The best leaders never stop helping employees succeed. But before you can help them, you must first help yourself. Quint Studer says the best way to show employees, love, is by becoming a better version of you.
“When we focus on becoming a better leader and a better person, we may well create a stronger company,” says Studer, author of Wall Street Journal bestseller The Busy Leader’s Handbook: How to Lead People and Places That Thrive. “That’s a great outcome for everyone. But it also allows us to do a better job of developing employees and helping them become the best they can be.”
“As leaders, we can take people only as far as we’ve taken ourselves,” Studer insists. It’s why, in all of his presentations and writings, he focuses on holding up the mirror: becoming self-aware, staying humble and coachable, and doing the inner work it takes to grow and improve.
As we master our attitudes, mindsets, and capabilities, we can create an engaging workplace culture that allows others to put forth their best efforts, grow, thrive, and find a powerful sense of meaning. “In the workplace, creating this kind of culture is how we show love,” says Studer. “But it begins internally, inside a leader’s heart and head.”
Here are 12 steps you can take to continue growing into a better version of yourself:
1. Get your ego out of the way
Great leaders bring out the best in others. This cannot happen when you’re too attached to your ideas or convinced you’re the smartest person in the room. Pay attention to when you’re shining the spotlight on yourself and redirect to others. Focus on constant improvement and growth. Remind yourself often of all that you don’t know—this will help you deflate your ego and move toward humility, which is one of the most crucial qualities a leader can possess.
2. Build strong humility habits
Great leadership isn’t about being right. It isn’t about being the smartest person in the room. It’s about seeing yourself as you truly are. It’s about knowing your strengths and weaknesses. It’s about taking yourself out of the center of the equation and keeping the spotlight on others. If you suspect you aren’t a humble leader, it’s crucial to work on quieting the ego so that you’re open to learning and focused on continuous improvement and growth. A few ways to get in the habit of practicing humility:
- Give others credit by generously sharing compliments within the team
- Never ask your team to do anything you aren’t willing to do yourself
- Don’t lock yourself in your office; work with the team, spend time with them, and be approachable
- Foster a culture of psychological safety so people feel “safe” enough to tell you the truth
- Don’t put yourself down or deny compliments
3. Pause often and connect to kindness
Pauses are important. They are the space between what we want to do or say and the moment we take action. Many times, inaction or saying the words on the tip of our tongue is the better choice. When leaders forget to pause, we can do a lot of harm. We may cause employees to become disengaged, or alienate our colleagues, or lose clients and customers.
“Each day, take more time to pause,” says Studer. “In that space, decide what is needed. It could be empathy, patience, forgiveness, or something else that will improve matters greatly. But it can’t happen without the pause.”
4. Start each day with a ‘beginner’s mindset’
Start each day by setting the intention to learn something new. This will serve you far better than an attitude of “I’m not interested.” Instead, ask yourself how what you’re learning could be applied and useful in the future.
5. Regularly ask for feedback
Ask for feedback. Make sure people feel safe enough to tell you the truth. Whether you’re getting the team’s perspective on a decision or asking how things are going in general, it’s important to foster a culture of psychological safety. Leading with humility means always seeking out the truth–– especially if it’s something you may not want to hear.
6. Build up your resilience
The sooner you realize setbacks will happen, the better off you’ll be. Also, it’s essential to learn how to bounce back from them. When chaos occurs within a business, we as leaders must maintain the mental wherewithal to support and guide our teams. Our resilience grows when we have strong coping skills, a sense of optimism, grit, mental and physical stamina, and an environment with plenty of psychological safety.
7. Communicate regularly, even when there’s no ‘news’
Employees need to always know what is going on as it pertains to their roles. Don’t assume your employees know certain things––chances are they don’t. Further, don’t shy away from delivering bad news. “When things are tough, people imagine the worst,” says Studer. “Your visibility and communication are vital during these times.”
8. Make your expectations clear and known
Conflicts easily occur when you don’t communicate what you expect from others. Vague directions (or none at all) can cause employees to make mistakes or go down the wrong path, and then you must confront them. Keep in mind that most people want to do what’s right and will do the right thing when they are clear on what the right thing is. You can prevent a lot of conflict by always being very clear about what you expect.
9. If you make a mistake, say so
Admit when you are wrong. People appreciate vulnerability in leadership. Don’t let pride control you or waste energy trying to pass yourself off as perfect. If you have made a mistake, apologize sincerely and move on. The words “I was wrong” will always serve you and can help to reset any relationships.
10. Be willing to change your mind
A byproduct of learning new information is the ability to adapt and change your mind. Many people think of strong leaders as being decisive and unwavering when there are decisions to be made. They may view changing your mind as a sign of weakness. It’s not. It’s a sign that you can learn and grow in real-time. Have the courage to course-correct when new information reveals itself.
11. Never run from conflict
As leaders, we must be able to handle conflict, or we’re not doing our job. When leaders perpetually avoid conflict, communication breakdowns occur, important decisions are delayed, or not made at all, high performers leave, and people begin to see you as a weak leader. Commit to handling conflict productively and healthily.
12. Disrupt yourself
Yes, it’s uncomfortable, but don’t be afraid to disrupt yourself. Regularly reevaluate your business. Put it on the schedule and make sure it happens. Often, doing this helps you learn what you believe is happening inside the company is not occurring. This is a great opportunity to disrupt yourself and make needed changes to keep your company performing at its best. Push through any discomfort you feel during this process—remember, discomfort is normal, and leaders need to get used to it. Also, help your employees get used to taking action that makes them feel unsettled.
“None of us can ever reach perfection, but great leaders commit to being their best each day,” concludes Studer. “We can keep getting better and better. It’s tough, but we owe it to our employees. It’s how we inspire them to become their best selves as well, which is really what love looks like in action.”
Quint Studer is the author of Wall Street Journal bestseller The Busy Leader’s Handbook and a lifelong businessman, entrepreneur, and student of leadership. He not only teaches it; he has done it. He has worked with individuals at all levels and across a variety of industries to help them become better leaders and create high-performing organizations. Quint is the founder of Vibrant Community Partners and Pensacola’s Studer Community Institute. He currently serves as Entrepreneur-in-Residence at the University of West Florida, Executive-in-Residence at George Washington University, and Lecturer at Cornell University.
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