Leadership Essential #2: Leaders Elevate Others


Good morning!
Three items for you this morning: a new Leadership Essential – one of those attributes that every good leader possesses; also, a follow-up to my last post on “the four powerful words;” plus an excellent list of leadership attributes.
First, a true story. Towards the end of my first year as an Army officer, my tank platoon won an award for being best in the battalion at gunnery exercises. I walked to the front of the auditorium to receive the trophy from the battalion commander, certainly feeling some pride at what “my” platoon had accomplished. It was a big day for “me.”  Success or failure at tank gunnery has a big impact on the future direction of a young Armor officer’s career.
But as he handed me the trophy, the Colonel leaned in, and in a low voice that only I could hear, said, “Now, Lieutenant, you’re going to march right back to your platoon and hand this trophy to your platoon sergeant and your men, right?!” His message was clear: “Congratulations. You did a good job leading. But give the praise to those you led. It is their talent that got you here.”
The Colonel’s comment made a lasting impression on me. Great leaders don’t take pride in their own accomplishments. They take pride in the accomplishments of those they lead. They elevate others.
Consider this contrast:
Leader A considers himself the smartest person in the room. After all, isn’t that why he’s the leader?! His followers exist to support him. And if any credit is to be handed out, he is ready to receive it. When he moves on from his current position, no one has been groomed to take his place.
Leader B is proud of the team she has recruited and put together. In many instances, she recruited people smarter than her. If she receives praise for her work, she is quick to deflect it onto her team members. When she gets promoted to a new role, one or more of her team members is prepared to replace her.
Now most leaders find themselves somewhere in between these two extremes. But the contrast highlights the difference between a leader who is in it for themselves, and a leader who is in it for others.
Three tips to be sure you’re practicing this essential of good leadership –

  • Know your leaders. Know them like a coach knows his or her players – strengths/weaknesses, best position to play.
  • Praise their strengths and encourage them to use those. Praise privately. Praise in front of others.
  • Challenge them in their deficits. If you believe they can improve, challenge them to do so and support them. If they can’t, help them find a more appropriate role somewhere else.

Now, a quick follow-up to my last post on the four powerful leadership words – “What do you think?” Many of you wrote to say how helpful a reminder this was.
And . . . a few of you lamented that you have a leader who always asks this question – in a way that is not leading! Everything good has a dark side. The dark side of this question – “What do you think?” – is found in leaders who ask the question all the time, but never take a position on what they think!
At the end of the day, every leader needs to take a position. Listen to the input, and then decide what you think! Otherwise, you risk being one of those “leaders” who is just blowing in the wind, changing their mind every time they hear a new, convincing point of view. Such leaders lack backbone and ultimately aren’t trustworthy.
Lastly, in case you missed this in my feed on LinkedIn, here’s a great list of “great leader” attributes.
And . . . you tell me these posts are helpful. Please pass this on to one of your leader friends. Encourage them to sign up.
Lead well.