Just because you’re a leader, it doesn’t mean you’re a great leader. A management role can be daunting and extremely stressful, and anyone new to it faces enormous challenges. You can rise quickly and fall just as fast. Becoming a great leader doesn’t happen overnight; you have to work at it, harder than the people reporting to you, according to everyone’s favourite CEO, Elon Musk. It’s a mix of nature and nurture.
Trump was a successful businessman at times (although he never seems to mention the 4 times his companies have had to file for bankruptcy) but running a family real estate business is very different to the executive branch of the United States. Life may now feel like an episode of Black Mirror, but his abhorrent behaviour means that he’s fast becoming a handy case study in exactly what not to do. Take it from Musk and other greats – to actually inspire and gain the trust of your team, leaders must:
Set the right tone – Everyone’s still forming their opinion of you during the first few weeks, so set the tone of your leadership and work to earn their trust. Abraham Lincoln and Martin Luther King were assertive but empathetic, and that’s a good model. Be confident, approachable, warm, self-assured and respectful to all, and don’t play favourites or try to be anybody’s best friend. Remember to listen; act like a student, not a teacher.
Communicate effectively – Trump’s foreign policy is completely incoherent. Don’t brag, bully or speak impulsively. Give your team context about what’s at stake and increase personal relevance. Make your expectations and feelings clear, in the appropriate medium. Your team will learn to trust and depend on you, and they’ll work harder. Give feedback – like your employees, you should be constantly improving your approaches, skills and processes.
Set bold goals – Musk says to focus on and understand the fundamental principles of what you are attempting to do before you get into the details, otherwise you could be building on faulty ground. It could take years, but the goals need to be achievable enough for everyone to buy into them.
Listen to your team – Even if you don’t like it or want to hear it. Stamp out the ‘them and us’ culture that is rife in too many businesses. Get to know them – they are your most important asset, so serve them by investing in them, appreciating them, and developing them.
Build collaboration – It’s not just about power. The best leaders utilise their time and energy to collaborate with others. “It’s give-and-take, but it’s gotta be mostly take. Because you can’t give, you gotta mostly take” – Trump said to Business Insider re: his mantra for negotiating. Do not think like this. You’ll lose out on fruitful long-term relationships and countless opportunities.
Be consistent – When things don’t go perfectly to plan, part of the job is putting out fires and sustaining company morale. Showing your commitment and focusing on the larger goal will inspire your team to do and feel the same.
Be passionate & don’t give up – If you aren’t passionate about your business, then you shouldn’t be in it. If you want people to follow you, you need to believe and buy into your own vision. Your team is working there 5 days a week, 8 hours a day, so generate enthusiasm for the company’s future, and be an inspiration.
Be radical and act fast – Don’t be unable or unwilling to change; challenge the status quo, like Elon with his vision of Mars. But the first step is to gauge where you can make a real impact. Don’t blindly follow trends; take risks and be disruptive. Keep ahead of trends so you’re able to act fast on new ideas and opportunities.
Make firm decisions and stick to them – If you’re indecisive, people will lose trust and confidence in you. Look at 2007 Gordon Brown failing to call that ‘in the bag’ election. Decision-making is the core skill of a leader, so leaders must be the ones to take those chances based on research and facts to hand.
Identify mentors and role models – Find people you can look up to and learn from, and follow them closely. Make sure to pay it forward, too. Great leaders are always nurturing and mentoring others, providing opportunities for them to showcase their talent and inspire others.
Make time to meet new people – Stay in contact with old team members and take every opportunity to expand your network and experience new things so that you become the sort of person other people want to connect with.
Forgive mistakes & learn from them – Everyone makes them. Accountability is key at Zaboura. Don’t make excuses when something goes wrong or pass the buck. If there’s something you’re not good at it, own it and work at it. Don’t beat anyone or yourself up, move on. Trump attacks people with personal jibes and nuclear threats, and this shows a failure to understand the basic rules of logic or focus on the relevant. If you’re fighting a losing battle, know when to retreat and start again somewhere else or in a new way.
Make it fun & allow time for innovation – Leaders should enjoy leadership. And your team should enjoy that leadership, too. Little things like bring-your-dog-to-work day, team-building exercises, or first-day pranks make a big difference to atmosphere. It’s important to involve your staff and show confidence in them, letting them come up with new ideas and ways of doing things, too.
Back everything up with data – Learning to trust yourself is as important as your team learning to trust you. But do your homework. Never exclusively trust instincts or reactions, and back up all thoughts opinions and decisions with objective facts.
Know your strengths & surround yourself with great people – It’s 90% of the solution, according to Musk. Going from doing to leading can be a very difficult shift for a leader. Trump’s a micro-manager, and everyone hates them. You can’t do it all yourself, and truly great leaders, like Virgin founder Richard Branson and Amazon’s Jeff Bezos surround themselves with talented people to offer solutions. Identify employee strengths, set the goals, define the vision, and trust your team to get it done.
Make time for a home life – It’s essential to maintain mental health. Too much stress will impact on your work and ability to lead your team, so make steps to reduce it, make time if you don’t think you have it, and don’t forget about your personal life.