This is my running list of guiding principles for being a good leader.
- Be available at all times. Be someone that they text or call when something is on their mind.
- Treat your team like your children in at least one crucial sense: their success is your success. If you are challenged or insecure about their thriving (even above yourself) then you are not centered enough as an individual to be a manager.
- If something happens and food is scarce, eat last. If something happens and you have to stay late, be the last one to leave. If only your team or you can get a bonus, give it to them. Take bullets for them and they’ll take bullets for you.
- Be consistent and dependable. If you tell them you’ll do something, make sure you do it.
- Take responsibility for your team’s mistakes. If a nuke is coming down to hit one of your people, step in front of it. Let management know that you have the situation under control and don’t let the hit go through to your employee.
- Nurture a healthy relationship with failure for the team—especially if you commonly attempt to do tasks that are difficult to attain. Remind them that failure is often the currency of success.
- Be someone who people would follow even if they didn’t have to. If people listen to you only because they work for you, you’re an authority not a leader.
- Judge yourself by the success of your employee in later roles. Are they happier, more confident, in better positions, making more money? If so, you’ve likely done well.
- In most situations—especially brainstorming—you should interact with your employees like peers. You may be making the final decision, but you should listen to input as if any of you could be making the final call.
- Employees should worry about disappointing you, not being fired. A team motivated by fear is an unhealthy team. If you have an A-player who is working scared, he’s instantly a C-player. This applies to teams as well. An A-Team functioning in a FUD environment is a C-Team.
- Never discipline while angry. Think before you act.
- If you ever have to let anyone go, make it clear to them that life is about fits. There are great people who simply don’t fit in a particular role at a particular time. Remind them that failing at a position and failing at life are not the same, or even necessarily related.
- Great leaders make people feel safe.
- Great teams are teams that are empathically tied to each other, and are comfortable sharing their insecurities and weaknesses, where failures and successes are shared.
- This should be obvious, but some of these are slanted towards my own perception of good leadership. Bias, experience, and personal preference are in play.
- This list is based on fairly advanced careers involving mature adults. Many of these points don’t apply to managing 15-year-old fast-food workers, for example.
- For the failure point, it’s all about context. If you are an ops manager and you have SLAs, failure there isn’t a currency of success; it’s just bad. This is more for new ideas, innovation, taking a chance on a business idea, etc.
- @jockowillink on great leadership: 1) humility and coachability, 2) managing the dichotomy of leadership, and 3) taking responsibility.