For a while, I thought that being a leader was the person who was just in charge. They made sure there was no chaos among the employees and went about giving orders even when they did not know exactly what they were doing.
This belief came from one of my first jobs. It was as a shift leader at a local fast food taco-style joint. I took the job as a favor from a friend who was the district manager over several of the sames restaurants in the area. I was all set to learn from the store’s manager who I will call Johnny. Let me just tell you, Johnny was not the teaching kind.
He was constantly late, hung over, and very mad at the world. He would yell for no reason, especially at me because I was friends with his superior. Needless to say, he did not inspire confidence as a leader. He got in trouble once and had the audacity to ask me to be a witness on his behalf. I did it only because I knew it would be trouble if I did not. After a grueling hot summer, I left that job at the earliest opportunity.
Later I had a leader named Theresa who was the polar opposite. She was not just the person in charge, she empowered us. She took time with everyone on her team. She got to know all of our strengths, but our weaknesses as well. She would try to help us grow in our weaknesses and learn from our mistakes. When she confronted me about a mistake, I never felt judged or hurt, I felt a desire to do better. That time was all too brief.
From these experiences and others, I learned a few things about what makes a good leader.
Here is a summary of a few things I learned:
- A leader has a listening ear when it comes to their subordinates. They genuinely hear their concerns and take the time to acknowledge them, even taking time to follow-up if it is necessary.
- A leader validates their people. They compliment them and the work they are doing. They do not take credit for others work, but acknowledges the hard work the individual or the team did.
- A leader creates confidence. Even if you think it is a bad decision, they inspire you to follow them wherever they are going because you know you can trust them to do the right thing even it blows up in everyone’s face.
- A leader has both knowledge and wisdom. Knowledge is what you have learned and wisdom is how you apply it. They can solve problems. Whether it is a dispute or an issue, they can take it and fix it.
- A leader can inspire. They inspire not only to do your job, but to be the best person you can be. They are someone to trust and look up to. They challenge you to be grow and strive to be better.
When I had the opportunity to lead, I took these lessons and applied them to myself. I remembered the good, the bad, and sometimes ugly moments of the leaders in my life and put it to good use. I found the people I did lead were loyal and willing to work. I did not just declare myself as the person in charge, I drove myself to empower my team.
What are some pieces of wisdom you have learned from leaders you have served under?