10 Common Traits among the Best Leaders I Ever Had

Many identical businessmen clones

All my life I’ve been a wisdom seeker. I have had some great leadership influence in my life. Beginning with my high school principal when I was student body president and a man in retail who took interest in me in college, I’ve been blessed with good role models.

Looking back, the best leaders I ever had shared some common traits.

10 Common Traits among the Best Leaders I Ever Had

Believed in me more than I believed in myself.

Were available to me when I needed them.

Ask good questions of me.

Challenged me to be better than I thought I could be.

Encouraged my dreams, while equally providing for me a sense of reality.

Had a character worthy of following.

Were skillful and competent, but not arrogant or self-serving.

Continued to learn personally.

Were visionary and challenged mediocrity.

Kept their word, but didn’t over-commit themselves.

Would you add any to my list from the best leaders in your life?

5 Necessary Ingredients for Healthy Delegation

No Dumping

I have seen, and probably been accused of, dumping responsibilities on people inappropriately and calling it delegation. That form of delegation actually does more harm than good for an organization, because it leaves projects undone or completed sub-par, kills employee morale and motivation, and keeps the mission of the organization from reaching its full potential.

Over the years I have frequently asked staff people to whom I delegate frequently how I am doing in this area It is always sobering — and always helpful. This post originates from learning the hard way.

The bottom line of delegation is this….

Delegation involves more than ridding oneself of responsibility.

You can’t dump and run and call it delegation.

Here are 5 necessary ingredients for healthy delegation:

Expectations – The person receiving the assignment must know the goals and objectives you are trying to achieve. They need to know what a win looks like. in your mind. They will want to please their leader. Everyone wants to know they did good work. The question “Why are we doing this?” and “What are we trying to accomplish?” should be answered clearly in their mind.

Knowledge - The delegator should be sure the proper training, coaching and education have been received. The delegator should remain available during the process so that questions or uncertainties of details that arise can be answered.

Resources – Good delegation involves having adequate resources and money to accomplish the task assigned. Nothing is more frustrating than being asked to complete a project without the tools with which to do it.

Accountability – Proper delegation involves follow up and evaluation of the delegated assignment. This is healthy for the delegator, the person receiving delegation, and the organization.

Appreciation – The delegation isn’t complete until the delegator recognizes the accomplishment of the one who completed the task. Failing to do so limits the leader’s ability to continue healthy delegation.

What would you add? Have you ever received a “dumping” that was called delegation?

One Simple, But HUGE Way to Better Empower a Team

Elegant leader

Leader, let me share one of the best things you can do to better empower your team.

And, in full disclosure, I’m the worst at this, but it’s something I’m striving to do better.

You want to fully empower your team?

Here’s what you do:

Release them from responsibility.

Whenever you can…

Often as leaders we handle a lot of information. Sometimes we do that with our team. Sometimes we dispense a lot of new ideas. If we are growing and learning personally, the team is often where we process our thoughts.

If it’s not their responsibility — let them know it’s not.

It sounds simple — but it’s huge.

You see, the team is always wondering.

What is the leader thinking here — as it relates to me?

What do you want me to do with that new idea?

How do you want me to help?

What’s my role going to be in this?

Are you going to hold me accountable for this?

Do you expect something from me here?

As leaders, we often process and present a lot of ideas, but sometimes we are just “thinking.” Sometimes we aren’t assigning anything — we are just exploring.

The more we can release the people trying to follow us the more they can focus on things for which they are being held accountable. And, the more willing they will be to process new ideas with us.

Just tell them what you expect — or don’t expect. Say the words, “You are not responsible for this.” “I don’t expect anything from you on this.” “This is just for information.” And, mean it.

Sounds simple. It’s huge.

7 “BE’s” of Effective Leadership and Management

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One of the chief goals of this blog is to encourage better leadership. In this post, I’m including the term management. I believe the two are different functions, but both are vital to a healthy organization. Whether you lead or manage a large or small organization — or church — there are principles for being effective.

