Leadership is about people. Period. Great leadership is about inspiring people, serving people, caring for people, and caring about people. You have to tell them you care.” —Gary Kelly, CEO, Southwest Airlines
In all the years that I have consulted for organizations, large and small, I have never been handed a business card with the person’s name and the title “leadership” on it. That is because leadership is a mindset and not a job title.
Leadership is not about the corner office, the pay bump, the title, or the power. It is about empowering others to succeed and enabling others to reach their potential.
Unfortunately, many organizations never train their people to be leaders. People need to be taught the difference between managing processes and leading people—how to inspire, coach, motivate, and get the best out of each person they lead.
Leadership is about understanding people. It is about being humane to human beings and realizing that each person you lead comes to work every day with their own wants, needs, desires, hopes, dreams, fears, and frustrations. Great leaders understand this and do what it takes to help each person to reach their potential.
Leaders communicate! They take the time to explain what needs to be done and why, and then allow people to accomplish projects in their ways. As leaders, you hire and retain employees because you believe in them. You believe in their skills, intuition, creativity, and their ability to succeed. It is not your role as leader to tell an employee exactly what needs to be done, but rather to provide them with tasks and tools to grow and let them come back to you with goals accomplished.
It is not the role of a leader to micromanage but to check in and see what prevents that person from achieving success and then removing roadblocks that they cannot remove themselves.
Leaders make safe spaces for those they lead to fail, learn, and eventually succeed. To give them the knowledge that if they have the company’s outcomes and goals in mind, and if challenges occur, they will not be criticized, but will instead be asked what went wrong and what can be or could have been done better.
Leadership is about listening to, understanding, and valuing others. Through listening and believing that others within your team have insights and ideas that may be better than yours, everyone wins. Employees are more engaged, creative, and motivated and provide better customer experiences that eventually create less price-sensitive and more loyal customers.
The challenge is that most leaders are never taught how to lead. As businesses, we pluck employees out of the pack who are great tacticians or doers of tasks and put them in leadership roles without helping them transition from implementers to motivators and coaches. The challenge is, just because you are great at doing a task does not mean you have the skills to help others do the same.
Not training people how to help others succeed is the downfall of many businesses. Untrained leaders are ineffective communicators, and this leads to unengaged employees who either never live up to their potential or leave. Either way, this costs organizations hundreds of millions of dollars per year.
Leadership builds brands, creates great culture, reinforces corporate purpose, and enables companies to stop being commodities and start being brands worth loving. That fact alone, being a loved brand, differentiates you in the market and keeps you from fading into obscurity.
None of this is easy; all of this takes effort, but the long-term ROI is well worth the investment. Leadership is a mindset and not a job title, and those companies and the leaders within them, who believe in and live this statement, will be profitable and
reading this article for decades to come.
Ben Bakeris president of yourbrandmarketing.com, an employee engagement consultancy designed to help you effectively communicate the value of your brand effectively. He is the author of two books: Powerful Personal Brands:
A Hands-On Guide to Understanding Yours and Leading Beyond a Crisis: A Conversation About What’s Next. Ben also hosts the iHeart- and Spotify-syndicated YourLIVINGBrand.live show, with more than 270 episodes.