There’s more to being a great leader than having a vision for the company’s future. If you truly want results from your team, you need to lead by example and model the behavior you want to see in them.
Remember, though, employees aren’t just paying attention to your conscious actions; they’re noticing your habits and interactions with others, too. We asked a panel of Young Entrepreneur Council members to each share one underused leadership habit that will set a great example for employees. Their best answers are below.
1. Practice Positive Self-Talk
We’re in a world where we are constantly bombarded with images and reels of how perfect everyone else seems to be doing and how far we are behind them. It’s easy to give in to the notion we are an impostor, our revenues aren’t that great, we aren’t flying to appointments in a private jet — and get down on ourselves. In fact, it’s so easy, most of us are in the habit of negative self-talk on a daily basis. Rather than berate ourselves for our inadequacies, we should make it a habit to appreciate the progress we make daily. We should remind ourselves to not compare the highlight reels of others with our day to day lives. Leaders should make it a habit to be their own biggest cheerleader instead of their own worst enemy. – Klyn Elsbury, Landmark Makers
2. Maintain Calm During Chaos
Many of the one-off interactions workers have with company leaders are to let us know what is wrong — a machine is down, a major order was messed up, our supplies did not come in time, an employee is unexpectedly absent. A great leader knows to be calm and even smile when receiving this news. An exceptional leader demonstrates that these unavoidable and seemingly constant issues are not just fires to put out, they present opportunities to solve immediate problems and implement new systems to avoid these issues in the future, enabling a business to operate more effectively going forward. They are opportunities to exercise our core values and build a strong team culture. – Saloni Doshi, Eco Enclose, LLC
3. Actively Stay In Touch With All Levels Of Employees
It’s important to stay in touch with how different levels of employees view the company and their responsibilities. It’s no point sitting at the top and assuming everyone feels the way you do. Interact with your employees, understand the challenges they face with their work. By regularly getting feedback, you keep in touch with your business, ensuring you have a solid understanding of the work that goes in, but you also stay aware of potential points of failure with employees or business practices. You might find out a machine or some software you use is falling behind, or that a practice that was important five years ago is now only holding you back. It’s important to stay involved with your employees and departments, without micromanaging. – Jürgen Himmelmann, The Global Work & Travel Co.
4. Focus On Being People-Centric
Most leaders I run into are more focused on getting tasks completed or the company’s goals than they are on the people that actually work for them and what their goals are. I remember one time a company wanted to hire me and they were extremely fixated on me coming to the office every day to work — and I am simply not an office person. They said, “But you will love our office and we can teach you to like it.” This is where people-centricity is missing because you are not listening to the wants of a person and a team member and the focus is on the company. The leaders were not open to flexible office environments, which limited their talent pool. When you focus on your people, they will produce the best they can for your company. – Sweta Patel, Silicon Valley Startup Marketing
5. Create A Healthy Work-Life Balance
Leaders are often unable to “shut off,” myself included. While it takes a lot of time, effort and energy to run a business, it is also important to find time for yourself. Work-life balance is extremely important to the well-being of a leader and their team. I try to stress to my employees that they need to manage their own expectations as well as our clients’. For instance, if you regularly respond to client emails at midnight, you place more pressure on yourself to always be “on,” when really you should be focused on yourself. The experiential industry can be taxing, so these boundaries are crucial to keeping morale high and productivity at a maximum. – Justin Lefkovitch, Mirrored Media
6. Offer And Ask For ‘Radical Candor’
Radical candor is an important tool to utilize as creating a culture of praising publicly and criticizing privately breeds a culture of delivering/receiving feedback. Most people would think candor is hard to do, and they aren’t wrong. Stating something that might hurt someone’s feelings is never an easy task. However, if you are specific with your feedback, have honest intentions, and genuinely want that person to succeed, why should you hold back your thoughts? You’re a leader and poised to bring the best out of your people. Just be prepared to ask for criticism regularly as well so people know it’s a commitment on both sides. – Kenny Nguyen, ThreeSixtyEight
7. Admit Your Errors
As a leader, it’s important to admit when you’re wrong, when you’ve made a mistake, and when you could’ve done things differently or better. This encourages employees to make their own mistakes too and to learn from those mistakes. Early on in my career, I heard the motto, “Fail hard. Fail fast. Fail forward.” I’ve lived by this motto, as it allows me to quickly learn lessons and to have opportunities to improve rapidly. I want my employees to feel secure in their ability to try things and fail and to know that they’re safe and that they won’t be looked upon poorly for their mistakes. This makes them more secure and effective in the long run. – Marcela De Vivo, Brilliance
8. Listen To Feedback And Ideas
As an entrepreneur, you are juggling so much. It is easy to forget to listen to your team. Listening to feedback and ideas is a great way to reinforce employees. They feel valued and that they have a stake in the organization. Leaders who don’t listen put themselves at risk for being disconnected from serious problems in their businesses. If you are listening to your employees, they will be more engaged and more likely to listen to you and other team members. It creates a dialogue that can be helpful in everyday operations, and it is helpful when you need to addresses challenges. When people stop communicating and listening to each other, an organization’s structure falls apart. – Blair Thomas, eMerchantBroker
9. Adopt A Servant Leadership Style
The best leaders are servant leaders. What is servant leadership, exactly? It’s a leadership philosophy that places the leader of an organization at the feet of its employees, not the head. It’s about empowering others to succeed and serving others through development and growth on the individual level. You know a servant leader when they’re not concerned with taking the credit, are willing to put in the same hours they’re asking of others, and they’re just as focused on the person as they are the profession, using organizational challenges to inspire learning. Servant leadership inspires trust, builds bonds and motivates employees to perform above and beyond expectations. Servant leaders lead by example and are more likely to be followed because they inspire belief, hope and confidence. – Robby Scott Berthume, Bull & Beard
10. Commit To Continuous Improvement
Successful leaders often attribute their accomplishments to the set of ways and personal characteristics that they currently possess. Recency bias leads entrepreneurs to believe that they should lock in and lean into their current ways to keep things going so well. The issue with this assumption is that true success and achievement requires continuous improvement. Most leaders forget quickly that they got to the place they are currently in, by continuous self-improvement. Complacency is the beginning of the end for any sized company. When the head of organization embraces the concept of continuous improvement the rest of the team members will quickly do the same which has massively positive impacts on the culture, innovation and productivity of an organization. – John Berkowitz, Yodle