Several years ago, I was introduced to a powerful lesson at church, and it’s one that’s resonated with me ever since. Taylor Mali, a teacher and slam poet, was once asked by a stranger on a train “what do you make?”
He replied, “I make kids study harder than they ever knew they could, I make them sit through all 40 minutes of study hall, I make them read, read, read and write, write, write. I make them not only complete their math homework but show their work, I make them apologize and mean it…you want to know what I make? I make a difference.”
You want to know what I make? I make a difference!
You won’t be remembered for the number of projects you’ve worked on, or the hours spent – but you will be remembered for the impact you’ve had on others’ lives. That type of legacy, that’s what I want. And, because of that, I try to “make a difference” in every engagement and in every relationship, whether at work or in my personal life.
Leadership Style: Humble, Honest and at Eye Level
As a leader, I have the opportunity make a difference in the lives of the people I work with. I expect great work, and I am demanding. But I also understand that failure is going to happen, and recognize that failure is a pathway to growth. I want my team to be proactive and try to find the answer themselves, and I’ll stand on the sidelines and cheer them on as they make mistakes, solve problems and achieve success – humble, honest and at eye level is my preferred leadership style.
Earlier in my career, I worked for a start-up company called Future Healthcare. Two leaders in the company had faith in me, empowered me and allowed me to take ownership and drive the development of the marketing function. Their support, guidance and trust in me led us to shared success. By 1993 the company became the 6th fastest growing in the US – scaling from 11 members of staff up to 500. At this point we opted to define our roles, hire our replacements and move on to the next challenge.
It’s far too easy to get overly project driven or caught up in hierarchy and only deliver task-oriented guidance. But true leaders don’t lose sight of the greater purpose; they lead others toward a common goal, because it’s by working together that teams achieve the greatest success. The best part of being a leader is seeing your team member’s faces light up as they cross the next threshold and make their way toward the end goal.
5 Leadership Lessons For Empowering Teams
There are five leadership lessons that I’ve learned that are at the center of driving a difference in both the development of your team, and the work you create together:
• Take pride in what you do. Your work is a representation of you and your stamp is on everything you deliver. As my colleague Andres Nicholls says, you must truly and wholeheartedly love what you do. You should be proud of, inspired by and excited about your work, because how can you inspire anyone if you yourself are uninspired?
• Take pride in those that work with you. Share that pride with your team, elevate them when possible and provide a platform for them to shine. Allow every person to be themselves and put their whole selves into the work they do.
• Give up a little control. By allowing your colleagues to take the lead sometimes, you give them the best opportunity to grow. They appreciate you for trusting in them, which in turn means they’ll be more motivated to produce their best work. You know the best leadership work is done when your team is able to say “we did it ourselves. ″
• Be clear in your feedback. Everyone on your team should know where they stand and how to improve. Give clear and concise feedback on tasks, so that next time, your team can not only hit expectations, but improve their work.
• Celebrate wins, don’t dwell on losses. A leader needs to take a little more of their share of the blame and a little less of their share of the credit. It’s your job to guide your team to learn new things, and then to let them have the glory when the work pays off. And when it doesn’t go as well, you can’t be too hard on them. Help them to learn how to win and how to fail and how to pick yourself up and move on to the next job – that’s how you’ll make a difference in their career and their lives.
Interested in learning more about Prophet’s leadership team?