21 Ways to Be a Better Leader Without Breaking a Sweat
A version of this article appeared at Inc.com
1. Switch off your cell phone. Go on, you can do it. Just for one meeting.
2. Look people in the eyes. Practice doing it consistently.
3. Think. Pick an hour in the day (the week, if you’re really strapped) and just think. Don’t listen. Don’t read. Don’t talk. Don’t eat. Don’t drink. Just think.
4. Get out of your inbox. Twice a day is enough for most people. If it’s not, for you, then you have deeper communication management problems.
5. Stop using amplifying adverbs. Every time you use words like ‘very’, ‘fundamental’, ‘must-do’, ‘imperative’, you drain their impact. Simply state what you want to say, or want done, without amplification.
6. Ask ‘What can I do for you?’ Many leaders fail to recognize that they can be a tremendous asset for their people – but only if they place themselves in that position.
7. Get out from behind your desk. You do know the real action is happening elsewhere, right?
8. Get comfortable with silence.
9. Know your presuppositions. Before any important meeting or discussion, jot down what presumptions, assumptions or biases you’re walking in with. Note that they might be right, helpful, useful – or they may not.
10. Distrust what you trust. Not all the time. Just often enough to rethink what you take for granted.
11. Don’t talk to think. Thinking out loud is confusing when the person doing the verbal processing is the leader of those who are listening (‘Is this an instruction? Are we really going to do this?’). Only do it with people who know you well, or make it clear when you are ‘just musing’.
12. Give positive feedback three times more often than you do. You don’t do it enough, trust me.
13. Get low-level seating in your office and use it. If you have the real estate, add a round table (or a coffee table), and use it by default. Make your desk a work surface, not a communication barrier or power play.
14. Be present. You can only be in one place at a time – so be there. Stick a pin in your palm, snap an elastic band on your wrist – do whatever you need to give the present your full attention.
15. Ask more than you tell. Sure, there are communications that require you to be declarative, but leadership as a whole is an exercise in inquiry.
16. Show more than you demand. The leader as a role model isn’t something that’s talked about much right now (mostly because of the lack of such role models in many areas of life – politics, sports, entertainment), but it’s still the most powerful tool in your leadership toolkit.
17. Repeat yourself. When you literally feel nauseous at the thought of repeating what’s important, others are just beginning to get it.
18. Batch crap. When you allow the prospect of dealing with dreck to get you down, you underperform. Pull together the three or four things you truly loathe the thought of doing, and get them done as early in the week as possible. You’ll be amazed how well you perform the rest of the week.
19. Only use email to move around information. Your keyboard isn’t a proxy for rich communication.
20. Reach down two levels. Don’t build a cadre of lieutenants who get all your attention. You’re leading the enterprise, not your immediate reports.
21. Be nice. Whatever reason you use to justify being a jerk, you’re wrong.