“A garden requires patient labor and attention. Plants do not grow merely to satisfy ambitions or to fulfill good intentions. They thrive because someone expended effort on them.” —Liberty Hyde Bailey
By Elizabeth Stincelli, DM
Liberty Hyde Bailey’s quote does not just apply to gardening; it applies to leadership as well. You may manage to survive as a leader as a result of good intentions, but to thrive and grow as a leader you must expend purposeful effort. As a leader, you might survive by doing the bare minimum. But, thriving is about being connected, being engaged, giving of yourself, and promoting a positive environment. You must invest in yourself and in your people, in your relationships, and in your culture. You must devote energy to finding and sharing the meaning behind your work.
Angela Ahrendts explained, “Everyone talks about building relationships with your customer. I think you build one with your employees first.” Building strong relationships with your employees based on trust and respect should be you first order of business as a leader. Leadership is not about you, it’s about others. You need to surround yourself with talented, passionate, and dedicated people and then focus your energy on supporting and engaging them. It’s your responsibility as a leader to help the people you serve to grow and prosper. Spend time with them and get to know them on a personal basis. Who are they? What are their aspirations? Learn to listen without judgment. Find out where their strengths lie and then give them the opportunity to focus on their interests. Take chances on them, it sends a great message of your trust and confidence throughout your organization.
If you want to thrive as a leader, be open, honest, and authentic in your words and actions so your people will trust you. Ensure that the relationships you develop are not one-sided, but are mutually beneficial. Focus on building a sense of community and belonging throughout your organization. And remember, relationships are all about communication so, communicate, communicate, and communicate some more.
Tariq Ramadan said, “Cultures are never merely intellectual constructs. They take form through the collective intelligence and memory, through a commonly held psychology and emotions, through spiritual and artistic communion.” This applies inside organizations as well as across cultures. Your organizational culture is not a set of policies or procedures; it’s not words in some handbook; it’s deeply ingrained in the behaviors and emotions of our employees. Your culture should illustrate the respect and value you have for the contributions and abilities of others. Develop a reputation for hiring great people, providing great training, and offering great opportunities. Create a culture where everyone thrives. Help those you work with find their voice and confidence. Encourage and value the contribution that diversity offers throughout your organization. Set an example of the collaboration and cooperation that will lead to success team building. Create a safe environment where employees can gain knowledge from failure without fear of judgment.
As within, so without; as you treat your employees, so your employees will treat your customers. If you want to thrive as a leader, exceed employee expectations and they will exceed customers’ expectations. Ensure that employees get face time with customers so they understand their needs. Teach employees, by the example that you set, to aim at improving the lives of customers not just making the sale. Encourage empowerment and autonomy, not conformity. Make the inclusion of employees in the decision making process a priority. Make yourself available to those you lead. Make sure your culture is constantly evolving in positive direction.
Antoine de Saint-Exupery told us, “The meaning of things lies not in the things themselves, but in our attitude towards them.” Everyone is looking for meaning and purpose. People thrive when they find their work meaningful. It’s not the work itself; it is the relationship between the individual and the work they are doing. This is where attitude and perspective come in. Make sure every employee understands how truly important their job is. Help them connect the work they are doing to what is important to them and the organization. Employees will be more engaged when they are excited about the work they are doing.
As a leader, it is your responsibility to help those who follow you find meaning and align their work with their values. This makes achieving goals more satisfying. If you want to thrive as a leader, help them construct a positive way to view the world. This provides energy, focus, and fulfillment. Your employees will be more loyal and committed if they feel their work has meaning. Share your passion with them; build and maintain excitement about the journey you are on. Share a purpose that is inspiring at every level of the organization.
It’s Time to Thrive
We thrive and find strength by finding meaning and an inspiring purpose. As a leader, you must not only find meaning and an inspiring purpose for yourself and your work, you must also create meaning and inspire a sense of purpose in those who follow you. If you want to thrive as a leader, you must take an active role in developing yourself and your employees. Built strong relationships, develop an engaging and inclusive culture, and help those around you find meaning in their work. It’s time to stop merely surviving in your role as a leader. Step up to the plate, put forth the effort, and thrive as a leader.
© 2014 Elizabeth Stincelli
Elizabeth Stincelli is passionate about recognizing and inspiring the leader in each of us. She is the CEO of Stincelli Advisors where she focuses on helping organizations engage employees and improve organizational culture. Elizabeth holds a Doctor of Management degree with an emphasis on organizational leadership.
Learn more about Elizabeth by visiting her website, stincelliadvisors.com and connect with her on Twitter @infinitestin, Google+, and LinkedIn. You can contact her by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.