Guest Post – All Eyes on Me
by Leo Melish
All eyes on me. No, I’m not paranoid I’m just in a leadership role. Whether you know it or not when you are a leader there are always eyes on you. Everyone you encounter, manage, and deal with will have an eye on you and be forming what they think and believe of your leadership. So how do I know this? I have been in a leadership role, primarily a general manager, for the casual dining segment for 14 years. I have worked for two very well know chains and have had hundreds of employees and managed dozens of managers. This has changed drastically over the years and I’m sure will change in the future but the way we see things in today’s environment these are the traits that a successful leader will exhibit.
Five traits that translate into leadership success:
1 – Be Honest. Seems like a simple proposition, but being honest with yourself and your team is not at all simple. This means you know how you personally are performing and you are giving feedback to your team on where they stand in your world. You must give both positive and critical feedback to your team. No one can improve and grow without feedback. Being honest is often seen as providing negative information when in actuality it is providing a roadmap for someone to grow and become successful. Think back in your career and when you figured out yourself that something you were doing was holding you back from success. Wouldn’t you have wanted someone to tell you earlier than you figuring it out on your own? Honesty is a key piece of being a successful leader.
2 – Be flexible. Believe it or not it is your job as a leader to adjust to your team. I have had more success when I altered my approach or style to fit my team than making people bend to my will. All too often, people lead like a dictator and want things their way and their way only. This is closed minded thinking and will not allow great ideas and creative people to succeed under you. In my industry, often when you take over a new location the first reaction is to change everything to what you have done to be successful in the past. This is flawed thinking. Why would you change something that may be done differently than you have done in the past but is extremely successful? Be flexible to what is working and then put your energy and focus on what is not working. This takes time to observe and learn. Doing this will help you win your team over and allow them to see you are a part of the team, not above it.
3 – Nothing is beneath you. You are not above doing anything you lead your team to do. Most leaders have worked their way up in and organization or a similar organization to achieve the position they are currently in. I am a firm believer you must take time to work side-by-side with your team and perform their duties with them (occasionally) to show you are not above anything they do. If you are in sales management, go make a sale with them to show you are capable of doing what you are asking of them. If you work in a restaurant, go cook with your kitchen team members, go make some drinks with your bartenders, or go clean a mess up in the bathroom. By doing these things and showing you are not above any of your teams’ responsibilities, you build buy in. Having a team know you will never be asking anyone them to do something you wouldn’t do yourself is powerful leadership.
4- Be authentic. Let people see who you are as a person, not the boss or owner. Let your guard down and really connect with your team personally. You don’t have to become best friends, but you do need to have some sort of personal connection. Care about people and they will care about you. Teams are more likely to follow a leader they care about than just following the position itself. Let people see your personality and communicate on a personal and professional level. This will go a long way in having faithful and invested teams.
5 – Live in the uncomfortable. Sounds painful, right? It will be at first, but as you do it more and more it will become less and less. Have those tough conversations with team members or associates. Put yourself in those chaotic stressful moments to be a leader. Embrace, don’t avoid them. Why would I tell you to do this? As you get more used to this environment you will display your true leadership and show the calm and professionalism that others will strive toward. One of the biggest compliments I have ever received as a leader, is hearing my people want me to be running the show when it’s crazy and chaotic because I keep a sense of calm and it radiates across the entire team. Everyone knows we are going to get through whatever is happening and be ok on the other side. Make yourself uncomfortable and eventually those unforeseen situations will be much easier to handle and will lead to successful outcomes instead of failures.
The true measure of leadership success the success of your team. You will know you are a successful leader when the people who follow you reach their goals and achieve success. Recognition of these team members from outside sources, promotions, team success is your true measure of great leadership. All of the people you touch and influence will define the leader you are and if you are lucky those people will strive to be a leader just like you were.