Use your experience and talents to move through your shortcomings. There will always be challenges you don’t have the skills to address. Use what you’ve got to keep going, admit what you don’t know, and involve others who can bring to the table what you cannot.
Be straight with your staff. When they rock and roll, make sure you give them the credit they deserve. When things are not going as you want them to, say so, but not to inflict blame. Rather include in your criticism questions and ideas that will help all involved to move forward.
No matter what you do, some won’t like you, many will second guess you. It’s okay. Don’t make changes to be popular or to quell the voices of the boat rockers. Don’t stop listening to them, but measure your success by what the organization is doing as a whole. If there is no alignment between a leader and his or her staff, there is a problem. Seek to help create alignment. When it exists, it exists respectfully. People liking you is a bonus.
You’re the leader. You are the last person who should have hidden agendas or spin the truth. Be transparent. Tell it like you see it. Employees deserve to know much more than most leaders share. They need to understand the organization’s challenges and how their leader plans on addressing them. And most of all, they need to know what roles they can play to help.
Don’t just consult with your staff. Engage them in strategic conversations. Create opportunities for them to share their ideas, their worries, and the challenges they are having in the workplace. Share the minutes of these conversations with everyone and then work with staff to figure out how to prioritize next steps and get on with the work.
If you are an older leader, look to find younger people to hold key positions in your organization. In some cases they may not be as qualified as you want, but remember you hire not only for experience but also for potential. If you are a younger leader, make sure you value the wisdom of those who have been at it longer than you. When you let go of someone with 20 years of experience, you are losing history and understanding.
Don’t seek diversity for its own sake. Be thoughtful about surrounding yourself with people who have the capacity to work in diverse settings, with people from many walks of life. Diversity is not measured by how many of this type of person and how many of that type of person are sitting in which chairs.
Keep learning. Don’t rest on your laurels. Test ideas, listen to others, and engage those who rub you the wrong way. Be open to what might be. Learning is the oxygen of leadership. Make sure you are doing all you can to create and sustain a learning environment in the workplace.
If you are aspiring to be a leader of an organization, strive to be a stellar communicator. Be able to speak clearly in various settings in front of various audiences and try to do so in ways that inspire people to listen and ask questions. Equally important, be an excellent writer. Know how to craft a case, share information, and offer analysis. Excel at communication and leading will be easier and your leadership more compelling.
Don’t whine. Don’t blame others for the problems your organization is facing. Yes, hold others accountable, advocate for changes you believe are necessary, but do so with professionalism and style. Incessant bickering with the government or other leaders will not motivate collaboration or cooperation. Have a strong voice, but don’t whine. No one wants that from you.