Monday, August 30, 2010

What Makes a Good Leader?

A week ago, while watching a video on leadership, the presenter said something that I've been thinking about ever since. He said, "In order to be a good leader, you have to learn how to handle yourself before you can handle others." To me, this is profound. To me, the number one trait of a good leader is that he or she acts in a way that earns the trust and respect of the people they lead. The respect of your subordinates is not something that automatically comes with the job title of manager, director, vice president or CEO. It is something that must be earned and then maintained. Without respect, a leader cannot accomplish anything.

How does one gain the respect of others? I look back on my experiences with various managers I have worked for and with over the years and the one thing that pops out for me is that the people I respected the most were the people who treated me with respect. These managers hired me to do a job and trusted their judgment and my skills enough to let me do it. They didn't micromanage me, and second-guess my every move. Instead, they stood back and let me go, monitoring my successes, and my mistakes, along the way. They viewed mistakes as a way to advance learning so instead of reprimanding me for the goofs I made, they used each opportunity as a chance to coach me to greater success. And they acknowledged the achievements that I made.

My best managers were people who truly valued my opinions and ideas. They listened carefully to what I had to say and took my comments into consideration when making decisions. I didn't get my way all the time - far from it - but with the leaders that I admire, I always felt as though my thoughts and expertise were taken into account. I felt as though I was a valued part of the organization instead of just a cog in the wheel. I mattered.

Being respected isn't the same as being friends with those you lead. I think that there always has to be a fine line that shouldn't be crossed. You can be friendly with those you manage but you should, at the same time, maintain a certain distance so that you can view each situation, and each person, objectively. This doesn't mean that a leader can't care for the people they lead, but they must still remain objective.

Finally, I always knew that the great managers I worked with would stand up for me when the need arose. I remember one time, at the beginning of my working career, when I managed to make the VP of the organization I worked for very angry because I wouldn't let him use the copier I was using (I had 1000 copies of a 5 page newsletter to make and 4 hours of overtime on a finiky copier...need I say more?!) Although my manager at the time - a wonderful man named Walter Winborn - could have thrown me to the wolves, he didn't. Because I left him a note before I left, letting him know about the situation, he stood up for me. He was like that. And, in return for his support, I would have given him the shirt off my back if I could. He had earned my loyalty, not through demands but through treating me like a valued human being.

This week, reflect on what kind of leader you are. Would your employees stand up for you if the going got tough? What can you do this week to improve your relationship with the people you lead? The answer starts with you.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Happy National Smile Week!

Yes, it is National Smile Week! In honour of this occasion, I looked up "smile" on Google and found this poem. I hope you enjoy it!

Smile Is A Sign Of......

A smile is a sign of love
A smile is a sign of care
A smile tells how much to others
They are important and also dear

A smile is a sign of cheer
A smile is a sign of trust
A smile shows how you can
Be happy even in hard crust

A smile is a sign of joy
A smile is a sign of hope
A smile teaches you how you can
Remove the clouds of mope

For nothing but only a smile
Takes away your pain and trial
And pick your trouble's pile
And let you smile, smile and smile.

Seema Chowdhury

I hope this week inspires lots of smiles for you. If not, smile anyway! Smiling is a great way to change your mood from negative to positive. After all, who can think depressing thoughts while smiling? And I hope you will make the effort to share your smile with others. I know that when people smile at me I can't help but feel good. Who knows, you may make a profound difference in someone's day - and life!

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Owning Your Life

I was reading "The Inner Game of Stress" by Timothy Gallwey, last week and came across a statement that really blew my socks off. It was:

"You have the rights and responsibilities of ownership of something very incredible - a unique human body and a unique human life."

Not that profound on first reading, right? But give it some thought. If you are anything like me, you often take your life for granted. Sometimes it just feels like life is something that happens to you - something over which you have no control. Other people seem to make all the decisions and our lot in life is just to react and roll with the punches. But reading this statement caused a shift in my perspective. All of a sudden I realized that yes, I do own my life. No one else can live it but me. I have CHOICES in life - what I do, where I go, where I live, who I spend time with. And the choices I make are what impact my life.

Sometimes I do wish there was someone else who could make my decisions for me. It can get tiresome after awhile. Even just to have someone else who can tell me what to make for dinner! But, when I think about it some more, I realize that every time I let someone else make a decision for me, I am giving them control of my life. And then it is no longer my life, but theirs. I lose a little of my independence, and a little of myself too. It is like driving a car. If you hand over the keys and let someone else take the wheel, you have made the choice to go where they want to take you. I have discovered that I like being in the driver's seat. As the statement says, I have responsibility for my unique human life. My choices may not always be right, but at least they are my choices!

Have you let other people "drive" your life or are you at the wheel? Do the choices you make reflect who you are and what you want? If not, maybe it is time to consider taking control of your own unique life. It can be a thrilling joy ride!