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4 Rare Signs That Instantly Prove You Are Meant to Lead People

There’s a clear difference between managing people as functions versus leading them as human beings.

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BY Marcel Schwantes - 19 Nov 2018

signs you are meant to lead people

PHOTO CREDIT: Getty Images

Ever wonder how someone in a leadership role, perhaps your own boss or the executive of your company, made it this far up the ladder?

It's a fair question. People are promoted into leadership roles every day who have no business belonging there.

The reason I asked the question is because the bar for leading people as human beings -- inspiring them to new heights and engaging their hearts and minds to produce excellent work -- is really high, and not every boss has the capacity to do it.

In the end, you'll find the leadership journey is predicated on two things that drive success: results and relationships. You can't have results at the expense of people.

Here are four things you'll need to improve upon as a leader in order to raise your own bar.

1. Be open to receiving feedback.

Harold MacDowell, CEO of TDIndustries, a leading mechanical construction and facilities service company in Dallas, continues to deepen TDIndustries' commitment to their servant leadership culture that has landed them in Fortune magazine's prestigious "100 Best Companies" list for twenty-one straight years.

An open and inclusive environment where communication travels in all directions is a key attribute of MacDowell's servant leadership. He has set up formal and informal feedback mechanisms to get important and open feedback, encourage new ideas, and learn from each other's perspectives as valued contributors.

This a practice started by founder Jack Lowe, Sr. over forty-five years ago. Lowe used to invite groups of employees to his home for spaghetti dinners to listen. Now MacDowell makes sure that all of his senior leaders have similar feedback sessions at least quarterly--to listen deeply, keep communication channels open, and sustain their culture of collaboration and inclusion.

2. Also don't forget to give feedback regularly.

Perhaps not as challenging as being in the vulnerable position of receiving feedback is the equally important core principle of giving feedback to address performance issues, clarify direction, or set expectations on critical tasks or strategy. Here are six techniques to practice regularly:

  • Keep it simple and avoid information overload.
  • Approach the other person directly.
  • Be specific and use examples.
  • Describe the behavior you would prefer; focus on the issue, not the person.
  • Check for receptivity and understanding so both parties are on the same page. Does what the employee heard match the feedback given? If not, clarify.
  • Remain open for discussions.

3. Share your power.

Because great leaders strive to have real relationships built on two-way trust, instead of leveraging their positional power for personal gain, self-promotion, or demands for special privileges, they share their power by putting people in positions of leadership to stretch their growth and develop new strengths and roles for them.

Not every leader, however, is created equal. Whenever I share this leadership practice in my speaking engagements, I see some faces in the room literally flinching! Sharing power and decision-making is only reserved for leaders with a firm belief of first serving the needs of others in order to make them better.

Here's the clincher: When you share your power and release positional control, leaders actually gain real power; they unleash discretionary effort across the enterprise and set the stage for others to contribute and win.

4. Increase love, decrease fear.

Did I just say "increase love"? You read that right. The most inspiring leaders are successful (and their companies profitable) because they practice "love in action." What does that mean in the context of work?

I'll bring in my colleague Rene Smith, Director of Workplace Transformation at Results Washington, Office of the Governor, and founder of A Human Workplace for a better perspective. Smith writes in a recent blog:

In the space created by the shock of the word love, I ask people to reflect on our shared human experiences with threats that create fear and with love that creates safety. Threat conditions that induce fear can take the form of indifference, rejection, harassment, belittling, uncertainty, betrayal, and isolation. Love can look like trust, belonging, care, respect, inclusion, empathy, compassion, and forgiveness. We have common biological, neuro-physiological, and psychological fear responses to threats and safety responses to love.

If you're nodding your head yes to having felt validated as a human worker through the loving behaviors of empathy, respect, and inclusion, I'm going to wager that you've probably also experienced more safety, better collaboration, higher performance, and, dare I say it for people in the C-Suite looking for the numbers ... results! And loving leaders create the optimal work environment for these things to happen.

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