Great leaders bring out the best in people. In fact, that’s what makes them a great leader. They bring out the best in their team, they bring out the best in their organization, they bring out the best in their vendors, and they bring out the best in their customers. The art of leadership is learning how to bring out people’s best.
Here are five things a leader must do if he or she wants to be truly effective:
1. Treat People Like People
If you really want to bring out the best in people, you need to treat them like…well…people, rather than things. When we interact with people without compassion, empathy, or understanding, we’re relating to them as things.
The consequence of treating people like things is that you’ll get compliance, but not commitment. In contrast, when leaders regard people as people, they recognize that everyone – regardless of position or title – has hopes and dreams, needs and desires, goals and aspirations, fears and stress, and strengths and weaknesses.
A leader who regards people as people adopts an attitude of being of service to them. He or she helps them to be their best, to correct mistakes for the future, and is empathetic towards them and the feelings they have.
Leaders who treat people like people bring out the best in them.
2. Treat Adults Like Adults
If you want to bring out the best in people, you also need to treat adults like adults. Unfortunately, leaders often fall into the habit or pattern of treating adults like children. What constitutes treating adults like children?
When a leader micromanages people, he or she is treating them like children. When a leader doesn’t trust his or her team to follow through and act responsibly, he or she is treating them as children. When we micromanage people, it demonstrates a lack of respect and trust. It sends the message that we don’t trust them to do what needs to be done and don’t trust their judgment.
Why would a leader treat an adult like a child? The most prevalent reason stems from the flawed perspective that if people aren’t told what to do, they will do the least amount of work possible, doing just enough to keep from losing their job.
In order to treat people like adults, we need to eliminate the false perception that people will do as little as possible if left to their own initiative. Most people truly want to do the best job possible and take pride in the work they do.
An effective leader ensures that people have the right tools, the appropriate skills, and the proper judgment to do their job effectively. Then, the leader can confidently delegate tasks and hold people accountable for getting their work done accurately and in a timely manner.
Leaders who treat adults like adults bring out the best in them.
3. Earn Trust and Respect
The importance of earning the trust of the people you lead is well accepted yet still remains an issue. Trust is earned through having integrity and is absolutely essential for keeping people engaged. A leader who lacks the trust of others has a difficult time influencing and inspiring them. It’s not simply a matter of being honest, nor is it a matter of not being dishonest. Our integrity is reflected in what we do and who we are. People assess us by our words and actions over time (although a single negative event can change that opinion instantly). We don’t earn trust by how we act during major events, but rather how we act in everyday situations. Our words and actions will carry more weight and have greater impact if we’ve earned the trust (and respect) of others in advance.
The level of trust and respect given a leader by his or her team determines—to a great degree—the lengths people are willing to go for them. A leader who has earned a high degree of trust and respect creates a loyal team. A leader who has earned trust and respect gains the ability to greatly influence the actions and performance of his or her team. And a leader who has earned trust and respect will be more easily and more quickly forgiven for mistakes they make. And we all make mistakes…
Respect, like integrity, is one of those things that no one argues against. Yet not every leader earns the respect of his or her team. If a leader wants to be influential and bring out the best in people, he or she needs to have the respect of those they lead. There is a big difference between compliance and commitment.
We earn respect by showing respect and we demonstrate respect by how we interact with others. We show respect to people when we give them our full attention. It demonstrates that we care about their ideas and concerns and that we feel what they have to say is valuable. People can also feel they’re not respected when they’re spoken to in a manner that either minimizes them or makes them feel they and their ideas are being dismissed.
Leaders who earn the trust and respect of people bring out the best in them.
4. Show Appreciation and Recognition
In order to bring out the best in people, people need to feel valued. And in order for people to feel valued, a leader must show appreciation for their efforts and recognize them for their accomplishments. Being taken for granted is disheartening and demotivating, but it frequently happens in the business world, nevertheless.
Some leaders adopt the attitude that people are paid to do a job and therefore the payment of a salary is sufficient appreciation and recognition for their work. While it’s true that people have an obligation to do good work in exchange for fair pay, people are still people. They have emotions, pride, fears, self-esteem, and a desire to please.
Recognition is typically offered as a reward and acknowledgement for an accomplishment. Public recognition boosts a person’s stature within an organization and enhances their self-esteem.
Appreciation, on the other hand, is generally shown in response to the effort someone makes, rather than an accomplishment. Sincere appreciation is generally spontaneous and heartfelt – given from one person to another. When we show appreciation for someone’s efforts, it communicates that we respect and value them.
Leaders who show sincere appreciation for people bring out the best in them.
5. Develop Compelling Strategic Initiatives
When leaders develop a strategic initiative that incorporates a compelling reason, it tends to bring out the best in people. People do their best when they’re inspired by and aligned with the work they’re doing. When people are working on an initiative that matters to them, they’re engaged and enthused.
When an initiative matters to people, they invest their discretionary effort in developing creative solutions and overcoming the inevitable obstacles that present themselves.
People will give (and be) their best for something they believe in. Accomplishing a meaningful initiative is personally and professionally fulfilling. Effective leaders provide a reason to accomplish something. They understand that an initiative without a “why” is simply a goal – and no one gives their all for a simple goal. A good strategy addresses an issue or problem and provides a direction for the company. It also provides a compelling reason for the initiative (a cause, a philosophy, a passion), creating a desire to achieve it.
Leaders who help people stretch and use their creative abilities bring out the best in them.