Over the years, I've been around a great many leaders in a great many companies, though I'm not sure I would describe many as great. (That's today's word play, but I'm here all week.) I've also read books, Twittered people, had conversations at conferences, done hundreds of one-on-ones with bosses, peers and employees and other enrichment activities. It's all starting to congeal into a less wiggly mass of a dynamic framework to figure out how to be a better leader.
Let me preface this by saying that people are the biggest variable, and because they're wildly unpredictable and capable of doing things ranging from brilliant to stupid, there's a certain amount of instinct you have to develop, and I'm not convinced that you can teach that.
There are shreds of advice though that keep surfacing and seem important:
- You can only concentrate on so many things, so just pick a few. I keep going back to Bob Iger's book, in that he picked three things to drive Disney, and he was relentlessly focused on them. I think he chose wisely.
- People rally with purpose. Purpose varies in scope, so while Disney prioritized using technology to engage people, what does that mean for a line worker at a counter service restaurant? (Making sure their mobile order is out on time, obviously.)
- The business is the product. You don't let your widgets get stale, so don't treat the process as a static destination instead of a dynamic, always evolving journey.
- People have strengths and weaknesses, but if they're net-positive, professional development is about growing their strengths in a way that benefits everyone, not just pointing to their weaknesses as "room to grow."
- Leaders likely serve more than one team. This one became obvious to me this year. If you lead and are led, but don't feel you have any peer relationships, whatever claims there are of collaboration are probably not real and you are not valued or effective, maybe through no fault of your own.
- People fundamentally want to be respected, valued and appreciated. I got that one from my professional man-crush. While the world of adult relationships at work is not a utopia, it won't be good if you don't recognize what people do with you, in every direction of the org chart.
I'm thankful for the lessons learned that reinforce this advice.