In the November/December 2021 issue of BIC Magazine, I wrote about how to improve your workplace culture. We’ve seen so many changes in the past two years as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. One of the clear things that’s emerging is the definition of success in our business and personal lives is changing, as is what’s most important to employees. Therefore, in this issue, I want to talk about what a successful leader looks like.
Warren Buffett once asked a group of school-age students to think about a fellow classmate who they felt would be successful. This would be someone so successful that they would want to get 10 percent of the classmate’s lifetime earnings. After Buffett gave the students a chance to think about it, he commented further, “You would probably pick the one who has the leadership qualities or the one who is able to get other people to carry out their interests,” alluding to that person’s ability to influence using integrity. “That would be the person who is generous, honest and who gave credit to other people for their own ideas,” Buffet said.
Buffett’s examples of leadership qualities are a great reminder as we start a new year. All too often, we think of a successful leader as being someone who is driven, charismatic, strategic and decisive. These are all great traits, but as Buffett reminds us, it’s equally important to be empathetic, compassionate, put others first, and be honest and approachable.
What does a successful leader look like in 2022? Here are a few thoughts:
- Care about your team; put people first. Care about your employees more than you care about results. When an employee knows you truly care about them, their career, their well-being, what is most important to them, and that you are there to help them develop and grow, they will do all they can to help your business succeed. Caring for others like this is an active process. It takes time to get to know them and build a trusting relationship. It also takes time to learn their strengths and weaknesses, what drives them and what is most important to them. A leader should care, value each member of the team for their unique gifts and abilities, and recognize that it’s all about the people. Without the people, the business wouldn’t exist.
- Lead with empathy. Leading with empathy means listening to your employees, recognizing and acting on their needs, and investing in their growth. Take time to step back from your daily activities and really listen to and engage with your employees. Talk about their joys, challenges, desires and goals — both professionally and personally. Then take time to reflect on what is going on in each individual’s life and how it affects your business. As I write this article, we are approaching annual review time. During the review process, there are three questions we like to ask: “What about your job is awesome?” “What about your job frustrates you?” “What about your job do you want to change?” I have learned so much about my team by asking these three simple questions. Sometimes it’s difficult to listen to the feedback, but through openness and transparency, we’ve collaborated to come up with great solutions and we’ve built much stronger, trusting relationships.
- Offer help and support. As a leader, it’s up to you to help remove obstacles that prevent employees from performing at their best. Sometimes these are work-related and can be addressed directly through coaching, training or by bringing individuals together. Sometimes the obstacles are external stressors. A recent study found that over 50 percent of American adults reported their mental health has been negatively affected due to worry and stress related to COVID- 19. In cases like this, sometimes the best support you can offer is a listening ear. As a leader, give generously of your time, value and care about your employees, and let them know you are there to listen, help and support them.
Let’s remember the qualities of leadership that Buffett emphasized, including generosity, honesty and giving others credit. How can you grow as a leader this year?