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Become a Better Manager: 20 Leadership Examples to Inspire Your Team

Become a Better Manager: 20 Leadership Examples to Inspire Your Team

People are inspired by positive leadership examples. The average American cannot name their congressional representative, but they know the name and story of Mother Teresa. Few people have been inspired enough to pack their bags and live a life of servitude in Calcutta, but Mother Teresa’s sacrifices made many treat their fellow man with more dignity and grace.

Managers have a spectrum of tools for getting employees to do what needs doing. All too often, managers lean on authority – direction, intimidations, bullying – which inspires nobody.

When directed and not inspired, employees will work the minimum number of hours and make the least amount of effort required to keep their jobs. Conversely, an inspired employee can’t wait to get to work, will be highly motivated, infinitely creative, and work until the task is done very well.

Here are a number of ways you inspire and lead by example:

1. Be totally honest and transparent no matter what

Trust is the foundation of every relationship. A lack of trust breeds a lack of everything else.

Trust then becomes an imperative in the workplace. When you are openly honest, even when it hurts your own prospects, you sow the seeds of trust and that in turn grows a garden of commitment by your employees.

Dishonesty is an herbicide in that same garden.

2. Be a willing listener

Some people listen unwillingly and it shows. The speaker feels marginalized and unimportant. People who feel like that simply do not care enough to try.

When listening, absorb everything the person is saying, including how they are saying it.

Understand their communication holistically, including emotional nuances. When you do, your employees feel that you genuinely care… because you do.

3. Be their friend

Some folks say to not get too close to your people. I have found the opposite to be true.

Think of someone you know and like, who has shown a true interest in you.

Next, think of a casual acquaintance.

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Now imagine both of them asking you to help them move.

Who would you help haul a sofa down a flight of stairs?

4. Praise often and genuinely

I do not mean inauthentic, smarmy compliments. I mean watch what your employees do and be sincerely grateful for jobs well done.

It is gratitude that makes praise authentic.

5. Be humble, not arrogant

Humility is the modest view of one’s own importance.

The fact is that you, as a manager, will only be as successful as your team makes you. That means your employees are more important than you are, at least in terms of corporate performance.

Lording over those who will make or break you is arrogant and will lead to you being humbled the hard way.

6. Manage by walking around

Leadership is getting things done through people. If you are not connecting with your people often, in person, in their environment, then you cannot know their issues, their concerns, and their problems.

Getting out of your office and onto the shop floor will make employees feel you are part of their world because you are.

7. Set the example of work ethic you expect from your employees

This does not mean suffering 12-hour work days. This means demonstrating the qualities you want to see from your employees, be it precision, innovation, frugality, or even politeness.

All elements that involve work are part of the ethic and will not be held dear by your employees unless they see it in you.

8. Dress in the manner that you expect employees to dress

I ran a semiconductor company, and many of our employees wore “bunny suits” because they worked in an ultra-clean environment. These exceptions aside, people will adopt the local dress code.

You set the tone. Very few employees would dare show up to work in torn blue jeans if the boss normally wears a jacket and tie.

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In every team, there is a minimal level of professionalism, and that is expressed in part by how one dresses.

If you want the right professionalism from your team, wear the clothes that reflect that professional appeal.

9. Be kind and empathetic

Bullies do have followers who are mainly other bullies, and they only stick around as long as the power of money flows from the top.

But a great leader knows that kindness generates loyalty that lasts. To be kind requires empathy, the ability to understand and share the feelings of another (you can be polite without empathy, but being kind starts with understanding the person within).

10. Never use vulgar or condescending language

You cannot inspire people through harshness. Vulgar language, regrettably in vogue these days, is harsh and has one of two effects on employees – it either makes them harsh themselves, or it makes them not want to engage you.

Either way, you lose.

The same applies to condescension. Combine the two and you will have a very high employee turnover rate.

11. Treat everyone with the proper dignity and respect

Dignity and respect are intertwined. If you do not respect someone, you are more apt to not treat them with dignity.

Start with the idea that everyone gets 100 percent credit up-front. Then don’t reduce that credit except for serious matters.

In this way, everyone you want to inspire automatically receives the dignity they want and likely deserve.

12. Ask, “How can I help?”

“How can I help?” communicates a number of things in four words. It says you care about them and their needs. It says you want to make them successful. It communicates that their needs are important, and thus your employees are important as well.

If your employees trust you – and if you follow the previous examples they should – then they will tell you what they need, and that allows you to make them successful.

As a side effect, it will make you successful too.

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13. Act with Integrity

Integrity is doing what’s right even when no one is watching. But people are always watching.

When you act without integrity, employees become motivated to watch out for themselves, not for you and not for the company.

Likewise, when you demonstrate integrity, it communicates that it is expected.

14. Be the optimist

Who follows a pessimist? Nobody.

So, smile a lot, talk about what is gloriously possible, and how your teams will make it happen.

JFK was optimistic, and his outlook caused mankind to leave the planet and land on the moon.

15. Have a can-do attitude

A defeatist is a person who expects or is ready to accept failure. If you, as a leader, expect failure, why would anyone on your team want to work toward success? They would not.

