We have all seen leaders with diverse leadership styles who are successful at inspiring and creating dynamic team cultures. Some have charisma; some do not. Some seek consensus; some do not. Some have quick tempers, while others have great patience. However, what they all have in common are similar beliefs about people and what they can achieve given the right environment and culture. They recognize that the difference between ordinary people doing ordinary work and ordinary people doing extraordinary work is contingent on their leadership. They have a genuine commitment to the success and wellbeing of those they lead. Most important of all, people trust that the behavior they see in their leader is truly authentic because everything he does is consistent with his beliefs.
So how do you go about choosing a different set of beliefs or recognizing if some of your beliefs need upgrading? To get you pointed in the right direction, I offer you a set of 13 No-Compromise beliefs. Study them one by one and benchmark them against your own current belief system. Which ones do you agree with and why? Which ones challenge your current beliefs and why? And now the most difficult question, which ones do you agree with but your current thinking and behavior indicate otherwise?
Here are my thirteen No-Compromise Leadership beliefs:
- Trust is given, not earned: People don’t trust those who do not trust them. If we want people to trust us, we must trust them first. If we can’t trust them, why should they trust us? Why do we expect others to earn our trust when they are supposed to trust us based solely on our position? When people truly trust each other, team dynamics flow more easily and openly.
- People want to do the right thing: People want to live values that are consistent with their aspirations. Values are a common ground by which dialogue flows and around which decisions are made. People have an implicit understanding of lines not to be crossed.
- Freedom is the essence of motivation: The freedom to choose is a fundamental human need. The more that need is restricted unnecessarily, the more frustrated a person will become. Only when we create environments based on self-direction and mutual accountability will we capture the full potential of people.
- People are naturally driven to make things better and seek meaning in their work: Just challenge a group to make a contribution and watch the level of energy they exert. There is a yearning for meaning, both in life and in work. People will do things for a cause that they will not do for money. Watch how people work when they are proud of their jobs and how they contribute.
- People have great capacity and a need to learn and grow: The need to learn and grow is as natural as the need to eat. Work must be designed so that every person, regardless of pay level, can learn, grow and make a substantial contribution. Higher expectations will lead to higher performance in the right environment, but not if the leader’s expectations of a group communicates a vision of mediocrity.
- People prefer responsibility to dependency: In the right conditions, work is as natural as play. We need to be engaged and responsible, and too many management practices rob people of this ability. Empowerment often means, “I have the power and if I trust you, I’ll share power with you.” It is not about getting people to change in order to conform. It’s about getting people to take responsibility for creating a different future. People want to be engaged. People want to be passionate. It is the leader’s responsibility to create that environment and that opportunity.
- People seek to be led, not managed: People don’t want to be managed. No one wants to be planned, organized or controlled. People want to be part of a team. They want to participate. They want to be a partner in the process of business growth.
- Teamwork is not a tactic: It is the way people work best. However, there is power in a leader who drives with passion and integrity while having the courage to make decisions and provide direction as needed. As much as people can be frustrated by micromanagement, they can be equally as frustrated when there does not appear to be any leadership or direction.
- People want to work cooperatively toward a shared goal: People have a need to be part of a group and to help others. That natural tendency is often lost when people are given incentives to compete against other members of their team. That can do more to degrade teamwork than inspire it. We need to overcome our belief that internal competition leads to better performance. The moment a company consists of two or more people, it must be a team-based organization.
- Clarify expectations as much as possible — to as many people as possible: Can you remember the last time you were asked to do something and had no idea why you were doing it? Can you remember how excited you were? We simply cannot commit to what we don’t understand. Widely distributed information and a shared understanding of that information should be the right of every employee. As Jack Stack told me in an interview, “The more information you give people, the better decisions and forecasts they can make.”
- People want to belong and feel a sense of pride in their work and the company they work for: People come to work hoping they will be allowed to make a maximum contribution to the company. Initial experiences are compelling and people need to see that the company is worthy of their commitment. At times people will turn down promotions, transfers or new jobs based on a desire to stay a part of something they are proud of or to avoid moving to a place where the opposite is true.
- People desire to be treated as unique individuals in the workplace: People crave to be recognized and appreciated for the individual strengths and talents that they bring to the team. Too often, companies look at people to see who most closely fits the “company mold.” Harnessing the energy that comes from individual strengths can make a formidable team more capable of delivering results at a phenomenal level.
- People seek fulfillment in the workplace: They want to feel important, needed, useful, confident, successful, proud and respected, rather than unimportant, useless, anonymous or expendable.
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