Since leadership appears to be way less common than management, allow me to outline some essential elements of leadership.
1. When taking leadership of a new team, take a moment to introduce yourself.
2. When taking leadership of a new team, consider not making draconian changes as your first orders of business. People tend to get freaked out when your first official act is to throw out what they’ve been working on for years.
3. When your team makes suggestions, attempt to glean any good ideas out of what they’re saying, rather than spending your time thinking of reasons why they are stupid.
4. Gung-ho is only an appealing trait in a military commander. In any other setting, gung-ho just comes off as arrogant and obnoxious. And naive.
5. Immerse yourself in the team’s process before attempting to change the process. Chances are if a team of intelligent people have decided to do something a certain way, there are compelling reasons to keep doing that way. Even if there’s a better way, understanding the reasons, not just the process, is very important to your success.
6. Successful change only comes through good leadership. People do not respond well to having change crammed down their throats. As I’ve said many times before… if your team hates your changes, you are either making stupid changes, or you aren’t communicating or involving people enough.
7. People can tell the difference between charisma and arrogance. “Fake it till you make it” rarely works in the real world. It doesn’t take long for experienced people to see through your facade.
8. Condescending, patronizing, a pedantic attitude only reveal that you are unworthy of respect – which is the main thing you need as a leader.
9. You can’t demand respect. Credentials don’t earn you respect. Only displaying real leadership ability will garner real respect. People may have to respect the position, but they will only respect you if you deserve it.
10. Kindness and compassion are always better than toughness and demands. Do you like being pushed around? Neither does anyone else. You don’t have to be a pushover to be kind and compassionate. You just have to have a little bit of human decency and a little humility.
11. Acting like you have all the answers will kill ALL creativity and passion on your team. People won’t contribute if you are certain you already know everything. Chances are, you don’t know as much as you think you do.
12. You’ll know you’re a leader if there are people following you. If everybody behind you is throwing rocks at you, you may be a lot of things, but a leader is not one of them.
13. If you like the sound of your own voice, you’re not a leader, you’re an a-hole. Good leaders listen more than they talk. There’s an inverse proportion between how much you know and how much you speak. (Google “Tartuffe”)
14. If you feel the need to be involved in every decision, not matter how small, you’re not a leader, you’re a micro-manager. And the only thing worse than a manager is a micro-manager. If you are going to make every decision, why do you need a team?
15. Managers get compliance by making rules with consequences. Leaders get results by letting people use their own intelligence and creativity to achieve an agreed-upon result.
It turns out humility is much more important in leadership than any credential ever could be.