Part of being a leader is picking the right priorities. Good leaders have a knack for knowing what to take on. Great leaders also know what to give up. True leaders make sacrifices and forego things employees don’t, shouldn’t, or wouldn’t.
I’ve seen great leaders make many sacrifices over my 30-year career. I’ve made many myself. I’ve also seen leaders refuse to give up things the mantle of great leadership demands. Dismissing such sacrifices often negatively affected their careers.
I share now 17 critical things the best leaders give up, willingly. Give these things up and employees will give you their hearts and minds, willingly.
First and foremost, great leaders give up self-interest. I’m not saying they don’t want to grow and advance or that they’re martyrs. I’m saying they lift as they climb. They realize it’s not about them and that they’re guides to greatness and there to help others become the best version of themselves.
2. The spotlight.
Not only do great leaders lift as they climb, they do so from the shadows. The best leaders I ever worked for illuminated the work of others while openly demonstrating they didn’t need or want the attention.
Great leaders look in the mirror when blame’s to be had and look away when credit is to be given. They happily bask in the glow of others-oriented accolades.
4. Their time.
I had a leader who said “The door is always open.” But it was like his door was open at the top for show, closed at the bottom in reality. It was like working for a bank teller. He wasn’t serious about his offer, didn’t really want me in his office, and made me feel like I was intruding. Availability is often the most important thing you can give employees.
The very best leaders don’t horde information to hold the power, they give it up freely to empower others. They make the time investment to share information in proper context to be maximally helpful.
6. The need to always be right.
Successful leaders are comfortable enough with themselves that they’re willing to be vulnerable and openly wrong. In fact, if people aren’t speaking their mind and expressing disagreement, the successful leader worries.
7. Their best people.
Great leaders willingly give up their best people to promotions and great career opportunities. In fact, they groom their employees for it and help facilitate it when the time comes. This is as opposed to leaders who keep talent down so they can selfishly keep them in their shop (which happens too often).
The best leaders are authentic through and through. They know the only one good at being someone else is an actor/actress. They act as the soil (providing a nurturing environment), not the sun (shining down on everyone with their vast brilliance).
Leaders to admire grant copious autonomy, knowing that it takes work to give away work and investing the time to do it right. They give up being in the details and openly trust and empower. They know that no one, ever, says “I can’t wait to be micromanaged today.”
10. What got them there.
I’m not saying great leaders abandon all their strengths. Just that they adapt to their new situation, realizing that not everything that got them to that leadership position should be carbon-copied and carried forward. They know what to emphasize, evolve, and eliminate.
Great leaders know the 80 for the 20 when they see it, and they go for that 100 percent of the time. They know their perfectionism feeds organizational burnout.
12. Their ego.
Successful leaders leave it at the door and are uncomfortable on a pedestal. They excel at taking feedback and acting on it with humility, knowing there’s still much to improve.
13. Position power.
They rely on personal power instead, influencing others with their affability, respectful approach and energy. They never use their title to bludgeon people into getting what they want.
14. The need to dominate discussion.
The most effective leaders default to intently listening over dominating a discussion. They genuinely value others opinions and know that giving others their opinion is the opposite of listening.
Great leaders know they must role model embracing diversity and inclusion. Biases are left to the ignorant.
16. Bad habits.
Not being on time, interrupting, grandstanding; a leader’s bad habits are magnified and the best ones know employees take cues from their behavior (good and bad).
17. The feeling they need to prove themselves.
The best leaders know an organization is no more confident than its leader. They’re confident enough in themselves to not need to showcase their superiority.
So give these things up and employees will give it up for you.
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