So even under the toughest situations, stay positive and assume that success can be had.

When employees see an optimistic leader, one who says, “This may be tough, but we can do it,” they will indeed do it.

16. Be the visionary

You need to have an objective and communicate it clearly. Let employees see the mission, why it is good, and why they are essential to achieving it. This crafting of the vision need not be expansive.

An IT department might make a mission of zero downtime. A marketing department might establish a vision for creating an unbreakable brand. Your production facility could strive for 10 percent more output.

Make the vision good, achievable and most of all, understood by all.

17. Guide them, not drive them

Anyone who has worked cattle – and I have – knows that if you push a herd too hard, they will spook and stampede. But gently guiding a herd toward a corral works pretty well.

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Employees are not cattle, but they also do better when you set frameworks and expectations (guidance) and then get out of their way.

18. Promote doing whatever it takes, no excuses

Aside from maintaining ethical employee behavior, letting your team know that the mission is important enough to require their ardent efforts is a reflection of your commitment to the company.

The best way to do this involves you doing whatever it takes. Putting in visible extra effort shows that you are in the game for keeps, and that your team should be as well.

19. Don’t just criticize a mistake

One old adage says to never complain unless you have a better idea. Likewise, criticizing an employee for making a mistake, but not helping them learn from their mistake is merely complaining.

We all make mistakes, and we all should learn from them.

A great example for you to set is showing that as a team, we help one another learn, including learning when we mess up.

20. Do the tough things first

It is important to tackle the difficult and unpleasant tasks right away, every day. I call it “eating the ugly frog first.”

People tend to procrastinate, and do so very well for big, complicated, onerous tasks. But no great project ever progresses until the big, complicated, onerous tasks are completed.

When your team sees you assaulting the elephant in the room, they gain the conviction and courage necessary to do likewise.

The type of employee you have is a reflection on you. The example you set and the integrity you demonstrate determine how inspired your team is. Start leading by example and lead your team towards success!

Featured photo credit: Unsplash via unsplash.com

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Ray Zinn

Ray Zinn is an inventor, entrepreneur, investor, angel, bestselling author and the longest serving CEO of a publicly traded company in Silicon Valley.

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Last Updated on April 22, 2021

How to Work Hard the Smart Way: 4 Daily Rituals to Follow

How to Work Hard the Smart Way: 4 Daily Rituals to Follow

Habits are what sets an average leader apart from a great leader. We can argue that talent is the biggest factor; we may debate how the amount of charisma sets the two apart. Yet, if you were to show me what you believed to be a great leader, I can show you the habits that made her/him great. Great leaders have great habits and know how to work hard the smart way.

Developing Great Habits Is Hard Work

In my early college days, I had spent a lot of time learning how to play the trumpet. Playing the trumpet took time and discipline. I had some natural talent, but not enough to hide my lack of ability. My trumpet teacher was a man of discipline, and there was no doubt he had talent. What stood to me was his work ethic. He had to be one of the hardest working mentors that I had the privilege of working with.

One afternoon, I was in his office getting ready for my weekly trumpet lesson. As I was preparing, my eyes scanned the room and saw that there were quotes all over his office. My eyes rested on one quote that forever changed my thinking about my playing. It was a quote from my high school basketball coach Tim Notke that would become popular through professional athletes Kevin Durant and Tim Tebow:

“Hard work beats talent when talent fails to work hard.”

Hard work trumps talent. The key to success is not found in your talent or ability. Talent and ability are necessary, but they are not the primary factors. They are supporting roles in the story you are writing.

Ultimately, hard work is the key to your success. A good work ethic creates the momentum that propels you forward towards your goals.

Motivation Is Not the Answer

How many times have you seen someone go to a conference, get inspired, and then come home and do nothing?

If motivation were the answer, the world would have transformed hundreds of times over. Yet, when we look out our doors or turn on the news, we do not see a utopian society.

We have thousands of people who become inspired but lack the work ethic to apply anything they have learned. Time and time again frustration creeps in. We are so motivated and inspired by what we see but fail to put in place the things that would change our lives.

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Frustration happens when the gap between what you expect to be true and what is true gets bigger. Motivation tends to create an expectation that is not rooted in reality. We want to take on the world but cannot get off Netflix long enough to do so.

Motivation is not the answer, but working hard is. Good habits and routines that produce success are the byproducts of a strong work ethic. The habits and routines we create and follow are the foundation on which we build a winning life.

How to Work Hard by Working Smarter

Here are 4 routines that will help you learn how to work hard and achieve your short term and long term goals.

1. Define What a Win Looks Like

In football, a player that crosses into the end zone gain points. In soccer, a player kicks the ball into the net to score. Hockey, lacrosse, and basketball are all the same. The player takes the object and moves it into the designated area to gain points. The team with the most points wins the game.

Why is it that we can define what a win looks like in sports, but we fail to do so in our leadership, our businesses, or our homes?

Learning how to work hard without setting a target is futile. It is insanity to work hard without having a clear direction to place your energy. I would argue that defining a win is one of the most important routines that a leader can have. Defining a win separates superficial activity from meaningful activity.