Here are 7:

Be aware – Know your team. People are individuals. They have unique expectations and they require different things from leadership. Some require more attention and some less. Use personality profiles or just get to know them over time, but learn the people you are supposed to be leading or managing.

Be open – Let them know you — as a person outside of the role as leader or manager. Be transparent enough that they can learn to trust you.

Be responsive – Don’t leave people waiting too long for a response. They’ll make up their own if you do — and it’s usually not the conclusion you want them to reach.

Be approachable – You can’t be everything to everyone, and you may not always be available, but for the people you are called to lead or manage, you need to be approachable. They need to know if there is a problem — or a concern — you will be receptive to hearing from them. I realize the larger the organization the more difficult this becomes, but build systems that allow you to hear from people at every level within the organization.

Be consistent – Over time, the team you lead or manage needs to know you are going to be dependable. The world is changing fast. It’s hard to know who to trust these days. We certainly need to be able to trust people we are supposed to follow.

Be trustworthy – Follow through on what you say you will do. If you make a promise — keep it. If you can’t support something — say it. If you’re not going to do it — say no. Let your word be your bond. Spend time building and protecting your character. Be the quality of person you would want to follow.

Be appreciative – Recognize you can’t do it alone. Be grateful. Be rewarding. Celebrate. Love others genuinely and display it well.

What would you add? Upon which of these do you most need to improve?

The Downside of NOT Being a Controlling Leader

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I have a pet peeve about leadership. Actually lots.

But, this one is especially strong.

I have a pet peeve against controlling leadership.

I hate it. It’s so counter-productive to progress. It holds the team back from reaching it’s full potential. It stifles leaders. It never builds healthy teams.

And, the fact is if I allowed myself I could easily be a controlling leader. In fact, command is a “strength” of mine, according to Strengths Finders assessment. It can quickly become a weakness.

So, I discipline myself against controlling leadership.

I delegate.
I purposively bite my tongue.
I allow people to do things differently from the way I would do them.
I don’t micromanage.
I yield to others on my team.

And, when we remove controlling leadership it empowers people.

It means people take initiative.
They make decisions without me.
They proceed on their own.

But, that can create problems for the team.

It often causes miscommunication.
It can lead to fragmentation of the team.
It frequently brings frustration.

People lead. That’s no surprise. It’s what they’ve been empowered to do. But, many times they lead in different directions. Sometimes they lead too quickly. Often they lead into their own agendas — even outside the direction of the rest of the team.

And, the only way to keep that from happening is to be a controlling leader.

So, we have to learn to live in the tension.

We have to get better at keeping others informed. As leaders, we have to keep the vision in front of us and keep directing the team towards it, without controlling. We have to be better leaders.

It’s a constant challenge.

It’s even messy at times. But, it’s best.

5 Suggestions to Recover after You’ve Made a Leadership Mistake

Erasing Oops !

You know you made a mistake. It’s just a matter of time before someone finds out.

What do you do now?

I have often watched leaders struggle to recover from a mistake made that probably didn’t have to be as personally or professionally damaging to them as it was. They simply didn’t respond well enough and it cost them more than it should have.

Like the time a college pastor way over committed to a conference. He secured too many slots and not enough people signed up, so the church lost a lot of money. Or the time the worship pastor booked a concert in the auditorium, committed the church financially and with volunteers, and then found out the artist was hugely polarizing to the congregation. Or when a pastor signed a contract for services to the church, only to find out a key volunteer (and influencer) in the church offered the same services and was offended not being able to at least offer a bid on the services.

And, the list goes on…

I’m not addressing necessarily about moral issues or major failures. (I wrote about addressing them in THIS POST and THIS POST.) I’m primarily writing about mistakes that all leaders make. We make them frequently. It’s part of being human and being a leader. Although both lists are very similar.

(By the way, these are fabricated scenarios in that they aren’t specific situations I’m using as examples, but these type mistakes are frequent in leadership.)

