People leave bosses, not organizations. You can have a good job and a poor boss and wind up leaving. Survey after survey I’ve seen confirms this to be true. If you want to build a great team and be a leader that others want to follow rather than have to follow, here are three things to keep in mind:
1. Love learning
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again (and again and…), leaders are learners. When you stop learning, you stop leading. As a leader, by his grace, you will want to learn from anybody at anytime on any subject. Sometimes you learn from the most unlikely person whom you haven’t anticipated making a contribution. Additionally, you will want to make reading and studying a key component in your weekly rhythms. You will need to discipline yourself to carve out regular time for learning and protect it like a bulldog guarding a bone. Most things in your life will mitigate against this.
You will have to fight for this investment of time in order to continue to grow as a leader. I have read 29 books a year for the last 17 years. It doesn’t happen by accident. Additionally, I follow a number of people online via their blogs. I want to lead from a running stream--not a stagnant pool. I know of leaders (if you want to call them that) who read virtually nothing. In your reading, don’t read just for entertainment or pleasure, but to grow and hone your leadership skill set. Another key aspect of learning is profiting from your mistakes. Owning them and growing because of them. Those who can’t be wrong can’t learn.
2. Love feedback
A good leader will intentionally solicit feedback with team members and not simply pontificate on all he/she knows. I want to exhibit genuine interest in what others have to say, instead of being in love with the sound of my own voice. I have worked with my share of leaders who are more “tellers” than “askers.” Get in the habit of soliciting feedback, not just waiting for it to come. And be sure to thank people when they offer an idea, a constructive criticism, or a helpful suggestion.
“And you say, Oh if only I had listened! If only I had not demanded my own way! Oh, why wouldn’t I take advice? Why was I so stupid? Proverb 5:12,13 (The Living Bible)
I’m not sure why it is, but the word stupid, especially when directed at me, gets my attention rather quickly. Some leaders want to learn, but they don’t want to be taught. There is a big difference. The want to learn on their terms, which means they are not truly learners. One of my mentors, Warren Myers, when he was in his 70's and I in my 50's was taking notes on what I was sharing at a meeting we had; pumping me with questions, eager to learn more. I couldn’t believe it!
3. Love people
The saying is old, but still true that we should love people and use things, but we instead sometimes love things and use people. Do the people that serve with you truly believe that you love them? Do you? Do you tell them you do…show them you do? Do you personally and regularly thank them? Do you express publicly how much you appreciate them? Are you there for them when they need you? Are your direct reports sufficiently few in number so you have time to be involved with what’s going on in their lives and their families? Are people a means to an end for you, or valuable because they are children of the King by faith in Jesus?
This is where I need to grow the most. I am so task oriented it makes me sick. It doesn’t come naturally to me to love and care for people. I need lots of grace in this. When I die I want people to honestly be able to say, “Here lies Dave Kraft. He really loved people.” Not: “Here lies Dave Kraft, he was organized and got things done.”