Leadership is hard work. It requires the ability to communicate and inspire while holding a difficult standard. But many of the difficulties leaders face can be overcome by understanding the following 5 Truths. Each of these truths when properly understood and executed, will reward leaders with improved authority and more motivated followers.
1) Excuses Stink
Ever heard the saying, “excuses are like arm-pits, everyone has them and they stink?” Most excuses are sorry attempts at rationalizing failure. Self-deception at its finest. Blaming the environment, the team, unfair coaching, well-trained enemies, and bad luck is the lazy way out. It’s a poor attempt to shift responsibility and lose accountability.
Excuses are unproductive. They offer no opportunity to overcome challenges. Instead they limit our ability to think critically and creatively solve problems. Leaders who make excuses lack authority. Teams and subordinates will follow their leaders and provide many excuses when accountability comes knocking. You are the leader, no excuses, just opportunities. You are the leader, no excuses, just opportunities.
2) Ownership Is Everything
Let’s look at a quick example of how ownership and responsibility increase authority and reward leadership. Say my commander asks my platoon to clean the latrines (nasty Army bathrooms). I have one of two options:
- Tell the troops that we were assigned latrine duty, or
- Assign Soldiers different duties and just complete the mission
Option 1 is passive and completely lacks authority. It essentially says “I have no authority. I just pass instructions from my supervisor. Too bad we get stuck with the worst jobs.” The negative attitude in Option 1 destroys any trust that existed. The team will lose faith in my ability to lead. They will not follow me if I do not communicate the importance of the mission and how I want it executed. Think for a second about a boss you’ve had who just passed on information. Did you trust them? Believe in their cause?
Option 2 is a stark contrast. It is active and conveys authority. It builds trust through communicating a plan and taking charge of a situation. Team members understand the mission’s priority and will live up to the expectations I set. Option 2 removes negativity and animosity from the situation and replaces it with positivity and teamwork. You can learn more about positive thinking in this article by James Clear.
3) Saying “I Told Them” Will Sink You Fast
Looking back at Truth #2 on ownership and responsibility, this Truth should be obvious. However, I have witnessed too many leaders who simply give instructions and then disappear into their office. This behavior destroys the relationship between leaders and followers. It completely removes accountability from the equation. Would you be more or less likely to follow through if you knew your boss wasn’t going to check? Don’t just give orders and come back when you expect the task to be complete. This is the difference between leadership and giving orders.
Be the leader who says, “I checked them.” Provide clear instructions and examples of the standards you expect. People will live up to your expectations, but only if you communicate them. If subordinates know that you will disappear into an office, they will likely go about their work at their pace instead of yours. Motivation, trust, and authority are missing without proper supervision. Be the leader who inspects what you expect.
4) Plan Ahead, Or Else
A leader’s job is to think three and four steps ahead. I have written about the planning process before and you can read it here or here. Problems are inevitable. Plans will change and adapt to new situations. Part of overcoming problems is building resiliency. The rest of the solution is planning ahead.
Look to the future and design it. Define the mission’s task and purpose. Give everyone on the team very specific tasks to complete and show them how it supports everyone else. Followers who clearly see the grander vision and have a stake in helping achieve it will work exponentially harder to make it a reality.
Leadership is not simply reacting to present circumstances; it is active and creative. Leaders analyze the battlefield and plan for the end state they desire. They share the vision with their team. They look for problems before they arise and address them in a plan.Leadership is not simply reacting to present circumstances; it is active and creative.
5) Quitters Never Win
A quick glance through history reveals that the strongest leaders never give up. They drive forward no matter how difficult the challenge. As a leader in today’s world, it is important to carry this attitude. Followers look to their leaders for purpose, direction, and motivation. If leaders quit, all three traits of leadership fail as well. Followers will quickly lose faith.
It is a leader’s responsibility to motivate their team and subordinates. Teams look to strong leaders for resolve and assurance in the face of adversity. The third line of the Army Warrior Ethos clearly asserts “I will never quit.” This toughness and resolve is not merely physical; it is mental. It is too easy to succumb to mind games and quietly retire in defeat.
Living by a set of values and principles creates fortitude. It allows you to see your mission and its role in the larger outcome. Real leadership is pushing through the pain when things get tough. Leaders understand that pain is temporary and must communicate it to their followers. By understanding the temporary nature of pain, leaders can help subordinates overcome what seems like insurmountable difficulties.
What is the greatest TRUTH about leadership you’ve ever learned?