One of the difficult transitions in one’s career progression is becoming a leader of other leaders. This usually takes place when you move up in an organization from a team leader who leads team members (task oriented performers), to an operations leader who leads/mentors team leaders who lead team members. I list them in the following way, because new leaders often think they need to make perfect decisions, act perfectly and second guess themselves; and that approach will only backfire. Here are a few key points to get you started on being a leader of leaders as well a reminder for those already in a leadership role for awhile.
Allow for Mistakes
Firstly, it is crucial to allow for mistakes. Leaders, like everyone else, are prone to making errors, and some of those mistakes may be costly. While certain mistakes may be too significant to overlook, it is important to give your leaders the freedom to make mistakes within the scope of their responsibilities. I vividly recall a time when I, as a new account manager, made a $10,000 mistake, which accounted for 10% of the monthly revenue for the account. At the time, I feared losing my job, but to my surprise, the CFO, known for being strict, didn’t get angry. He simply acknowledged that mistakes happen and encouraged me to move forward. This early lesson allowed me to analyze my mistake, learn from it, and continue growing as a leader. Leaders need the space to make mistakes in order to learn and improve.
Secondly, leaders should foster an environment that embraces conflicting ideas and diverse perspectives. In my experience of leading both US based and international teams, I have found that allowing others to express their thoughts before sharing my own creates a safe space for open discussion. This approach not only encourages different cultural viewpoints but also enables team members to challenge and collaborate with one another more effectively. By ensuring cultural/diversity representation at all levels of leadership, you can create an atmosphere where collaboration from conflicting ideas can emerge and contribute to better decision-making.
Another important aspect of leadership is encouraging action and getting the job done. Waiting for a perfect solution is never the right approach, as it wastes valuable time. Instead, leaders should encourage their teams to act and make incremental improvements along the way. Strategy develops through small steps, if your team constantly waits for the perfect solution, progress will stagnate, deadlines will be missed, and customers will be frustrated. Consistency and continual improvement, one decision at a time, are key to success in leading successful teams.
Prioritize Ethics and Honesty
Lastly, leaders should focus on results and prioritize ethical and honest approaches. While today’s contracts are no longer sealed with a simple handshake, and are often many pages, at the core of each agreement is “good faith” behavior where both sides act in their joint best interest. Teach those that work for you that their reputation is the most important asset that they have in business and that being known as an ethical, honest and fair leader will benefit them through out their career. This will save you time and money as they will readily admit challenges they face, allowing you time to collaborate on solutions. It will save you time in not double checking their work, and they won’t be damaging your company reputation with clients.
Leadership is a continuous learning journey. Allowing for mistakes, embracing diverse perspectives, encouraging action, and focusing on ethical results will help you mature as a leader. It also ensures your company success regardless of the market challenge