“And so, my fellow Americans: ask not what your country can do for you — ask what you can do for your country.” ~ John F. Kennedy
The words Kennedy spoke in his inaugural address are just as true today as they were in 1961. And this subtle twist of logic applies in business as much as it does in every walk of life. Leadership is an environment as well as a skill. The most inspiring and engaging leaders are those who take care of others and help them be the best version of themselves.
Leadership is too often solely defined as leading the way. But what is the use of leading if no one is following? Every leader needs followers – and that means earning the respect and trust of those who report to you at work.
Many of our most effective business leaders learned their leadership lessons under fire, literally. When bullets are whistling over your head and bombs are bursting around, knowing that there are people you can rely on is invaluable. And that kind of trust and loyalty starts with you, their leader.
Even if you have only one person who reports to you, if you want to be a good leader, help that person be good at their job. This doesn’t mean doing the work for them. It means supplying your people with the resources, support, and recognition that allows them to perform at their highest level.
Some leadership concepts that I think work as well in the workplace, as they do in the barracks:
The mission is more important than you. Check your ego at the door. First, take care of your people, because without them, no mission can be accomplished.
Lead by example. Never ask someone to do something you would not do yourself. There is no task too small, too tedious, or too menial that does not contribute to the overall success of the organization.
Live by the Golden Rule. Treat others the way you like to be treated; with dignity and respect.
Lead with forgiveness. Moving forward requires taking risks. When we risk more, we try more, we take more chances. Mistakes will happen and messes will be made. Support your people with forgiveness, help them fix mistakes when they make them, and you will be rewarded with creativity and innovation.
Lead with recognition. When we give recognition for a job well done, we are acknowledging the hard work and sacrifices of others, and giving them the confidence to help them grow.
Serve with mentorship. One of the greatest gifts you can give is the gift of your time. Great leaders understand the importance of mentorship and succession planning. There are many ways to pass on wisdom or share skills, and help others achieve their goals.
Lead with connection. When we genuinely care about others, we make it our business to find points of connection with them. Connections create loyalty and alliance built out of mutual trust.
A good leader builds a culture of service, from the top, down. The more you do that, the more you will earn the trust of your team so when you need them to go the extra mile for you, they will — gladly. Not because you’re their boss, but because they respect and trust you as their leader.