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True Leaders Give a Crap

By Bob Rysavy   |   

Titles don’t make good leaders. Good leadership skills do. But what does it truly take to be a good leader? While there is no single answer to this question, most effective leaders have a leadership style that connects and resonates with others. This style is known as servant leadership.

Servant leadership stands apart from the traditional and antiquated authoritarian leadership. In its most basic form, this style of leadership emphasizes the importance of leading with the heart, patience, kindness, humility, respect, selflessness, forgiveness, honesty, and commitment. But there’s so much more to it.

Servant leadership requires a coaching mindset that establishes authority through meeting people’s legitimate needs, instead of enforcing a chain of command or hierarchical power. The secret sauce of servant leadership is the ability to influence others in a way that inspires them into action.

You don’t have to be the boss to lead. Your best leaders motivate others by setting an example of selfless character, and they have an affinity for making a positive impact wherever they go.

You can read and study leadership all you want, attend conferences, watch videos, and post all the memes in the world. But at the end of the day, what it all really boils down to is servant leadership is the art of giving a crap.

Really, that’s the true essence of being a good leader. You need to care. That’s not a science. It’s an art, and it must be genuine. Below are some steps and guidelines to giving a crap.

Pay Attention

  • Put aside distracting thoughts.
  • Don’t mentally prepare a rebuttal.
  • Avoid being distracted by environmental factors.
  • Don’t multitask when talking to someone.

Show You Are Listening – Transformation begins with listening

  • Listen with the expectation you will learn something that could alter your existing perception.
  • Note your posture and body language to ensure it’s open and inviting.
  • Face your speaker and make eye contact when it’s appropriate.
  • Encourage the speaker to continue by offering small verbal comments.

Defer Judgement

  • Allow the speaker to finish.
  • Don’t interrupt with counterarguments.
  • Be candid and honest in your responses.
  • Be respectful with your opinions and only give them if appropriate.
  • Apply the platinum rule, treat others the way they want to be treated.
  • Active listening is a medium that offers respect and understanding; you are gaining information and perspective.

Be Curious

  • It is amazing what you can learn and gain by actively listening.
  • Take the time to learn from your employees and value their insights.

The most important part of giving feedback is your intention. Teddy Roosevelt said in 1912, “People don’t care what you know until they know that you care.” He was right then and now as we return to the basics of leadership. If your intention is not to genuinely help someone learn, grow, or lead, then you shouldn’t be in the position of providing feedback.

Be Consistent
Coaching feedback must be offered consistently. Many employees believe their managers only look at them when they’re doing something wrong. Therefore, it’s important that you take the time to give feedback every day, even if it’s just a small note or email. Some of the most respected servant leaders apply their coaching live and in real time.

Drop the “open-door” policy. Close your door, turn off the lights and get out of your office and onto the work floor. There is a world of knowledge we are missing out there. If you give positive feedback 365 days of the year, then give negative feedback occasionally. You have a better chance at being viewed as balanced and fair as opposed to just looking to catch someone doing something wrong. The best way to increase good behavior is to recognize and reward it. A small kudos or verbal thank you goes a long way.

Effective listening and intent are great tools. But we often miss the opportunity to ask employees what they need to do their jobs more effectively. We assume far too much in our business these days and fail to listen to our employees.

However, adopting the art of active listening doesn’t mean we’re abandoning best practices. It means we can more effectively implement them. Training is often led by the person who knows or understands the job best. They know what works, what doesn’t, who is an expert, and who can explain the process, so everyone understands.

When asked, they might suggest some creative ways to train people and offer ideas on which parts of the process need focus and time. So, before you start designing elaborate training programs, ask your learners what they need — not what they want.

Find out what they need to feel competent, safe, and ready to their job. This is how you demonstrate servant leadership. This is how you show that you embrace the platinum rule. This is how you demonstrate effective listening. This is how you coach. This is the art of giving a crap.

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