Chances are you’ve made similar mistakes. We all have. You’ve seen others make them. They look different every time and there are different characters in each story, but the outcomes are similar. And, the damage is just as damaging if not addressed properly.

Because a leadership principle we can never escape is:

The way you respond after a mistake always determines the quality of recovery.

So, when you’ve made the mistake — and admitting it to yourself is the first step — what do you do now?

Here are 5 suggestions:

Communicate quickly – You don’t have to tell the world, but those who need to know should hear it from you and not from anyone else. Let the offended parties know and the people who will have to answer for the mistake. This can’t be done too soon. Surprises like this never turn out well, but with advance knowledge many times further damage can be averted

Own it – Don’t make excuses. Don’t pretend it didn’t happen. Don’t blame others. Don’t say, “I’m sorry”, but then try to wrap the other person into your story. Ask forgiveness if necessary, but own it now. You made a mistake. Be a leader. Own the mistake and be willing to accept the consequences. You’ll be far more respected and stand a better chance of bridging support in the recovery process.

Stop the loss – Do whatever you can to stop further damaging from occurring. If there are financial issues involved, try to recover as much as you can. If there is collateral damage with relationships, apologize quickly and try to restore trust. I have always found a humble, yet not martyred, but confident response is usually best in these situations.

Figure out what’s next – Help the team recover. Find solutions. Don’t leave the clean up to anyone else. As you lead into the mistake — or even better — lead through the recovery. Help bring people together, seek wisdom, and help steer energy back to a more positive position.

Learn from it – The best thing you can do is to grow from mistakes — all of them. They can shape us as people and leaders — either positively or negatively. The good news is that we get to decide which one. In the process of recovery, sometimes keeping a journal is helpful. Start with the question, “What can I learn from this that will help me make better decisions in the future?”

Of course, the intensity of need for this depends on the size of the mistake and the size of injury caused to the team, church or organization, but the principles still apply in context.

Do you have any examples to add to this post from your own experience?

What else would you add as suggestions for recovery?

Sometimes We Complicate Leadership Too Much

golden leader

Leading is hard, but the principles and practice of leading don’t have to be as difficult as we make them at times.

I talk to leaders every week who are stressed out by the things they know they should be doing but aren’t getting done. They’ve read a blog — maybe even this one — they read a book, they attended a seminar or conference and they feel defeated.

Sometimes I think we complicate leadership too much.

I often tell leaders who want to improve to think of one or two areas in their organization or church, or in their personal leadership style, that they’d like to improve upon and take some small steps to make something positive happen in that area. Don’t start big. Start small. One bite of the elephant at a time. Take one thing you learned and implement it in a small way. Get better at it. Over time, do it more. Simple. (At least simpler in concept.)

If a leader is continually doing that over time they will start to see major improvement. 

For example, a leader who knows he or she isn’t building new leaders, and recognizes the need, could set a goal to help develop one or two leaders this year. Currently no leadership development is being done. Replace that with discovering how and implementing the development of just a couple new leaders.

  • Meet with them regularly.
  • Find out their strengths.
  • Find out their weaknesses.
  • Seek ways to develop their strengths.
  • Help them learn to minimize their weaknesses.
  • Talk with them through your own leadership experience — good and bad.
  • Introduce them to new resources, new opportunities, new challenges, other leaders.

That’s not simple, and it’s not profound, but it is doable and it starts moving things in a more positive direction. With intentionality, discipline and practice, that simple effort can lead to systematizing leadership development in a larger scale in the future.

Sticking with this example, the problem for many of us is that we start at the overwhelming sense that we have nothing. So we try to begin with some complex system of leadership development. It is too big and too fast and so nothing ever gets off the ground.

You may have heard some big, lofty ideas. That’s great. They stretch you, but simplify it in your mind. Place it within your current context.

Start small. Make incremental improvements. Learn from the process. Improve. Increase. Add to. Grow. Systematize. Booyah.

7 “R’s” of Healthy Team Member Correction

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The way a leader handles correction of someone on the team is important if the desire is to keep quality people on the team. All of us occasionally need someone to help us become better at what we do. That should be the end goal of correction. All of us make mistakes.

