We spend so much time focusing on the nuances of leadership that we often forget about the very definition of leadership and what we — as business owners, CEOs, executives and managers — should tangibly be doing to help our employees grow into the best versions of themselves possible.
There are many definitions of leadership, but one of the best I’ve ever heard comes from communications expert Matthew Adams. Here’s how he defines it: “Leadership is having the humility to put your employees first so that the company can grow.”
Notice how this definition places an emphasis on overcoming your own biases and needs as a leader and putting the attention on the employees in order to help the company grow. In this definition, you can see how leadership affects three separate, yet interrelated parties: the leader, the employee, and the business.
Leadership is not a one-way street — it affects everyone.
Are you failing employees by wasting their time?
Unfortunately, we — as leaders — don’t always consider what leadership actually is. It isn’t telling people what to do in order to make you feel good or help you accomplish specific goals. It’s pushing past your own selfishness and putting employees in the right positions so that they can help the company grow, while also growing personally.
With this idea in mind, are you failing your employees? Are you wasting their time? Let’s take a look at some of the top ways business leaders are leading their employees astray and how you can overcome these errors.
1. You aren’t being transparent enough.
In order to maximize the value of your employees, you have to align individual work goals to the larger goals of the company. This ensures employees are motivated in a way that drives positive business outcomes. Sadly, many businesses don’t open up enough about the company’s “bigger picture.”
According to a Gallup Survey of more than 3,000 employees of various companies, only 41 percent of employees understand what their company stands for and what sets them apart in the marketplace. That means six out of 10 employees have an inadequate view of the bigger picture and don’t have the right goals.
You owe it to your employees and your business to do better. As a leader, you must make transparency a priority. Otherwise, you’re doing everyone an injustice and, quite frankly, wasting your employees’ time.
2. You’re using unnecessary bureaucracy.
Business owners, executives and managers across many different industries frequently fall for the idea that rules, organization and regulations are the keys to successfully leading employees. And while there is some value in establishing and maintaining a structured environment, too much ultimately weighs employees down and hurts your ability to lead.
Stop burdening your employees with unnecessary bureaucracy. Remember, leadership is not about being in control. If you have a long list of rules and regulations that employees are being forced to follow, chances are pretty high that you’re confusing the idea of leadership with control. As a result, you’re pushing employees away and preventing them from having an opportunity to grow the company.
3. You aren’t approachable.
Think back to when you were an entry-level employee at a company — perhaps even the company where you’re now a leader. What did you want out of your managers and superiors? In other words, what was it that you longed for out of your leaders? In most cases, approachability comes to mind. As a subordinate, you want a leader to be approachable so that you can pick their brain, get feedback and gain access to new opportunities.
Are you approachable? If you aren’t, you’re wasting your employees’ time once again.
There are many different ways to be approachable, but we’ll just highlight three specific and practical techniques to give you a clearer idea of what this looks like in action.
- Keep your door open (literally). When courting new employees or interviewing candidates for a new position, businesses like to brag that they have an open door policy. You may have even bragged about it in the past. But do you really? The most tangible way you can tell employees you’re approachable is by physically leaving your door open so that people can stop in.
- Smile and make eye contact. When you walk through the halls of your company, do you keep your eyes peeled straight ahead with a scowl on your face? Whether purposefully or inadvertently, this tells employees to leave you alone. One way you can humanize your reputation is by smiling and making eye contact with people as you pass. Again, this is simple, yet effective.
- Give advice freely. Employees — specifically passive ones — rarely confront people and ask for advice. If they do, it takes some time to build up the courage. As a leader, you should take it on yourself to be proactive with advice. Start conversations with employees and give them positive tips. In turn, employees will feel more comfortable asking in the future.
Good leaders are almost always approachable. If you’re barricading yourself in your office and only talking to other members of the C-suite, then you’re doing your employees a disservice.