Part Four—Becoming the Best Leader You Can Be—Taking Care of Yourself and Motivating Those Who Follow You—in Good Times and Tough Times
Remember our key phrase this month: You are a leader! Continue to grow in your leadership position so that you can effectively lead the group around you, no matter what size it is!
This month I am covering the topic of Leadership:
1. The Foundational Principles of Leadership and Developing a Powerful Vision. In the first week’s edition, I covered the basic foundational elements that are central to becoming a person with tremendous leadership skills and abilities. I also discussed the secrets to having a powerful and compelling vision that helps you attract others.
2. Character: The Core of Leadership and Leadership Mistakes to Avoid. Two weeks ago, I looked at what I believe is the core element of what it means to be a leader: the issue of character. I looked at what it means to be a person of character who can inspire others, and how character is essential. I also looked at some typical mistakes people make that hinder their ability to lead and move their organizations forward and how you can avoid making those same mistakes.
3. Skills Needed for Effective Leadership and Developing Other Leaders in Your Organization. Last week I focused more on the basic skills that effective leaders demonstrate. I also looked at some strategic ways to develop potential leaders around you to ensure a new generation of leaders.
4. Becoming the Best Leader You Can Be—Taking Care of Yourself as the Leader and Motivating Those Who Follow You—In Good Times and Tough Times. This week I will take a closer look at making sure that you take care of yourself. In this day and age, it is even more important for the leader to closely guard their personal growth and development. I will also look at how to motivate others to follow you.
There is a basic principle in life: You cannot help people beyond the degree to which you have first helped yourself. This is not to say we should be narcissistic and selfish; it just means that we should make our own lives successful so that we can, in turn, help others along their journey as well.
Leaders can fall into a trap. They can be so focused on the needs of their followers and the needs of the organization that they eventually fall apart, meaning they can no longer help others.
One key to being a great leader is to work toward longevity, which includes taking care of yourself and making yourself the very best leader and person you can be.
So here are some keys to keeping yourself in the game so you can be an effective leader for a very long time and help as many people as possible:
1. Realize that taking care of yourself isn’t selfish. Leaders are people, just as their followers are. We need to take care of ourselves. And it isn’t selfish to do so. In fact, the argument could be made that not taking care of ourselves is the most selfish thing we could do because there is a high likelihood that we will burn out and be unable to serve our followers if we don’t. We can still work hard and lead, and at the same time be very effective in taking care of ourselves. This may be an attitude or belief adjustment for some of you who are used to giving up too much of yourselves to your followers.
2. Have a plan for taking care of yourself. If you don’t have a plan, something important could be neglected. What gets planned gets done. It is interesting that the same leaders who wouldn’t neglect planning their work don’t plan the part of their lives that will restore them to a greater strength in both their work and personal lives. A strong leader plans to restore themselves. They schedule restorative activities and times.
3. Set boundaries. Even as leaders, we need to have boundaries with our followers. There needs to be a clear line that they are not allowed to cross or encroach upon. Your followers need to know not only that you are the leader, and as such, you are willing to sacrifice for the team, but also that you are a person who needs time for yourself.
4. Live a life of balance. One of the most important things you can do in this area is to make sure that you are balanced. There are many areas of life: work, hobbies, family, health, recreation, learning, etc.—the list could go on forever. Unfortunately, too many people spend too much time on one or two areas, and usually it is work that gets the bulk of our energy and attention. Life isn’t designed to be lived this way. We all need a break from an intense routine. We are actually designed to work more efficiently when we live in balance. As we turn away from a part of life for a time, it actually enables us to be better when we return. So, when you leave your leadership at work for a time, say, a well-needed vacation, you will actually be a better leader when you get back to the office. Balance makes us better in every area, including our emotional, physical, intellectual and spiritual lives.
5. Spend quiet time. We live in a day of noise. From the time we get up until the time we collapse into bed, we are surrounded by noise. We are bombarded with thousands of marketing messages. We’re exposed to television, radio and people talking all day. Frankly, we need quiet. We need to be alone with just our thoughts. We need to get away from all of the voices to be alone with our own voice, that inner voice that we don’t always get to hear. When we are alone, we begin to see more clearly. We learn about ourselves. And that, in turn, helps us become better leaders.