Avoiding the corrective procedure keeps the organization from being all it can be. It keeps people from learning from their mistakes. Good leaders use correction to improve people and the organization.

It’s important that we correct correctly.

Here are 7 aspects of healthy correction:

Relationship – Corrective actions should start here. It’s hard to correct people effectively if you don’t have a relationship with them. Using authority without an established relationship may work in a bureaucratic organization, but not in a team environment. Relationship building should begin before the need for correction.

Respect – Never condemn the person. As soon as correction becomes more personal than practical, the one being corrected becomes defensive and the leader loses the value of the correction. Focus attention on the actions being corrected and not the person. (Even if the correction involves a character issue, if you intend to retain the person, you will accomplish more if he or she knows they have your respect.)

Reprimand – Make sure the action being correction is clear and the person knows what they did wrong.  Don’t wait until the problem is too large to restore the person to the team. Even though protecting the relationship is important, the person doesn’t need to leave still clueless that there is a problem.

Refocus – In addition to telling the person what he or she did wrong, help them learn from their mistakes. Spend time discussing how the person can improve in the area of performance being corrected.

Restore – Make sure the person being corrected knows you still believe in their abilities and that you have faith they can do the job for which they are responsible. Correction is never easy to accept, but the goal should be to improve things following the corrective period. People will lose heart for their work if they do not think their work is still valued.

Reinforce – Correction can be a valuable time for the team member and organization if used appropriately. It should be a learning time for the leader and the person being corrected. Use this as a time to remind the team member of the culture, vision, goals and objectives of the organization, as necessary to improve the team member’s performance. The leader should consider how he or she can improve to help the team member improve.

Replace – Some people simply aren’t a fit for the team. The problem could be them or the team.  Making the call to replace a team member is hard, but sometimes necessary to continue the progress of the organization. The sooner this call is made the better it will be for everyone. (If it reaches this point, the leader should spend time evaluating what went wrong with the relationship — was it the person, the organization, or the leader?)

Leaders, do you avoid correction? Are you using it for the good of the organization and the people on your team?

What would you add to my list?

7 Suggestions to Get the Introverts Sharing in Your Meetings, So You Don’t Miss Their Input

power meeting from above

In a previous post, I shared 7 Reasons the Introvert Is Not Talking in Your Meetings. I committed then to share some suggestions. Read that post first, or this one will be harder to follow.

The fact is we miss out on a lot of valuable input if we don’t hear from the introverts on the team, but hearing from them is more challenging. They are introverted. That basically means they typically internalize their thoughts more than the externalize them. But, in order for them to be helpful you have to hear them. They have to externalize their thoughts.

These aren’t fool proof. Not all introverts are alike, just as not all extroverts are alike. All of us are unique.

But, these might help. If you’re not hearing from some of the introverts on your team, give some of these a try.

Keep in mind, these are coming from an introvert and a leader.

First, from the previous post…

Here were 7 reasons they may not be talking:

  • Everyone else keeps talking
  • You are rushing the answers
  • There are too many people, especially extroverts in the room
  • You have them in an uncomfortable seat
  • They’ve got nothing to say
  • The conversation isn’t going anywhere
  • You put them on the spot without warning

Now,

Here are 7 suggestions to get them talking:

First – Give them proper warning before the meeting to get them thinking ahead of time and let them know you’ll be expecting their input. With time to collect their thoughts in advance they’ll be more likely to share.

Second – Give them time after the meeting to reflect and specifically ask for their thoughts. In brainstorming, give them the questions before the meeting that you’ll be discussing. In some circumstances, I’ve even given introverts the freedom to email or text me or someone else during the meeting. (I’ve led a couple meetings where we put a live Google Docs on the screen to add our thoughts. Introverts could type in their response and Google Docs would update. They seemed to share more.)

