To Be Treated Like a Leader, You Must Act Like One
Many successful workers aspire to leadership; yet they forget that to be treated like a leader, you must act like one. What does that mean? It means leaders behave in a certain way to, above all, earn the respect of their employees. And to do that, they must first earn their employees’ trust. Employees need to know their leader has their best interest at heart. They want to feel valued and appreciated for their work and their unique contributions to the organization.
Often companies promote their superstar performers to leadership and they consequently fail miserably at leading others. Why? Because what made them successful at their jobs may not work in a leadership position. Why? Because the leadership traits are different from specific traits or talents needed for the various jobs that made the superstars successful in the first place. While there are certain characteristics that transfer well from a high performer to a leader, the key talent required to lead is the “ability to influence others—naturally.” That is what the talent of leadership is all about.
Let’s examine seven behaviors that make leaders successful:
Be humble -ask for help. It’s not about you.
Humility is the first trait I observe when I coach new leaders. It takes humility to ask for help and, especially, to recognize that it’s not about you. It’s all about your employees! When you focus on your employees first, then the goals of the organization are accomplished. You achieve success together.
Leaders who are not coachable are not true leaders. You cannot expect your employees to receive criticism well or be taught anything new if you, as their leader, don’t set the example. Coachable (or trainable) people are those “capable of being trained.” If you can be trained or coached, now you can learn how to do things better—including how treat your employees better. It takes humility to accept that you need coaching—especially as a new leader.
Now that you humbly accept coaching, you open yourself to learn new ways to lead others. You learn that each person you lead is unique and that you cannot treat everyone the same. You must be “fair to all” which means to treat each person differently based on their needs. This may be a new concept for you as many people feel that everyone should be treated “equally.” But doing that would actually be unfair to most. For example, if an employee needs flexibility in their schedule and requests to work 7:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. You as the leader can approve the request and “to be fair to everyone” you decide to change everyone’s schedule to the new one. You will upset employees and they’ll say that’s not fair to them as they don’t need that schedule. Therefore, treating everyone “equally” doesn’t work. Leaders need to treat employees differently based on their unique needs and personalities.
Seek a mentor and mentor others
In addition to needing a coach, you may also need a mentor—someone who’s been in leadership for a long time and who can share their wisdom with you. Again, it takes humility to seek a mentor in whom you can confide your feelings of inadequacy or questions about your own ability to lead others. An experienced mentor shares his/her experiences which help you grow into your leadership position. At the same time, take the initiative to mentor others coming after you.
As you apply what you learned from your coach and mentor, your self-confidence as a leader increases. Similarly, you may discover that leading others is, indeed, not for you—and that is okay. Often, strong performers—whether a top salesperson or engineer—fail as leading others because their very drive that makes them successful in their trade cannot be transferred to their employees. Again, it takes humility to accept that leadership may not be for you. Once you make the change, you experience freedom and the success you felt before you took on the new role in leadership.
As mentioned at the beginning of this blog, employees want to feel valued and appreciated for their individual contributions. Often leaders do appreciate their employees, but they never tell them. They assume they know. I encourage you to communicate with your employees and tell them “I appreciate you” and “You’re valuable.” Those few words go a long way and result in increased loyalty. Humans need to hear the words to sink into their hearts. Remember, you need to be sincere and authentic when you communicate to your employees
Take initiative to lead.
Lastly, remember, if you want to be treated like a leader, you must act like one. Leaders take the initiative to lead. One of those initiatives is to hire smarter people than you. When you do so, trust your employees they will do the job you hired them to do. As a leader, build your team and also be part of it by behaving like a leader.
I hope adopting these behaviors help you grow in your leadership journey.