6. Take time for fun things. Every leader—every person—needs time for fun. Just because you are a leader doesn’t mean you have to be serious all of the time. Everybody should have things they do to enjoy themselves. Laugh and have fun!
7. Have someone, such as a mentor or coach, invest in you just as you invest in others. The job of the leader is to give sacrificially to those they lead. This is the idea of servant leadership. Leaders give. The idea that the leaders get to the top and live off of others’ work is not accurate. True leaders give to others. The downside is that we often do not have anyone to give to us. While we are teaching others, who teaches us? Every great leader should have someone who can pour into their life, someone who can teach them, someone who can encourage them, someone whom the leader can go to with issues and problems. Those are needs every leader has. You would do well to find someone who can invest in you the way you invest in others.
8. Take a day off each week. The good book says to take a day of rest. Work six days, then rest a day. No more “sneaking back into the office.” No more making “just one more phone call.” This is a foreign concept to many people today. We have become seven-days-a-week workers. But the body, the mind and the spirit need rest. It is OK to do nothing—you have my permission! Rest one full day—at least! This will go a long way toward regenerating your life, and ultimately your leadership.
9. Go for the long haul. The old fable of the tortoise and the hare is a good one. Those who finish first are those who steadily plod along and discipline themselves to finish the race. You are a leader today. Do you want to be a leader 10 years from now? Twenty years? Thirty years? If you pace yourself and take care of yourself, you can be. Yes, we need to have a sense of urgency in our work, but at the same time, we must understand that we have a lifetime to lead.
Taking care of yourself is important. It is something you cannot neglect if you take your leadership role seriously. Give this some serious thought and consideration. When you get the concept of taking care of yourself and then act on it, you will significantly increase your chances of being a great leader for the long haul.
Until next week, let’s do something remarkable!
One thing known to be true (but many people do not believe) is that people do want to be motivated. Sometimes people will say, “But they just won’t follow.” Not true. You just haven’t motivated them to follow you! Get certain things right, and they will follow! With that in mind, here are some keys to getting people motivated to follow your leadership.
1. Inspire and Challenge Them. People want to be inspired. They want to be encouraged to think bigger and better things. They want to look for and climb big mountains. They want to have someone help them dream their biggest dreams. That’s inspiration! They also want someone to set the bar high for them. They want someone to tell them that they can and should aim higher and go for more. That’s challenging! Show them the lofty heights, because probably no one else is and the one who does is the one who will lead them.
2. Teach Them. One of the greatest leadership-development programs in the world is at General Electric. Jack Welch, the company’s former CEO, personally devoted himself to its growth. He spent thousands and thousands of hours at the company’s university, teaching in a classroom setting. He knew that information must be communicated and taught. He knew that leaders need to take the time and be patient, teaching those they lead. And, oftentimes, through this process, you will probably learn something yourself!
3. Empathize with Them. OK, it’s almost a cliché by now, but the saying, “I feel your pain” works! Why? Because people want their leaders to feel their pain. They want them to know what it feels like when it is hard or when it is work. This doesn’t mean every board meeting has to be a touchy feely sob fest, but we ought to do more than tell our followers, “Suck it up, soldier!” In this day and age, that doesn’t fly. Your followers want to know that you understand what they are going through and that you care. Sit down with them. Ask questions about the situation, and follow up with them.
4. Strategize with Them. Some, but very few, people want to be told what to do and then be left alone. Most would like some direction and help in the area of strategy. Take the time to plot out the plan of action. Even if you know it, it is best to not just hand it over and say, “Now, do it.” Take them step by step so they learn how to do it themselves. Remember, we aren’t just trying to get the job done—we are trying to get the job done and create new leaders under us. This is an investment!
5. Dream with Them. Take an interest in what they want to accomplish in their life. Give them the opportunity to dream about what your organization or business can become. Encourage them to dream big dreams, and then do all you can to share that dream, foster that dream and make that dream a reality! Let them know that you are committed to them achieving their dreams, and they will follow you to the ends of the earth!
6. Encourage Them to Shoot for the Stars. This is closely aligned with having them dream, but this has more to do with the size of their dream! Most people will underestimate what they can do or what they want to accomplish. Most people have much more potential than they realize, let alone live up to. Help them by encouraging them to stretch their dreams so they are even bigger and greater than before.
