By any standard, last year was as much chilling as it was unexpected. Simultaneously forced to become at-home teachers, caregivers and breadwinners, many working professionals were driven to the brink of despair. However, with vaccines beginning their distribution and administration, there is light at the end of the tunnel. That said, we need business leaders, at all levels, to set the example, guide direction and inspire behaviors that enable staffers to overcome the stress and fatigue which set-in during 2020.
There are many definitions for the term “Hero.” Personally, I consider heroes to be people who look out for the “little guy,” push against injustice and take action to right wrongs. To be sure, heroes quickly recognize when to speak up and leap in to improve the lives of those around them. By extension, leadership heroes are the people that are willing to do what must be done, even when doing nothing at all would be easier.
Here are some ideas to cultivate the leadership hero within you:
- Practice Seeing Through Empathetic Eyes: Leadership heroes work to right wrongs, including those in your work setting. Putting yourself in someone else’s shoes enables you to gain a perspective that is needed to right a wrong.
If you fail to practice seeing things from where your people sit, how will you know when something needs fixing?
- Don’t Fear Failure: Staffers thirst for direction during uncertain and unsettling times. It is far more important to overcome the fear of setting the wrong direction than it is to stall-out on your team and leave them wondering what to do next.
The fear of failure is the number one thing that most of the high potential leaders whom I coach must confront on their way up to senior ranks within their organizations. Sometimes related to imposter syndrome (i.e., self-doubt in one’s skills, talents or accomplishments that generates fear of being exposed as a “fraud”) or a perfectionistic tendency that is present in many exceptionally high performing people, fear of failure can stifle a career while damaging a team’s ability to deliver results.
Set direction and manage it from there. You’ll be pleasantly surprised how responsive your team will be when you do. You’ll be pleasantly surprised how more confident you will feel as your team succeeds.
- Be Decisive: As mentioned, people are hungry for leadership right now. Decisiveness is part of the leadership equation. Analyze the situation, determine the action required, plan the execution and move out.
So, when a decision must be made, make it. Don’t wait or an invitation. You will have the time to make mid-course adjustments, if needed.
- Drive Change: Don’t wait for someone else to make change happen within your business. You are responsible to lead your company to success. When you start a change effort, be sure to see it through.
A leader giving up in the middle of a change effort is a common complaint among staffers at many of the client organizations that I work with. There are all kinds of reasons for it, including a shift in priorities, change implementation proving to be more challenging than originally forecasted and a new, shiny object magically appearing on the horizon that promises to be even more exciting to pursue than the one originally intended to achieve. Regardless, the frequent start and stops kills morale and leaves your team looking for just one success to hang their hat on. We can ill afford more challenges to morale in the coming year.
See your change efforts through to a successful conclusion. Your people need a victory!
To close, if you are not ordinarily a leadership hero, perhaps the time has come to begin working on it. Your people need you, now. Last year was a surely a shock to the system to many staffers. Heroic leadership is required to set the tone in 2021. It is how we guide our teams this year that will not only determine how our firms come out of the Pandemic, but, how they fare for years to come.
Written by James M. Kerr.