Leaders of all kinds – from CEOs to department managers to Little League coaches, in businesses, non-profits, and volunteer organizations – take on responsibilities that not everyone wants. Most leaders step into those roles because they feel called to lead. It’s their duty. Yes, the recognition and financial rewards may be desirable, but those rewards are not enough to keep a leader motivated. It’s their calling, their contribution to the organization or the community, and leaders don’t shirk their responsibilities.
Leaders are called to do many things. They create a vision for the organization. They develop strategies to achieve goals. They inspire the team when the chips are down. They take responsibility when things go wrong. And they do things too numerous to mention that don’t even get noticed.
When leaders are engaged in the day to day and doing their best to fulfill their role to the organization, there is on thing they can’t forget: they don’t lead a business (or department, or club), they lead people.
What’s the difference? Only people can follow you. A leader has followers: people who believe in the vision and direction of their leader. Systems, processes, buildings, and ideas are tools of the leaders and followers; they are useless without team members to use them to go where their leader is taking them.
In the midst of the whirlwind, leaders must not forget the people they lead. They won’t be successful without them. How can a leader make sure he or she doesn’t forget the people they lead?
Be visible. Schedule time to be in the office. Let the team see you and know you are engaged. People want to talk to the people who are leading them. Despite all the great advances in technology, talking to someone in person has a profound impact.
Get to know people. In a large organization, it may be impossible to know everyone on the team but spending time with some individuals up and down the org chart will reap benefits throughout the organization. Spend time talking to people as you walk around, in the break room, or at lunch. It doesn’t need to be something about work either. Learn something about them and their families. Work is only one aspect of their lives.
Communicate, communicate, communicate. A leader must keep the team informed. Are we making progress? Are we reaching our goals? Do we need to change? What dangers do we face? Make checking in with your team a regular part of your schedule.
Listen. Listen more than you talk. Your team has a lot of knowledge from their position on the front lines. They see problems and have answers the leader may not have insight into. Your decisions have a real impact on real people and sometimes they just want to know you care.
Anyone who considers themselves a leader needs to look around everyone once in a while and make sure people are still following them.