Let’s kick things off with this very true statement: I don’t read self-help books, because they’re boring. When my sister recommended that I read The Secret: What Great Leaders Know and Do, I took the book with the intention of repeatedly shuffling it to the bottom of my ‘to read’ stack until she wanted it back. That is until I heard her say that reading this book was the reason she had quit her job.
If I was asked “what is a leader?” before reading this, my answer would have been something along the lines of this: “A leader is someone who, by roles or responsibilities, is accountable for the success or failure of a team”. While that may be true, there’s so much more to being a leader than holding that responsibility. It’s about what they DO. The entire point of this book is summed up in this sentence: Great leaders serve. That’s it. Three words.
Jumping into it, leadership is like an iceberg: less than 20% of the actual job is visible — it’s more about what you don’t see than what you do. What you see initially in leadership are the skills possessed (what they know how to do), and what you don’t see is the character (Who they are behind the skills and what their motivation is). You need both skills and character to effectively lead, but someone’s skills are easier to develop than their character is. At this point you may be thinking, ‘Sure, sounds great, but I’m not in a leadership position. But you’d be wrong! True leadership has nothing to do with one’s level within an organization, you can provide leadership from wherever you are without holding a title of leadership. This concept was intriguing to me, as a new hire at Echobind, and I was curious as to how I could implement these concepts into my daily routines.
The biggest concept: Regardless of their formal title or position, people who want to be great leaders must embrace an attitude of service to others, or to put it simply, being willing to work for the good of others. You can serve without leading, but you can’t lead well without serving. Skills can be developed, but motivations are much harder to change. This is why becoming the best leader you can be will be a lifelong growth, you don’t master being a leader in a week, a month, or even years. The easiest way to grow as a leader is with the following breakdown of the acronym SERVE: See the future, Engage and develop others, Reinvent continuously, Value results and relationships, and Embody the values.
See the future — What is your vision for your group? To create a cohesive team, having a shared goal and plan for what’s next is key. Everyone needs to see who they are, where they are, where they are going, and what will guide their journey. This can be easier said than done — If that goal doesn’t fire you up, your team won’t be passionate about it either. The most challenging portion of this can be where to focus your attention, heads up vs. heads down. Heads up, broken down means you must consistently see and communicate the future, as well as anticipate opportunities and obstacles. Heads down would be implementing that vision, working alongside your people to make the vision reality. To lead, it is your job to keep your team on task and continuously replenish the vision, and involving your people in the heads-up work will gain their commitment to it.
A great way to keep the focus is by displaying the values you are striving toward. This makes them repeatable, recognizable, and rewardable, for positive results — Here at Echobind, our leadership does a great job of this! For example, our values are: Be a great human, Be veracious, and Be curious. All values need to be grounded in truth and reality. Otherwise, you lose credibility by not living them out. Values are a big deal. They’re what can make or break your leadership depending on how you embody them personally. Empowering your people can also help with sharing the progress toward goals. You can be asking questions like:
What information do you need to solve this?
What do you think we should do?
By empowering our own teams, we build up their confidence and share the workload.
Engage and Develop Others — You must have the right people, in the right roles, fully engaged if you are going to meet the goals you set. The big ideas here are selecting the right people for the job and building an environment where they can invest in themselves working toward the vision you’ve created together. Recruiting and choosing the right team member can be time-consuming but is less costly in terms of time, energy, opportunities, and morale than retraining or replacing someone who is the wrong fit for your team. Getting the right people in the right jobs is the first part of the term engage. Part two is doing more than enlisting their hands — you want to gain their heads and hearts too. The best way to engage the brains of your team and not just their hands is to involve them in the work and planning. When you get their brain, you often gain their hearts as well.
If you look back on a favorite boss, chances are they made you feel valued and appreciated. When leaders realize that they work for their people, things get done more efficiently and effectively. The best leaders invest in the development of their people. Asking the right questions can help you leverage your strengths and those of your team. Questions such as ‘What are your strengths and Do they match the role you’re in?’ or ‘Are you in the right role? If so, were you trained properly? Do you clearly understand your responsibilities?’ can help lead you down the right path for finding the right fit for each role.
Reinvent Continuously — The very best leaders are learners, with a healthy disrespect for the status quo. The R has three branches — implementing as a leader, as a team, and as an organization:
As a leader: How am I learning and growing as a leader? What am I doing to encourage others on my team to constantly learn and reinvent themselves?
As a team: How are we doing the work? Do it better? What changes could enhance our ability to serve our customers and one another?
As an organization: What structural changes do we need to make to be more efficient & effective?
These questions can help us keep up with the competition and rate of change in the world. If you stop learning, you stop leading. We can’t expect our team to be investing in themselves if we are not leading by example. How can we do the work better? How can we do it with fewer errors? How can we do it faster? For less? The team leader may champion the cause, but the people make it happen — or not. Work purposefully to engage the hearts and heads of your people.
Value Results and Relationships — Great leaders do BOTH. When we value our relationships we get better results. An easy way to maximize your results as a leader is to have high expectations for both results and relationships. You need to get to know people beyond who they are at work and what they do there. **You might be thinking “But I don’t want to get overly involved in my coworker’s personal lives” and that’s a fair concern! We’re obviously not talking about prying here. But you should be interested in listening to them when they are sharing their own concerns and issues that are impacting their work. ** People don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care. It’s not a one-way street, you need both the results and relationships. One simple way to do this is by finding ways to help them meet their goals. Goals tend to fall into the four categories of Be, Do, Have, or Help. Maybe one of your people wants to be a better golfer — you could suggest a book you’ve read on the topic! If someone wants to have a better work-life balance, you can sit down together to try and figure out how to make that happen. These are not BIG or DIFFICULT things to do, but they show your team that you care and are listening.
Embody the Values — Walk the Talk, Don’t Stumble the Mumble. This is fundamental and ongoing. If you lose your credibility as a leader by not being a person of integrity, your leadership potential is greatly limited. If you live out the values you set, and you create an opportunity to shape the culture of the organization and give people faith in your leadership. Being someone your team trusts to do the right thing and what you say will play a huge factor in creating trust between you and your team.
There you have it — the secret sauce from The Secret — how to lead effectively and in a way that empowers your team toward success.
Mariah is a Software Engineer at Echobind. She is passionate about clean and reusable code. Mariah is also a mama of three, a cupcake baker, and always down for a hot cup of black coffee. You can find her on Twitter @mariahlgrey and on LinkedIn!