Let's be better -- and lead better
Leadership is an interesting concept. At one level, it's massively complex. There are entire sections of the publishing industry devoted to it, and we fly people all over the world to discuss it. It's probably a billion-dollar industry onto itself.
At another level, it's deceptively simple. You work for an organization. "It" (the org) has goals. You work with, and manage, other people. They have goals. How do you align "A" (org goals) and "B" (individual goals) in such a way that tangible, measurable results are driven?
There are a lot of different ways to think about and conceptualize leadership. Here are a few.
Leadership is about building something great together: This idea comes from Mark Leslie, who took a company with 12 employees and $95K in revenue and made it a company with 6,000 employees and $1.5 billion in revenue. In short, he's someone to listen to. His basic advice is simple: invest others in your process. If everything is coming from a top-down vacuum, there will never be any real buy-in. In short: if you want to build trust, you need to demonstrate trust.
Leadership is really just about managing negative thoughts: According to research from the Cleveland Clinic, humans experience about 60,000 thoughts per day. 95 percent of those thoughts are habituated, and 80 percent of the habituated thoughts are negative. If you do the math on that, we walk around all day with a lot of negative baggage -- so maybe leaders should be thinking about how to motivate people towards a place of positive self-efficacy.
To be a better leader, "fire yourself." I don't mean this literally. I mean sit down every quarter with your team and talk about what everyone did wrong -- believe me, everyone did something wrong -- and "fire" yourself for that. Then come up with an action plan to prevent it from happening in the next quarter. Firing yourself is a strategy akin to just openly discussing failure at work. Everybody fails, and oftentimes more than once per hour. We need to discuss and re-contextualize that more, so that people can grow.
Leadership is not about buzzwords: People in "the modern age" or "the digital age" have a neo-centric focus, which means they always want to embrace the newest thing, be that a Netflix show, a podcast, a business model, or what have you. One idea around leadership that's cropped up in the last couple of years is the concept of "authentic leadership," so many people speak and discuss and pursue that avenue. "Authentic leadership" is complete bullshit. It's a buzzword. It doesn't mean anything. Leadership is about relationships between people and goals; it's not found in the latest buzzword.
Leadership is about giving a voice to many options, but knowing when to call it quits: Here's what a lot of people do -- they claim to care about everything within their silo or department, which is impossible. At a certain level, your responsibility is the bottom line -- and as such, you care about the things that impact the bottom line. Many leaders will claim to care about every project, but then transparently show they only care about 3-4 revenue-generating items, and that makes everyone working on the other projects feel like an also-ran. Don't be so transparent about what actually matters. Same vein: if you think something is a good idea but you just don't have the resources for it right then, kill it off. Kill off good ideas, because otherwise you overwhelm your team.
Leadership is about telling others what you're struggling with. There is sometimes an attitude that big, important decisions can only come from higher levels of an organization, which makes no sense. An organization exists to make money typically, right? They part with some of that money -- which they would rather have -- in order to pay salaries to staff. If they're parting with a key resource, shouldn't the recipient of that resource (the staff) be allowed to contribute ideas and feel like they're a part of it? If you lead a team, sit down every month and explain your biggest problem -- i.e. what your boss is on you for. See what ideas they come up with.
Leadership is about storytelling: Our brains seriously love stories. Almost nothing resonates more. Many leaders think 'storytelling' is a term that 'marketing should be dealing with,' but there are ways to bring storytelling into your leadership -- and you can do it in less than 5 minutes per week.
Leadership is about creating an environment where your employees want to go the extra mile: Zenger-Folkman calls this "bold leadership," which is a little bit buzzword-heavy (see above). In reality, you want your employees to want to work hard for you, which is represented in this chart by Z-F: