We sometimes refer to zealous hobbyists as ‘freaks’: tennis freaks, golf freaks, computer freaks. These highly enthusiastic people excel in their pursuits; they are unique, rare, uncommon, top-of-the-bell-curve types.
Are You a Leadership “Freak”?
According to a Harvard Business School of Leadership study, if you are an honest and thankful leader, you are a leadership freak. Why? Because according to this study, 90% of leaders are not honest and thankful; they might be one or the other, but not both.
Leadership Freak Trait #1: HONESTY
For their book, The Leadership Challenge, authors James M. Kouzes and Barry Z. Posner interviewed tens of thousands of employees nationwide and discovered that the leadership trait employees most wanted to see in their boss was honesty. What does honesty look like in the workplace? We often think of honesty as simply “telling the truth.” However, honesty is far more multifaceted.
To test our honesty, here are a few questions that we as leaders may ask ourselves:
- Do I always tell the truth even if doing so is difficult?
- Do I give my employees candid performance feedback?
- Do I admit my mistakes to others?
- Do I exaggerate the truth to make myself look better?
- Do I do the right thing even when no one is looking?
- Do I answer questions openly and admit “I don’t know” if I don’t have an answer?
- Are my actions and decision-making processes as transparent as possible?
- When faced with a failure, do I pass the buck, or do I accept responsibility for my role in it?
- Do I keep my word, deliver on my promises, and honor my commitments?
In his book The Speed of Trust Stephen M.R. Covey writes:
“When trust goes up, speed will also go up and cost goes down.”
Honesty is the cornerstone of a trustful work environment, and a trustful work environment is the cornerstone of a successful organization. Without trust, our relationships, organizations, and communities suffer.
Leadership Freak Trait #2: THANKFULNESS
In 2012, the American Psychological Association (APA) surveyed over 1,700 employees and found that more than half of those surveyed wanted to look for a new job. What was the respondents’ motivation? Did they want more money? More security? Surprisingly, most surveyed employees wanted to move on because they felt under-appreciated or undervalued.
The Harvard Business School of Leadership study results concurred with those of the APA, citing the vast majority of respondents felt their leaders did not appreciate team member contributions or value their employees. Author of The Leadership Challenge James Kouzes lists “Encourage the Heart“ as one of the “Five Practices of Exemplary Leadership,” but goes on to describe it as one of the least common leadership traits. He says one of the simplest ways leaders can “Encourage the Heart” is with sincere (honest!) celebrations that recognize employee successes. More than anything, people want to “matter” – to feel appreciated, valued, and important. A simple, yet genuine “Thanks!” from a leader on regular basis goes a long way toward keeping people motivated and feeling good about their work.
Here are a few additional ways we can demonstrate appreciation for those we lead:
- Express Enthusiasm for New Ideas – When an employee suggests a new program or project idea, resist the temptation to “dive right in” and edit, correct, or provide your own “two cents.”
- Give Employees Credit for the ‘Little Stuff’ Too – It is easy to celebrate the “big stuff” that makes news headlines and impresses council members, but it is usually the behind-the-scenes “little stuff” that makes big successes possible.
- Talk “Legacy” – Everyone wants to “leave their mark” but not everyone is lucky enough to have a street or building named after them. Remind employees how they helped make a city, organization, or program what it is today, and how their efforts will have an enduring, positive affect on the organization and the community.
Check out Dan Rockwell’s fun and informative blog (leadershipfreak.wordpress.com) to learn more ways to become a “leadership freak.”