American poet, singer and civil rights activist, Maya Angelou once said: “I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”
This is so true when it comes to leadership. So how do you ensure that your approach to leadership makes your team feel good?
As I’ve said so many times before, it starts with you. If a leader isn’t confident in who they are, what they believe in and how they want to run their business, they have little chance of inspiring others. And if you don’t feel content in your role as a leader, it won’t take long before your employees notice. Maybe people will start to pick up on your insecurities because of your body language or how you interact with others. On the converse, if you’re comfortable with who you are and what you stand for, you’ll have more success connecting with people because you know where your strengths and weaknesses lie.
For example, some leaders are better at connecting with people in small groups. They could run a large multinational corporation with thousands of employees but if they stand in front of all of those people they won’t be able to connect with their staff as well as if they were communicating with a handful of people in a smaller boardroom. This doesn’t mean that they’re a bad leader. It just demands that they lead in ways that best suit their personality.
Following the lead
I recently did some reading about former US president Theodore “Teddy” Roosevelt. I didn’t know this but Roosevelt was growing up, it was acceptable for affluent people to pay poorer members of society to take their place when countries were at war. When it came time for Teddy to head to the army, he dutifully obliged. Despite being described as an “asthmatic weakling”, he willingly exposed himself to violence and harsh elements so that he could get tougher and went on to lead a group of soldiers dubbed the “Rough Riders”. His bravery inspired others from the upper echelons of society to do the same. If you, as a leader make others feel comfortable around you, they’ll trust you and follow your lead.
I also believe that good leaders aren’t afraid to affirm and acknowledge those around them. Be it the waiter who serves you your coffee in the morning or your right hand man or woman. Strong leaders are quick to compliment and commend those who have had a hand in their success – be it big or small. Sometimes, this acknowledgement comes in the form of constructive criticism. Which can be hard for people to hear but when it is done in the right way, your employees will be far more receptive to what you have to say.
When was the last time you received a handwritten letter or post card in the mail?
Considering the fact that we are all sent so many messages each day – be it texts, WhatsApp messages or emails – it actually feels quite special to receive a handwritten note. Think about leadership as being a bit like writing a personalised letter to your employees. Each interaction you have with your colleagues and with your team should be as well thought out and carefully considered as a handwritten letter.
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