Updated: Oct 13, 2020
Ask anyone about their “boss”. If they’re honest, they will roll their eyes before answering you. But get serious about how satisfied they are with their leader, and you are likely to get some insightful responses.
Recent research by Harvard University reveals that people are most satisfied with their boss when they think their boss could step in and do their job if they had to. Research also strongly suggests that the reason most people quit their jobs is because they are dissatisfied with their boss.
If you’re a boss - or think you’ll ever be one someday - read on. Here are some tips on how to avoid making people quit because of your poor leadership. Here are four questions that speak to the essentials of creating lasting leadership.
1. Why is leadership so hard to get right?
Understanding what is good leadership is not hard. What is hard is the work it takes to actualize the practices that are required to yield good leadership. Good leadership necessarily requires a sacrifice of self. Good leadership necessarily requires that the leader suppress their own ego for the good of the organization they lead. Many people are drawn to leadership roles for the wrong reasons: better salary, people pretend to pay attention to you, a corner office, and the like. If you are to lead well, those things don’t end up meaning much. Unless seeing others grow, finding and developing leadership in others, and using innovation to excite your team mean much to you, don’t go into leadership.
2. What are the Top Three Qualities of an exceptional leader?
#1: HONESTY: Do the right thing the ALL the time. Many times the right thing to do is actually a burden on some sectors of your organization. People love a leader who does the right thing anyway; they can handle most things if there is honesty and fairness surrounding the decision. People can also smell deceit and it is demeaning to assume they don’t. Deceit erodes trust and is destructive to any organization.
#2: SWEAT: Work hard, put in the time, and put in the energy. The Harvard study speaks to this. Who wants to follow someone who doesn’t even know as much as you? Shortly after I started as the new principal, I remember a teacher who pulled me aside after a faculty meeting and said, “I just wanted to tell you how refreshing it is to have a boss who has a better vocabulary than mine!” She went on to say that she saw herself as intelligent and hardworking and was frustrated by bosses who couldn’t do as well as she.
People hate leadership that doesn’t work hard, so no short cuts. One of the reasons we love restaurants that have food made from scratch is because it tastes better. And the reason it tastes better is because it takes time and energy to prepare good food - and everyone takes notice.
#3: HUMILITY: No one knows everything, especially leadership. The reason I say that is because leaders are responsible for so many things that it is almost impossible to be on top of all of them. Some leaders pretend to know everything and that arrogance is destructive. It’s destructive because you’re not fooling anyone - and to put on airs means you are covering up your ineptitude.
Being humble is embodied in surrounding yourself with people who know more than you do. A good leader wants to have people who have talents the leader doesn’t have. Be humble enough to admit you need others’ help and then smart enough to find those people.
3. Can lasting leadership be created?
Yes - sort of. The correct term should be “discover” instead of “create”, but people often confuse the discovery of leadership as stumbling upon it. You discover by seeking it out purposefully.
When you conceive of the notion that everyone has a leader within, you reframe the conversation. Even the most shy and retiring among us has leadership qualities - they just may not be developed or nurtured.
Everyone has something to contribute to an organization. It is the leader’s role to seek out - to discover - the strengths that team members have to best develop and nurture their leadership skills. When the entire team is made up of leaders, great things happen. In this purposeful way, leadership is “created.”
4. Has good leadership been good leadership since... forever?
The essential qualities for good leadership have not changed since human beings came along. The Three Qualities (Honesty, Sweat, Humility) have always been hallmarks. So in that respect, there is nothing new under the sun.
The conditions under which good leadership exists and is challenged, however, have changed significantly. For example, the advent of social media has limited the development of good leadership since Honesty can be spun or adjusted to the flaccid moral compass that tends to be prevalent today. When you have the leader of the most powerful nation on Earth lie repeatedly and model the opposite of Honesty, you have imitators, even though that sort of behavior will get you fired in most workplaces - and surely won’t get you promoted.
The honoring of leaders-who-lie is temporary and will have its day and then diminish into the shadows. It never dies, but recedes for the cowardly charlatan it is, only to be resurrected and return when the conditions permit it. It always has and always will. The leaders-who-lie eventually get their comeuppance in the form of a civilized election or a violent coup - either of which will elicit the leader to utter as they fall, “Et tu, Brute?”
Yep, nothing new under the sun.
©️Copyright by David Samore. Excerpts in part or whole may not be used without the expressed permission of David Samore.