Third – Divide into smaller groups. Especially during brainstorming meetings or strategy sessions, divide out and then come back together to share. Depending on the size of the group, you could have an introvert serve on their own “team of one” during the breakout time with the assignment to come back and share.

Fourth – Let them choose their seat. Never force introverts to move to the front of the room. You can offer them the seat, but if they want to stand in the back of a crowded room, let them.

Fifth – Don’t make people talk. Don’t call out an introvert or put them on the spot for an immediate answer. Provide opportunities, but don’t force. As mentioned previously, to see if they have thoughts to share, write a question on the board and give some time to process — maybe even let the answers be written.

Sixth – Start meetings on time and with an agenda. If small talk is part of the culture — that’s okay — but give them something to read or focus on until the main meeting starts. And, don’t be upset if they are still working on their phone until the actual meeting starts.

Seventh – Give them a preassigned part in the meeting. Most introverts are not afraid of leading, even speaking in large groups (I do it every week), they just want time to prepare. Then watch them shine.

As I said in the previous post, leaders this means you must know the people you are trying to lead. If you aren’t sure — ask, do assessments, observe, get to know them.

Also, to my fellow introverts, I hear from you. Some of you cringe at the word “brainstorming”. You want a pass from anything that makes you particularly uncomfortable. I’m sorry, I can’t give that as a leader. We all have to do things uncomfortable at times — that includes my extroverted friends. Sometimes they’ll be forced to sit in silent activities on the teams I lead. Brainstorming can be an important part of team-building and idea creation. And, the team needs you. We just need to help leaders — especially extremely extroverted leaders — learn how to get us more involved.

What suggestions do you have?

7 Reasons Why The Introvert Is Not Talking And The Team Misses Out

Men Holding White Board in Business Presentation

Ever wonder why the introvert on your team isn’t talking?

Introverts can be highly creative. They have original ideas. They think things through thoroughly. You need to hear from them.

Chances are, if they aren’t sharing, you’re missing out on some good participation.

Here are 7 reasons they may not be talking:

Everyone else kept talking – Most introverts aren’t going to talk over other people. They’ll wait their turn. If it doesn’t come. They won’t share.

You are rushing the answers – You don’t give them time to process. Introverts take time to find the right words to say. If you press for quick responses, they’ll likely share less. That’s true in brainstorming too, where you’re looking for many responses.

There are too many people, especially extroverts in the room – If there are plenty of “talkers” an introvert will let others do the talking. Again, they won’t interrupt. If introverts are easily outnumbered they are usually silenced.

You have them in an uncomfortable seat – Maybe they were late to the meeting and all that was left was an awkward front row seat. Not happening. They won’t likely share if they feel they are being made the center of attention.

They’ve got nothing to say – Perhaps it isn’t their subject. Introverts aren’t as likely to talk about subjects they know less about as an extrovert will. Their words are typically based on thoughts they’ve processed longer, so if it’s a new subject, they may still be processing internally.

The conversation isn’t going anywhere – Introverts aren’t usually fans of small talk. If too much time at the beginning of the meeting was about nothing they consider of great importance, then you may have lost their interest .

You put them on the spot without warning – Introverts are often NOT opposed to making a presentation. (The “not” is capitalized on purpose.) The myth is that introverts are always silent. Not true. Or that they have nothing to say. Not true again. They simply want to be prepared before they share.

Of course, this means you need to understand the team you’re trying to lead. Who are the introverts — the true introverts — on your team? They may have thoughts you need to hear. Your challenge is to create an environment conducive for hearing from them.

Edited note: I always receive push back from introverts about brainstorming. (Remember, I am one. Fairly extreme one.) I don’t think the problem is brainstorming, but rather how we do it. The process is too important not to do it and the collective thoughts are too important to miss anyone. We don’t get an “out” of everything uncomfortable because we are introverts. No one does. We just have to adapt and leaders have to get better at leading everyone, which is the point of these posts.

Go to my 7 suggestions post for ideas for each of these to get the introverts sharing.

What other reasons do you know that keep introverts from sharing in a meeting?