skin. People who do not raise their voice and remain calm during stressful events stand out and create a karma that is fulfilling and long lasting.
2. Take the High Road. Many times on the journey to success, your team will be faced with choices that cut corners and may lead one from the straight and narrow path to one of ethical ambiguity. Always take the clear ethical path. It sets a tone that an occasional short term setback is okay as long as it leaves one’s character intact. This will create a culture that purges miscreants and embraces the good. People like to work for honest people.
3. Be Transparent. Period. Speak directly and without lies of omission — it’s rarer than you think. At the first sign of challenges, share bad news or constructive criticism early. Do not let issues fester and do not cover them up. Lance wounds fast and clearly. Explain why you did what you did, and move on. The typical alternative is to gloss over issues, which generates mistrust among the team since the shrewd associates will wonder what else you’re lying about.
4. Success is Due to the Team. Compliment your team frequently. Wins, even small wins, should trigger healthy doses of praise, which should be lathered liberally. The leader should never take credit — it’s about the team.
5. Failure is the Leader’s Fault. General Dwight Eisenhower famously wrote a “failure” letter (thankfully never necessary) in case the U.S. troops did not prevail against the Nazis in Normandy, France in June of 1944. He takes the fall for the team: “Our landings in the Cherbourg-Havre area have failed to gain a satisfactory foothold and I have withdrawn the troops. My decision to attack at this time and place was based upon the best information available. The troops, the air and the Navy did all that Bravery and devotion to duty could do. If any blame or fault attaches to the attempt it is mine alone.”
6. Mentor, Not Bully. Counsel your team to success. Browbeating and stick wielding does not motivate top performers. They need suggestions and tips.
7. Grant Freedom. Hire great people and get out of their way. Talent will succeed and does not need constant engagement. If you have to micromanage them, you failed in your hiring and promotion process.
8. Cure Mistakes Fast. Unsuccessful and underperforming employees must be mentored to success, or part ways quickly to clear the way for an accomplished person in that role. Rock star employees are constrained by co-workers who generate serial failures. Top employees become demotivated as leadership does not aggressively prune the dead wood.