Good leadership is essential to any organization, and new managers are often excited to learn the ins and outs of effectively leading a team. However, nobody knows everything about being a leader when they’re just starting out, and sometimes you learn some surprising lessons along the way.
The members of Forbes Coaches Council know this well. We asked 15 of them to share one leadership lesson they wish they’d picked up sooner in their careers. Here’s what they had to say.
1. Expectations Set The Tone; Accountability Closes The Loop
Most leadership challenges come when you don’t set crystal clear expectations. The best leaders lay out a clear set of goals with deadlines that can be easily measured. They then hold people accountable — daily if necessary. This builds the type of foundation that delivers long-term results. – CJ McClanahan, CJ McClanahan
2. Listen And Ask Questions Before You Speak
You don’t have to have all the answers. What you want is to ask open-ended questions that get others to think about possible pathways. Your goal is to develop others, not to show your “brilliance.” A great acronym to remember is W.A.I.T. — Why Am I Talking? Listen. Digest. Ask. Listen again. And, if needed, offer your opinion last, so that the team doesn’t have to play “follow the leader.” – Jeff Ikler, Quetico Career and Leadership Coaching
3. Good Leaders Keep Learning
Viewing leadership as a continuous learning experience is the only way I would look at it. To know that leadership never stops when you have books, online and intentional in-person connections means more to me now than ever. Looking back on my career, I would make sure I viewed leadership not as a title, a position or a level of income but as an agile learning experience. – John M. O’Connor, Career Pro Inc.
4. The Best Leaders Take The Focus Off Themselves
The best leaders actually focus most of their time on building and developing new leaders. The superficial notion of leadership is this image of being out front, taking credit, getting awards, making speeches, etc. That’s not the case at all. I found my greatest success when I moved into the background and allowed space and encouragement for my team to take charge. – Warren Zenna, Zenna Consulting Group
5. Lead Based On Personalities, Not Titles
There’s no perfect formula for leading people. Humans are emotional, irrational and wonderfully nuanced. Learning the best ways to lead through books and education gets you far, but it’s also important to trust your instincts around building relationships. Some people want a direct approach; others require more support. Look for ways to support who they are, not just what role they have. – Jeannie Walters, 360Connext
6. Manage Upward So Your Team Doesn’t Have To
I wish I knew when I was younger how important my bosses were for me and my team. I was focusing on doing a good job and not bothering my superiors. This was not enough. A leader needs to manage upward so that the team does not have to. Build strong relationships with the people managing resources. Promote the team’s work. Protect them from unnecessary pressure coming from the top. – Caterina Kostoula, The Leaderpath
7. Be Willing To Take Risks, Even When Failure Could Cost You Your Reputation
When you are starting out, taking risks might feel hard. It might feel scary. But, when you are young and unproven, there is nothing to loose. So, go for it. After success comes, taking risks has a cost: yourhard-earned reputation. The best advice is to never get more wedded to your success or image than you are to taking bold risks. Your success depends on it. – Maureen Cunningham, Up Until Now Inc.
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