Who was your most influential boss? If you’re like many of my clients and workshop participants over the years who have been answering that question, your response will point to one thing: the most influential boss is a leader who inspired the best in them. But how? Read on to learn the three major ingredients that great leaders use as a recipe for bringing out the greatness in others.
They Show They Care
There’s an old saying that comes to mind: “People don’t care how much you know, until they know how much you care.” Caring means much more than just being nice to employees: it means having a healthy dose of respect for their overall well-being. Trust is built by demonstrating that you care for the person, his/her career, satisfaction, and success. The best leaders develop quality connections with employees and make them feel as though they matter – that is, matter beyond just getting results for the leader and the organization.
It’s also important to remember the distinction between quality vs. quantity of interaction; some people reported seeing their boss only infrequently, yet still felt a deep trust that the leader had their best interest at heart and genuinely wanted them to succeed.
They See Their Potential
One workshop participant said it best: “My boss saw the potential in me. He kept me focused on what he knew I could be. And that kept me going even when my confidence would get shaken.”
Great leaders see what is special in their employees and work to bring that out in them. How? By painting a picture, showing them a potential vision of what they could be; for example, by describing a future position they could excel in, a problem they could see them solving, or a charge they could be great at leading. And then the leader fully expects the employee to grow into their potential, demonstrating their faith by trusting employees with new challenges and encouraging them to take responsible risks. Failure is treated as an opportunity to learn.
They Give Critical Feedback
The most inspiring leaders know that giving direct and honest feedback is a gift. Given that they truly want their employees to succeed, they know it is imperative for the employee to understand any personal or professional barriers to success. And because their relationships with employees are based on a solid foundation of trust and respect, it is more likely that the employee can “hear” and truly accept the feedback.
In the words of one participant,
“My boss was brutally honest in his feedback, but you knew he meant it for your own good. And you knew he would do everything he could to partner with you in improving.”
Another said, “She was very direct in her feedback, but she never made me feel bad. She was never condescending or judgmental, instead she would simply focus on why the issue was a problem and ways we could work together to improve it.” These participants were able to gain significant professional and personal growth from learning the honest feedback.
It turns out that these leaders not only inspire greatness in others, they also create hard-working, loyal and engaged employees who talk about being “extremely motivated because they didn’t want to disappoint,” and being willing to “walk through walls” for the leader.
Now that’s a recipe worth trying!