7. Communicate Honestly and Clearly with Them. People who follow want their leaders to be honest with them. The act of following is based on believing that you are being told the truth about where you are going! Be open about the positives and the negatives. People can take it, and if you make them integral to the solutions, then even tough problems become a chance for teamwork! Communicate in many ways: written, verbal, etc. Do it regularly so they know what the plan is, where you are going, what time departure is and the estimated time of arrival at destination success!
Now, motivation is always important, but it’s even more so in tough and challenging times. Here are a few things to keep in mind when the going gets rough:
Tough and challenging times will surely come. That is a given. The question is: What kind of leadership will we demonstrate during those times? Weak leaders will see permanent damage. With extraordinary leaders at the helm, however, an organization can actually become stronger and thrive in spite of the tough and challenging times. That should be our goal, so here are some ideas on how to be an extraordinary leader in tough and challenging times!
1. Keep Your Eyes on the Big Picture. When things get tough, everybody’s temptation is to become acutely focused on the problem. The extraordinary leader, however, will keep their eyes on the big picture. This doesn’t mean that we don’t address the problem. In fact, we have to address the problem. But what separates a leader from a follower is that the leader doesn’t get caught up in the problem. The leader sees the big picture and keeps moving toward the vision. The further they take their followers toward the vision, the further away from the problem they get.
2. Don’t Get Caught in the War or the Friendly Fire. When it gets tough, even the most loyal team members can be tempted to start shooting, and, unfortunately, they sometimes shoot each other! Rather than focusing on the enemy on the outside, they begin to question each other and find many faults with one another that they normally would not see. The extraordinary leader is the one who does not get dragged into the fray. They keep their eye on the big picture and act rationally and objectively. They understand that people can become heated and might say things they don’t really mean, that people are firing because they are angry or scared. The extraordinary leader understands this and rises above it. This way, they take fewer arrows and set the example for their followers.
3. Be First to Sacrifice. When it gets tough (cuts in salaries, etc.), the leader should do just that—lead. They need to not only be the one who is rewarded the greatest when all is well, but they need to be the first to sacrifice. The extraordinary leader says, “I know many of you are concerned with the salary cuts. I am, too. In the long run, we will be healthy again, but for the mean time, this is necessary. Understanding this, I want you to know that I am taking a 20 percent pay reduction myself. I want you to know that we are in this together.” The extraordinary leader is the first to sacrifice and will be rewarded with the loyalty of their followers.
4. Remain Calm. Panic is one of the most basic human emotions, and no one is immune to it. The extraordinary leader, however, takes time out regularly to think the issues through in order to remain calm. They remind themselves that all is not lost and there will be another day. They remind themselves that being calm will enable them to make the best decisions—for themselves and for their followers. Panic only leads to disaster, while calm leads to victory.
5. Motivate. In tough and challenging times, people are naturally down. They tend to be pessimistic. They can’t see how it is all going to work out. Thus, they have a hard time getting going. The extraordinary leader knows this and will focus on being the optimistic motivator. They will come to the office knowing that for the time being, the mood of the group will be carried and buoyed by them and their attitude. Above all else, they seek to show that the result will be good, and with this, they motivate their followers to continue on, braving the current storms, and on to their shared destiny.
6. Create Small Wins. One of the ways to motivate is to create small wins. The extraordinary leader knows that in tough times their people think all is lost. They wonder if they can win. So the extraordinary leader creates opportunities for the team to win, even if they are small. They set smaller, more achievable goals and remind and reward the team members when they hit those goals. With each small win, the leader is building the esteem and attitude of their followers, digging them out of a self-created hole of fear.
7. Keep a Sense of Humor. The extraordinary leader knows that even if the whole company goes down the drain, we still get to go home to our families and live a life of love with them. The extraordinary leader keeps perspective and knows that we humans act irrationally when we get scared and fail, and sometimes that is humorous. Don’t ever laugh at someone’s expense in this situation, because that will be perceived as cold and heartless, regardless of what you meant by it, but do keep the ability to laugh at yourself and the situations that present themselves. By doing this, you will keep yourself and your team in an attitude that will eventually beat the tough times.
Remember: You can be a great motivator of people, and you can do it even when stormy weather comes!