What comes to mind when you hear the word “leader”? Inspirational, motivating, guiding, patient, humble, team-player, sacrificial, and strong, are some descriptive words that come to mind for me. I think of someone who has a vision and shares that vision with a group of people, to inspire them toward that same vision or goal. I see them drawing out the talents in others to create that same vision and to make it a reality.
To paint a picture, I knew a business owner who treated his team like family. He was blue-collar and a very smart man. He paid his guys well even when other companies were cutting back. On Fridays, he’d order some pizza and drinks and have all his team members take a break to enjoy a treat. When he say someone doing some exceptional work, he made a point to go over to him and let him know. Every Christmas, he put on a huge party with no limits for the workers and their families. He wasn’t that leader who spent all his time in a padded office, disconnected from his team but he saw the value in connecting with his team, his business and getting to know his team members. Sadly, he passed away in 2013, but his ripple effect, his legacy is still discussed today because of how much he cared.
You see, your team members can tell if you as a leader care or not; it can be felt. We are humans, not robots, and not transactional creatures. Life, even your work, is all about relationships. If you’re going to call yourself a leader, but you don’t take the time to connect with your team, to be in tune to the goings-on in the office setting, or to do some of the “grunt” work from time to time, just to show you’re on their side, then your impact won’t be as strong as it could be.
Many business owners and leaders decide to outsource a lot of their decision-making to others on the team, managers, bosses, supervisors or other team members. But the issue with doing this is that many times the leader, the one who inspires and uplifts the team, is then not the person that you ever see again. The vision the leader may have may not shift or be shared by the other middle men in the organization, and thus they become out of touch. The vision needs to be strong and shared amongst all, and the leader can’t outsource everything, or they may lose the morale of the team.
To my earlier example, that leader lead by example. He took the time to connect everyday, even if it was just for a moment with his team members. He was willing to do the dirty work alongside his team for the comradery. It makes me think to a biblical example. How Christ lead by example, he didn’t ask his apostles to do anything he didn’t do. He washed dirty feet, and ate with the worst of the worst. It’s that kind of humility that speaks to people. It’s walking alongside your team and serving them well. It doesn’t mean you walk away from them and outsource your business but rather you connect, you lean in.
It’s in that attitude and spirit that companies thrive and team members feel valued. It’s business at it’s best.