When I define a win, I know the goal line I have to cross[1]. Knowing where the goal line is informs me of the activity I have to engage in to cross it. Without a clear direction, I am spinning my wheels hoping that I will get to a destination I haven’t defined. It is like asking a GPS for directions but failing to input the destination.

4 Steps to Define a Win
  • Know the outcome you desire.
  • Declare the outcome in specific, meaningful terms.
  • Write the outcome down.
  • Set your activity list to only do that which will complete your goals.

Let me give you an example. 15 years ago, I started speaking professionally. As a young and naïve speaker, I thought winning meant that I had to get a reaction from the audience. If they cheered, smiled, or cried, I considered myself a winner. The problem was my lack of understanding of what a win looked like. As a seasoned speaker, my wins look different.

As of today, when I speak, I am not looking for any emotional reactions from the audience. I win if, and only if, I clearly communicated my point so that anyone hearing the talk can take it and apply it to their lives that day. That is how I define a win when I speak now.

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Create a habit of declaring a win. When you do, you will see your productivity soar and your encouragement increase. Pairing a hard work ethic with wise decisions creates victory. Stop being a mouse on a wheel that goes nowhere, and start being the captain of your fleet.

2. Evaluate Your Activity

Not all activity is equal. There are things you must do, things you need to do, and things we can either give away or delete. The greatest challenge of a leader is understanding the difference. Understanding what activity is busywork and what activity is mission work is pivotal.

Not only do we need to learn how to evaluate our activity, but we must make this a core routine in our arsenal of success. Stop working so hard on everything and start learning how to work hard on the right things.

Not every activity will move the needle forward for you. In fact, you were never meant to do everything yourself! Once we stop trying to be a martyr in our leadership, we can start looking at how to take things off our plates through delegation.

Based on the Eisenhower box, there are 4 things that we look at when deciding on which activities are important:

  • Do now
  • Plan to do it later
  • Delegate to someone else
  • Delete it

Powerful questions are the way you discover if the activity is right or not:

  • Does this activity move me towards or away from my goals?
  • Do I have to do this activity or can I give this activity away to someone else?
  • Does this activity have to be now right now or can it be scheduled for later dates?
  • Does this activity have to be done at all?

Evaluating the type of activity you engage in should be a routine that you do daily. Learning how to work hard should create progress. Having a system of evaluation and a routine to do it will help.

3. Prioritize Your Calendar

If you were to show me your calendar, I could show you why you are not further along. When you lack the routine of placing things on your calendar, two things happen.

First, what does not make it on your calendar does not get done.

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It is a simple truth that is often overlooked. Your calendar contains the power to change your life. Yet, we don’t use our calendars to their fullest potential.

“You will never change your life until you change something you do daily. The secret of your success is found in your daily routine.” -John C. Maxwell

Also, if you don’t mark you activities on your calendar, you are leaving it open to other’s priorities.

“The key is not to prioritize what’s on your schedule, but to schedule your priorities.” -Stephen Covey

Having a routine in your life where you place things on your calendar is pivotal to your success. This is not a routine one should overlook.

It’s time to take your leadership and business to the next level. It’s time to start putting your daily routines on your calendar, along with your priorities.

4. Reflect on Your Day and Plan the Next

We are all about the morning routine. Whatever that looks like for you, there should be a routine in the morning that sets you up for success.

Hard work starts when your feet hit the ground in the morning. Creating the habit of winning starts with the first thing you accomplish that morning. If you win your morning, you will win your day.

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Best Morning Routine to Prepare to Work Hard

    But how often have you heard people talk about an evening routine? Tomorrow is won the day before it happens. When you fail to plan your day, you may put your effort toward in the wrong things. Route replaces routine. Indecision replaces decisiveness. Losses replace wins. The discouragement will deflate your momentum and increases the chances of procrastination. That is why we set our schedule the night before.

    “Every battle is won or lost before it is ever fought.” -Sun Tzu

    Working hard doesn’t have to be hard work. It shouldn’t take much out of you learn how to work hard as long as you work smart. Having a time where you reflect on the day and set your priorities is the difference-maker.

    Use these questions to reflect on your day:

    • What went well?
    • What didn’t go well?
    • What can I change?
    • What do I need to start doing?
    • What do I need to stop doing?

    The Bottom Line

    Navigating through life is hard work. Yet, the work doesn’t have to be hard when you work smarter. When you create routines that support your mission, you create wins. Working hard, the smart way will tip the balance in our favor.

    Boxing legend Joe Frazier said:

    “Champions aren’t made in the ring; they are merely recognized there.”

    Champions put in the hard work behind the scenes. The world recognized them as a champion when they saw the results of the hard work. Right now, you are doing the work of creating a champion in yourself.

    That work is setting your routines in order because you now know that success flows from your daily routines. If you are not experiencing the success you desire, then it is time to change things up.

    More on Creating Healthy Routines

    Featured photo credit: Zan via unsplash.com

    Reference

    [1] The Balance Careers: Interview Question: “How Do You Define Success?”

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