The best leaders ask themselves these five crucial questions.
There are five key aspects that every business owner or manager must examine if they are to succeed as a leader.
1. Do I serve my people?
The call for servant leadership is more critical today than at any other time in business. Every CEO and leader should see themselves as a servant leader, because it reminds the leader and the team that success really comes down to how well you serve someone else. The idea of selfless service should be taught throughout the organization. This attitude teaches the team to work together as a unit, not as individual parts. Teams always produce more than individuals, and it will be the organizations that are successful at building teams that succeed both in growth and innovation.
Organizations and companies often reward individual performance. Businesses must make the pivot to rewarding and encouraging team performance. A vital aspect of every individual's performance review should be how they engaged and propelled a team to help the organization. Another pivot that organizations should consider is from individual reviews to team reviews, with the leader evaluating departments and areas of a business.
When you serve your team by listening to team members and getting them to listen to one another, you are on the path to your organization's success. Sometimes it takes a leader a moment when they get knocked back on their heels to understand the importance of listening as a leader. However, when you truly listen to your people, it propels you to become a person of influence.
2. Am I building a great culture?
A great leader can build a great culture. A great culture can build a great organization. A great organization can have a great impact. Therefore, it is important for leaders to think about what they are doing to contribute to building a great culture.
Many organizations today focus on cultural surveys to understand how people feel about their working environment. Cultural surveys often do not provide the real answers for how people feel about the leader and their workplace. As a leader, you must take the initiative to be with your team and seek to know how your teams really feel about their work and their working environment.
Great cultures are built on clear values. You must strive for clarity in how decisions are made and how people are to perform in the culture you are building. Values drive clarity because they are an arbiter of how decisions are made and what expectations should be embraced in dealing with team members. Too many businesses try to build a culture but never take the time to clearly explain and identify the values that make up the culture. For people to succeed, they must know and embrace the rules of engagement (to use a term from the military).
You must embody the culture that you want to create in your organization. A leader's presence and character set a model for everyone in the organization. The best way to explain a leader's presence and character is to highlight Bob Rosen's tree metaphor from his book Grounded. Your presence is like the tree's roots (what people can't see). Your character is the branches and leaves (what people can see). If you hack off a branch, another will grow. If you kill the roots, the tree will wither and die. The key to building a great culture is to focus on what others can't see by developing your roots and the roots of the organization.
3. Am I reaching my potential as a leader?
Every piece of equipment in the organization has a potential capacity. The best businesses use their resources to their best capacity. One example is the Blackhawk helicopter. It has two engines, each stronger than the engine in the Huey helicopter. If a pilot's approach were too fast or too slow, they would not be able to stick the landing without exceeding the engine's capabilities. A successful pilot must know the engine's potential and monitor it correctly to perform at the highest level.
A question every peak-performance leader asks is, "What is the maximum performance I could achieve without exceeding any limitations?" Leaders must know themselves. It is imperative to know your strengths and weaknesses. You must know your blind spots, how you work and when you need a team around you. A leader who hopes to reach their maximum performance will know when they need to take time away from the business to refresh and replenish their energy.
One habit that I encourage leaders to employ is the idea of a four-day weekend. Too many leaders run on empty. These leaders have very little to offer to their teams because of their depleted energy levels. If you strategically plan a four-day weekend away from the business, it can often help you catch your breath and get some clarity on your vision and next steps on a project or an issue facing your organization. You could schedule yourself to be off on Friday and Monday in addition to the weekend. These two days can become important days in the life of a leader. Short breaks often lead to big breakthroughs for a leader and in their thought process.
4. Am I being clear about my vision?
Miscommunication impacts the performance of both the leader and the organization. High-performing leaders communicate frequently and consistently about the vision of where a company currently is and where it's going in the future. CEOs make a mistake when they keep their vision to themselves. Sometimes a leader is afraid of sharing a vision, thinking that they may not be able to accomplish the vision they establish and then will look poorly in front of their team. Teams would rather follow a leader who has a vision that cannot be accomplished than one who has no vision or is afraid to communicate their vision.
An assessment that identifies your communication style can be a breakthrough that shows you how you communicate and how you should communicate with others. Once you identify a communication style, you can use cues to understand another person's communication style. Communication is about common understanding. If you want to connect with others, you need to know what "language" they speak and learn to speak it. You must communicate your vision in a way that your people can understand and embrace. [Read related article on Business News Daily: What Kind of Leader Are You? 9 Leadership Types and Their Strengths]
5. Am I open to changing how I lead?
Too many leaders lead alone. Building a team and delegating is often a struggle for CEOs and leaders. However, leaders who wish to lead at their peak performance will understand that building a team through delegating tasks is an important step for their own growth and the growth of the organization they lead.
It is important for a leader to understand why they want to delegate. These are just some of the reasons a leader might want to delegate:
- To reduce their workload
- To get more done
- To enhance specialization
- To develop others
Of all the reasons you might like to delegate, the best reason is to develop others on your team so they can reach their peak performance as well. When you seek to find the best in the people you lead, you can find others to lead with.
One change you may make in your leadership is to join a peer retreat where you can learn from other CEOs and business owners. Many leaders are a product of the best leadership thinking to which they are exposed. When you listen to other leaders, you learn new ways to look at issues, examine new ideas to implement, and receive accountability for how consistently you lead.
Leaders would be wise to hold themself accountable to Robert Greenleaf's best test, contained in his 1970 essay about servant leadership. He asked the leader to examine the following questions as they sought to lead at their peak performance:
- Do those served grow as persons?
- Do they, while being served, become healthier, wiser, freer, more autonomous, more likely themselves to become servants?
- What is the effect on the least privileged in society – will they benefit, or at least not be further deprived?
When you can answer yes to those questions, it's a sign you are leading at your peak performance.
Leaders need to lead better, which will only happen when they ask themselves these five crucial questions. Leadership is too hard and too important for any leader of any organization not to learn to do it well. May it be the goal of every leader to hear the words "well done" from the people they lead, and even from themselves, as they think about leading effectively.