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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 October 16, 2019

Invaluable Lessons You Can Learn From Your Mistakes

Invaluable Lessons You Can Learn From Your Mistakes

Do you like making mistakes?

I certainly don’t.

Making mistakes is inevitable. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if we could be at ease with them?

Perhaps there is a way to think of them differently and see their benefits.

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Why Mistakes Feel Dangerous

Mistakes often feel dangerous. Throughout human history, our errors have often been treated as dangerous for a variety of reasons:

  • Our vulnerability. We have limited and fragile support systems. When those systems fail, people often lose their lives.
  • Real dangers. Nature can be dangerous, and making mistakes can put us at the mercy of nature and its animal residents seeking a meal.
  • Ignorance. Many cultures scapegoats someone whenever there is a failure of some kind. Scapegoating can be serious and deadly.
  • Order. Many societies punish those who do not conform to the prevailing orthodoxy and treat difference and non-conformity as a mistake. Even our brains flash an error message whenever we go against prevailing social norms.

We have a history of handling mistakes and failure in an unpleasant way. Since each of us carries our human history with us, it can be a challenge to overcome the fear of making mistakes.

If we can embrace the reality of mistakes, we can free ourselves to be more creative in our lives and dig up some interesting insights.

Why We Can’t Avoid Making Mistakes

Many people operate under the notion that making mistakes is an aberration, a mistake if you will. You can call it perfectionism but it is a more substantial problem. It is really a demand for order and continuity.

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When we think we can eliminate mistakes, we are often working from a perspective that sees the world as a fixed place. The world, however, is not so obliging. Like it or not, the world, and everything in it, is constantly changing.

Change is more constant and pervasive than we can see with our own eyes which is why we often miss it. Our bodies are constantly changing. The natural conditions of the earth change constantly as well. Everything, including economic and cultural systems have life cycles. Everything is in a constant state of flux.

We cannot see all of the changes going on around us since rates of change vary. Unfortunately, when we try to create a feeling of certainty and solidity in our lives or operate from the illusion of stability and order, we are fighting reality and our natural evolution which is built on adapting to change.

It is better to continually bend into this reality rather than fight every change we experience. Fighting it can cause us to make more mistakes. Finding the benefits in change can be useful and help us minimize unnecessary mistakes.

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Lessons Learned from Making Mistakes

Life has so many uncertainties and variables that mistakes are inevitable. Fortunately, there are many things you can learn from making mistakes.

Here is a list of ways to harness the mistakes you make for your benefit.

  1. Point us to something we did not know.
  2. Reveal a nuance we missed.
  3. Deepen our knowledge.
  4. Tell us something about our skill levels.
  5. Help us see what matters and what does not.
  6. Inform us more about our values.
  7. Teach us more about others.
  8. Let us recognize changing circumstances.
  9. Show us when someone else has changed.
  10. Keep us connected to what works and what doesn’t work.
  11. Remind us of our humanity.
  12. Spur us to want to better work which helps us all.
  13. Promote compassion for ourselves and others.
  14. Teach us to value forgiveness.
  15. Help us to pace ourselves better.
  16. Invite us to better choices.
  17. Can teach us how to experiment.
  18. Can reveal a new insight.
  19. Can suggest new options we had not considered.
  20. Can serve as a warning.
  21. Show us hidden fault lines in our lives which can lead us to more productive arrangements.
  22. Point out structural problems in our lives.
  23. Prompt us to learn more about ourselves.
  24. Remind us how we are like others.
  25. Make us more humble.
  26. Help us rectify injustices in our lives.
  27. Show us where to create more balance in our lives.
  28. Tell us when the time to move on has occurred.
  29. Reveal where our passion is and where it is not.
  30. Expose our true feelings.
  31. Bring out problems in a relationship.
  32. Can be a red flag for our misjudgments.
  33. Point us in a more creative direction.
  34. Show us when we are not listening.
  35. Wake us up to our authentic selves.
  36. Can create distance with someone else.
  37. Slow us down when we need to.
  38. Can hasten change.
  39. Reveal our blind spots.
  40. Are the invisible made visible.

Reframe Reality to Handle Mistakes More Easily

The secret to handling mistakes is to:

  • Expect them as part of the process of growth and development.
  • Have an experimental mindset.
  • Think in evolutional rather than fixed terms.

When we accept change as the natural structure of the world, our vulnerability and humanness lets us work with the ebb and flow of life.

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When we recognize the inevitability of mistakes as part of the ongoing experiment which life is, then we can relax more. In doing so we may make fewer of them.

It also helps to keep in mind that trial and error is an organic natural way of living. It is how we have evolved over time. It is better to be with our natural evolution than to fight it and make life harder.

When we adopt an evolutional mindset and see ourselves as part of the ongoing human experiment, we can appreciate that all that has been built up over time which includes the many mistakes our ancestors have made over thousands of years. Each one of us today is a part of that human tradition of learning and experimenting,

Mistakes are part of the trial and error, experimental nature of life. The more you adopt the experimental, evolutional frame, the easier it becomes to handle mistakes.

Handling mistakes well can help you relax and enjoy all aspects of life more.

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Featured photo credit: Sarah Kilian via unsplash.com

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