What values do great leaders encourage?

I have had several managers across several teams and projects. This has exposed me to various management styles and taught me what to emulate and what to avoid. There are no silver bullets when it comes to leadership however these are a few things I appreciate.

1. Openness

Openness builds trust: a fundamental ingredient for all successful relationships. I appreciate candid managers who do not sugar coat – this makes it easier to discover blind spots and get on the same page.

Avoid scenarios that can lead to distrust. It is impossible to mask the facts all the time: something will eventually slip and then you’d have a hard time regaining trust.

Make sure your team trusts you and knows you’ve got their back.

2. Builds the right culture

Leaders exert a lot of overt and subtle influence: your suggestions will get interpreted as commands. Furthermore, your silent approval of undesirable actions can provide a fertile breeding ground for unwanted behaviours. Be aware of this influence and watch it carefully.

You do not have to be the smartest member of the team, your job as a leader is to maximize the output of the team. So, focus more on empowering the team via training, elimination of reactive work and focused targets.

Another thing to strive for is a safe environment where everyone can voice out their thoughts and and feel heard. Creating an identity wherein everyone knows why and how they belong to the team.

3. Humility: Willing to admit mistakes

Admitting to a mistake is one of the first steps in resolving a shortcoming. It has to be sincere since humans are skilled in sniffing non-genuine excuses from miles away.

Apologizing does not take anything away from you – rather, it shows you are confident and humble enough. All humans make mistakes, the thing that sets us apart is what we do after things go south.

Publicly doing this sets an example for the team: it stimulates the development of a learning culture. One in which people are willing to admit mistakes, learn from them and ensure they never recur. Furthermore, it brings a more humane and personal touch to the leader. Leaders are humans who listen and learn too, not unfeeling robots.

It is difficult to build a culture of ownership if leaders are too proud to admit mistakes

The best leaders apologize and own their shortcomings: that way issues get addressed.

4. Nurtures Talent

Genuinely cares about the team and invests time and energy into growing people. Without the team, the manager is just a single individual and to lead people, they have to trust you and understand that you have their back: they know you are out there pushing for the best for them and also want to see them grow. 

Great leaders create safe places for people to experiment, learn from mistakes and grow. They also believe in their team and strive to make them much better every single day. You’ve got to understand your team members and their passions and find ways to blend their strengths and use them for greater impact. This means taking steps with them and trying to help them grow consciously. Don’t be passive.

This cannot be faked; if you are not genuine, people will soon find out and then they might distrust you since they might feel you took them for a ride or just had selfish interests and wanted to take advantage of them.

5. Always learning

This allows you to absorb new concepts and learn from the mistakes of others. Furthermore, you quickly build a repertoire of skills and strategies for handling difficult situations.

It protects managers from making the mistakes of others because they’ve learnt from that and also helps them to amalgamate beautiful ideas from disparate sources for even greater impact.

I regard it as a criminal waste of time to go through the slow and painful ordeal of ascertaining things for one’s self if these same things have already been ascertained and made available by others. — Thomas Edison

The best leaders have always carved out time to study new things. Over time, this consistent knowledge acquisition snowballs compounds into expertise and fast ramp-up times.  It was hard to surprise such leaders with new concepts since they had a rich lattice of information to connect new nodes to. Furthermore, this basis enriched them with profound insights, systems-level thinking and an openness to new approaches.


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