Aw come on now. I realize that you suffered a set-back and that hurts. It’s particularly difficult when you are leading a team and do it in front of them. The big deal fell misinterpreted data in the middle of a meeting...something personal slipped through your veneer and you weren’t the “strong leader” you want to present yourself as. I get it. It’s more than a bad day.

But is it a bad day? Honestly, did you expect that once you started leading a team everything was going to go well...that you would see everything coming and “protect” your team? Well, shame on you. I’m going to ask you one simple question - If someone on your team made a mistake what would you “do” to them? If you are a strong leader your response is going to use words like “coach” and “second chance.” You’d talk about looking at the situation with hindsight to see what could have been done differently.

But now it’s your turn. You didn’t “let the team down” you just made a mistake. It’s ok you feel responsible but what is your role here? It is simply baffling to me how many of us think that to lead a team we must be perfect. On time. Correct. Ahead of the game. Strong. Unflinching. But that is not what makes a good leader just like it is not what makes a good team member. 

As leaders we value the people on our team who do their best, learn, and do better. We value people who will own mistakes and fix them not the ones who think they shouldn’t (or worse don’t) make any in the first place. We all know that growth is messy. We accept that in children. We accept it in our personal lives. But we forget that it is true not only of our professional growth but also our organization’s growth.

So how do we lead more honestly? I’m not asking for each of us as leaders to break down and cry at work or show every one of our fears. No one needs to do that and we don’t either. What I am asking is for us to reframe what a leader is.

A leader is another member of the team with their own responsibilities. That’s it. Each of us has a role to play on the team. Some of us plan, some gather data, some work on networking (which is just another way of making friends but we’ll talk about that another time lol). You get the idea. So what is your role? Is it to “protect” your team? If it is then you may want to look at the corporate culture you are embroiled in and rethink. But in most healthy work environments that is not a part of the role. We’re working with adults. They each have their own role on the team. So what’s yours? 

I’m honestly asking - what do you think the role of a good leader is? I’ll start us off...A good leader is someone who is an active listener. I realize that it goes against the “boss is bossy” old timey view of what leadership is but hang in there with me. A good leader listens to what the team of course. But they also listen to other teams in the organization. What are their goals? How do they impact us? How can we contribute? The team that is responsible for the budgets - what is our team budget? In that example we can see directly the “protect” versus “lead” choice. When you are given a budget by the organization do you immediately “fight” for your team - fight for more? Do you see yourself in competition with other departments? Or do you take the time to look at what is good for the organization as a whole - where the whole team is going and what the goals are? 

I can guarantee you that listening in that moment will make you a better leader. You will be better able to ask and justify a request for funds when you can communicate using the whole picture. If you cannot get what you asked for you can better lead your team by communicating why and how it benefits the entire organizational team. Well you get the idea. So I’ll start off with Active Listening.

What is the role of a great leader? What is your role AS a great leader?

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