No one ever becomes successful alone. Successful people know the only way to accomplish more is to enlist the support of other people. So, they form a team or hire employees to help them reach their goals. But not every business owner achieves their goals. Not every business owner attracts the right people. And not every business owner motivates their team to do their best work. Think about it this way. If you are in a position of leadership, you must have people willing to carry out your instructions. Because you must produce results. If not, you will be removed from your position. You depend on the support of your team to remain a leader, and to advance to a position of higher authority. How do you get people to support you? By taking care of your people. Treat people right, and they will treat you right.
One can measure the quality of a leader by their accomplishments. Real leaders produce results. Those who are unable to produce results are not really leading. And yet, sometimes the results of a leader’s actions are not always known. Because sometimes, the best course of action is taken in private, behind the scenes. Not because a great leader must be sneaky or manipulative. On the contrary, the best leaders often act with a disinterest in public credit for their achievements. The primary goal of a great leader is the greater good of the organization. They are more interested in advancing their team than in their personal achievements. So they unselfishly lead their organizations, giving credit to the entire team when an achievement is known. They know that sometimes an achievement is reached that only they can appreciate.
Who will replace you? The answer to that question is the ultimate gift any leader can provide. No matter where they are in life. No matter how old or young. No matter how long they have been with the organization. Real leaders must have a succession plan in place for their organizations. Obviously, the longer you are with an organization, the better you will be able to train up a leader to replace you. Ideally, you will go out on top and pass the baton to a fully developed leader. This situation should be seamless. But you must plan for the worst. Because sometimes, succession is unplanned. Life happens. Unexpected events occur. As the organization’s leader, you must plan for the unexpected. If you do not have a succession plan in place that can be implemented tomorrow, you have work to do. Don’t wait another day. Start planning today.
There is always room for improvement. However, not everyone believes that. But in order to continue to succeed, in order to continue to lead, in order to continue to contribute to the effectiveness of the organization, the leader must continue to invest in themselves. This is not the time to rest. Yes, you have worked hard to reach this place in life. But it is not a destination. The biggest issue with leaders reaching the pinnacle of their career is the thought that they have arrived. Instead, you must work hard every day to continue to grow. There is always something else to learn. Always be willing to invest time every day to self-improvement, no matter where you are in your career. Read a good book, watch a good podcast, attend seminars. However you best learn, invest the time. Because when you stop learning, your career is done.
Great leaders develop the people around them. They assess everyone, looking for individuals who have the possibility of developing into the future leaders of the organization. Because great leaders understand a simple principle. The future of the organization lies with the people of the organization. So, great leaders focus their daily activities on mentoring and developing more great leaders. Without this ongoing leadership development, the organization will never thrive beyond the current generation of leaders. Great leaders know that they do not have all of the answers. And when a team member has an answer, great leaders give them credit. They understand that part of leadership development is recognizing the efforts of their team. They empower people to press on, knowing mistakes will occur. Most importantly, great leaders celebrate the success of everyone on the team. Put your people first. Invest your time in them so they can succeed.
Good leaders produce. And good leaders inspire and enable their team to produce through their leadership and example. Their production creates momentum for the entire team. As the production of the team increases, the team attracts other productive people. The team grows, attracting more highly productive people. The team produces, and the bottom line of the entire organization grows as a result of their growing efforts. A leader cannot fake being at this level of leadership. Either they and their team produce or not. Once a leader has developed deep relationships with their team members, they must show their team they can produce. If a leader cannot produce, their team will not produce to their fullest capacity. Leaders must set the example by working hard, by being dedicated to the organization and by developing their individual skills. If your team is not producing, then you are not leading.
The relationships you develop with the members of your team are built on trust. You build trust by being a person of integrity. You show your team you are a person of integrity by acting consistently in all situations. Regardless of the situation you are in, your team sees whether you are bound by your moral principles or if you allow the situation to dictate your reactions. Situational morality does not build trust with the members of your team. Strive to be consistent with your principles and predictable with your actions. This is the only way to become a great leader. With it, your team will learn to trust you. From this, your team will grant you greater and greater permission to lead them. Your team will lean on you when times are difficult. And when times are good, your team will work hard for you.
One common misconception about being a leader is expressed in the phrase, “It’s lonely at the top.” That may be true for those who rely solely on their authority to lead. Those that rely on authority create negative work environments. The culture of their teams develops into an us-vs.-them mentality. These leaders undermine team members who show talent and ability. Because deep down, these leaders are insecure about their ability to lead. So, they do not want others to succeed and advance. It is lonely at the top because these leaders strive to be the king of the hill. True leadership does not rely on authority. Instead, true leaders use their influence to advance the entire team. True leaders build relationships with the members of their team. They focus on advancing the entire team. They work with their team. And the entire team advances. True leaders are never alone.
