Being a leader means being committed to improving yourself, and these four pillars are the foundation for strong leadership no matter the business you’re in.
This statement might come as a surprise, but there’s no such thing as a natural-born leader. You can be born with an inclination toward leadership or a drive to lead. However, the foundation required to become a great leader must be built from the ground up.
You wouldn’t build a new home without a foundation and expect it to be structurally sound, and the same applies to your approach as a leader. You have a responsibility to your people—and to yourself—to focus on the behaviors, actions, and mindset that will motivate your team to success. When implemented, the four pillars that follow can fortify your value proposition, grow your team, and, most importantly, drive your vision.
- Leaders must set the vision.
In The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, Stephen R. Covey explains that you should “begin with the end in mind.”
A company vision is a means to an end; however, the endgame may be different for a team member than their leader. The key to a successful vision is to have one through which others can reach theirs alongside the company’s. So to be a strong, effective leader, you should take the time to understand each team member’s individual goals and how they can be achieved by getting onboard with your overall vision.
For example, if you have a team member whose goal is to make $50k in commission this year, you should foster that employee’s growth in more specific terms: $50k per year equates to roughly $4.2k per month. To reach that goal, how many sales do they need to get per day? Per week? How many leads must they call per day to hit that sales goal? The more sales they get, the more commission they get—and the more sales your employees make, the more revenue you make.
In short, the fastest way to get what you want is to help others get what they want. It’s a win-win for everyone involved, which is what truly great leadership is all about.
- Leaders must inspire people through that vision.
Everybody you hire has a valuable skill set that benefits your company. But the tasks accomplished through those skills shouldn’t be the primary focus; instead, it should be the overall vision—why everyone at the company does what they do.
As a leader, it’s vital to consistently remind your people, if not evangelize them, about your vision and why you are passionate about it. If you truly inspire them, the company vision will become second nature to them because they know it’s a mutually beneficial partnership.
Think of the parable of the brick-layer. One day a man observed three brick-layers on a scaffold: one crouching, one half standing, and one standing upright. He asked the brick-layers what they were doing. The crouching brick-layer said, “I’m a brick-layer. I’m working hard to feed my family.” The second brick-layer replied, “I’m a builder. I’m building a wall.” When he asked the third brick-layer, he replied with a gleam in his eye, “I’m a cathedral builder. I’m building a great cathedral to The Almighty.”
When you have passion behind your why and put your vision in perspective, it’s not hard to get people to follow you. People want to do this naturally. Find the people whose vision aligns with yours, and your message will carry.
- Leaders must demand accountability.
The role of a leader is not to tell people what they want to hear but what they need to hear. A good leader should be able to foster greatness in their employees and bring out qualities that they may not even know are there. Should you hold people accountable for their responsibilities and goals? Absolutely. But even more important than doing so for the company’s sake is doing it for the employees’ sake—seeing someone’s potential for greatness is the most accurate way to define a leader.
In Patrick Lencioni’s book The Advantage, he explains the importance of running a “clarity exercise” after meetings. These exercises are designed to get everyone on the same page about the action items from that meeting. If you don’t do a clarity exercise, he says, everyone will have their own interpretation of the goals.
Accountability is tough love. But it’s necessary. Think about Michael Jordan and Tom Brady, two all-time greats who never took their foot off the accountability pedal with their teammates. In doing so, these leaders provided clarity for how to win and helped them be the best players they could to achieve an overall vision of greatness. To be the best in the world, you need to crave accountability.
- Leaders must serve.
While it’s critical to hold your employees accountable, you can’t do so if you aren’t willing to walk with your people within the accountability. If you set an expectation for your employees to start work by 9:00 a.m., be in the office ready to work by 8:00 a.m.
Perhaps just as important, leaders lead by example by being the first to dive in and get their hands dirty. They convey that they’ve been there and understand how their people feel—and then show them how to accomplish what is needed. And it’s not a one-time-only gesture; they constantly stay mentally present and engaged with their workforce. This is exactly why I’m often in meetings with my teams and with the entire company. I have a blast, everybody enjoys the chance to get together, and good, productive discussions take place.
Ultimately, leaders understand they have an awesome responsibility to their team. They must help their team and ensure they accomplish the vision because they know that success or failure affects far more people than themselves.
Great leadership isn’t innate. Instead, it needs to be fostered with intentionality and purpose. Incorporating these four pillars of leadership can build a strong foundation for successfully achieving your company vision and inspiring your people to meet theirs.
Take action on this: Write down one way that you will apply each of these pillars to your role as a leader, and implement them into your daily routine.