Climbing the corporate ladder. Many new to the workforce envision this. And why not? Shouldn’t everyone show interest in their career development? Yes. But focusing entirely on your career will not ensure your success. Yes, you will get promotions and raises. But at some point, you will reach a situation where you are expected to lead others. If you do not understand how to lead, you will have reached your career limit. John Maxwell defines leadership as influence. It is hard to influence others if you do not build relationships with others. And it is next to impossible to build relationships with others if your primary concern is your own personal advancement. Whatever your position, focus on those around you. Show others that you want to work with them. That you want to help them. That you show interest in their development. Build relationships and grow your influence.
Everyone faces hardships in life. One of your team members may be dealing with a child suffering from cancer. They may be struggling to take care of a parent with dementia. They may be going through a divorce. Whatever it is, it will surely affect their work. When a member of your team is suffering, ask yourself how you would want to be treated if you were in their shoes. Ask the rest of your team how they would want to be treated. Because at the end of the day, you are still a team. And teams stick together. So, the parent with a sick child may need time off. Can others help cover the workload? Will you pay them after they have used up their vacation time? Decide what you can tolerate and be upfront with them. You will not regret going above your obligation as the team leader.
Everyone has moments of indecision. We all experience the paralysis that comes with tough decisions. More often than not, our paralysis comes from fear. We are afraid of making the wrong decision. We are afraid to face the consequences of our decision. We are afraid of the criticism we will face as a result of our decision. To be decisive, you must address your fears. Remember, nothing good comes from not making a decision. Sitting back and passively allowing others to decide your fate will never get you where you dream of going. If you are going to be successful, you must be willing to be decisive. You must act to succeed. You cannot become paralyzed by your fears. You have already decided to pursue your dreams. Now, accept today’s challenges. Do not put off action. Decide today to continue to pursue your dreams and built the life you want.
When reading this passage, I remembered the window and the mirror from Good to Great. Some leaders look through the window and see others to blame. Other leaders look in the mirror and only see themselves to blame. Which leaders at the most respected and get the best results? The ones who are looking in the mirror when something goes wrong. Whatever is wrong in your company, whatever is wrong in your relationships, whatever is wrong in your life is on you. No one else can keep you from making your dreams a reality. No one else can stand in your way. No one else can determine your future. You are the problem. But you are also the solution. You can become a better person. You can accept responsibility for what is wrong. You can grow. Because only you can choose who you are going to be in life.
While it is awesome when your employees buy in to your company’s culture and way of doing things, this buy-in can become a weakness. Employees start to believe that your way is the only way. This is especially true for employees who have only worked for your company. When you hear these employees say things like, “we have always done it this way,” you know you have a problem. Sam Walton was a big believer in experimentation. As he adapted new ideas, he forced his employees to adapt to change. I guess you could say that change became an important part of Wal-Mart’s culture. So as Wal-Mart grew, new ideas were adapted and old ideas were discarded. And Wal-Mart became a company of change. Yes, they experienced may growing pains. But management did not allow these growing pains to stop them. They made changes. And the company grew.
Like it or not, the people you hire will be the face of your company. As such, they will have a tremendous effect on your overall success story. Their interactions with your customers will determine whether you succeed or fail. Because unhappy employees will make unhappy customers. And unhappy customers will go somewhere else. As a business owner, you need to attract the right people to work for your organization. And the right people want to work for someone who takes an interest in their employees and provides a positive work environment. Sam Walton identified taking care of his employees as the “most important single ingredient of Wal-Mart’s success.” It is that important. So, if you have unhappy customers, look to your employees. Are you taking care of them, or are you neglecting your most valuable asset?
Sam Walton established Wal-Mart with two principles, low prices and satisfaction guaranteed. And he never wavered in his dedication to these principles. In fact, he was a fanatic when it came to having the lowest prices anywhere. Much of Wal-Mart’s early success resulted from this absolute dedication to low prices, not from doing everything right. Actually, there were many, many things that Wal-Mart was not good at in the beginning. But they stuck to their core principles. So, when people shopped at Wal-Mart, they expected low prices. And that is exactly what they received. All too often, businesses fail to understand the one or two core factors that have the greatest potential to drive their success. If you own a small business, what are your core values? What do your customers expect to receive from your company? If you do not know, it is time to start figuring it out.