How can you be the boss that nobody wants to leave?
We all remember that one leader, boss, or manager that inspired us to grow and become better. They challenged us when necessary and coached us when we were lost. Or maybe you never had a boss that truly understood your potential, but sorely wish you had. So what leadership style makes people want to stick around, and is it something you can replicate?
Scott Love is a former US Navy leadership trainer and Annapolis graduate. He's the founder of the Attorney Search Group and a global keynote speaker. His new book is Why They Follow: How to Lead With Positive Influence. I recently interviewed Scott on the LEADx podcast about how to become a leader who inspires loyalty and greatness. (The interview below has been lightly edited for space and clarity.)
Kevin Kruse: What do you mean by ‘positive influence’?
Scott Love: Leading people in a way that they feel engaged, where they want to be… you want to be the light. You want to be the joy. I don't want to say “the joy in their life” as the boss, but you want to be at least some sort of inspiration for them that makes their lives better rather than takes away from that. We've all worked for bosses good and bad. Whenever I do a seminar, I'll ask people, I'll say, “Let's put on the board the character qualities, the attributes that you would use to describe someone that you would trust and follow.” Number one is always this is someone that's worthy of that trust, they're usually honest, but then all the attributes usually lead up to someone that's generally a positive person, someone that generally has that optimistic outlook. I think that is what gets people to work harder and to stay longer and to put the energy in, rather than someone that's cracking the whip all the time.
Kruse: What are the steps to leading in a ‘servant leadership’ way?
Love: I think, number one, it's to have a prosperous heart, where you believe that there's room in the organization for everybody to achieve satisfaction, everybody can achieve victory when the team does so that it's inclusive. Everybody on the team is important. Something that you and I both learned as parents is that everybody in the family matters. The emotions of our kids matter. If your son is in tears because he wants to go to the game and you've got a conference call you've got to get ready for, he absolutely has a right to feel upset even though we've got to get this thing going. Show your kid that his feelings are valid. I think having that prosperous heart for everybody on the team matters.
Number two: living in a way that's congruent with your heart, because the people that work for you are always observing and they're always making judgments. Are you living in a way that's congruent with the values that you tell people that are important to you?
Number three: it's to communicate that to your staff, to communicate that trust because you're living in a predictable sort of way that's in alignment with your heart or your core values. I think it's good, especially if you're in a supervisory role directly with them, that you're creating this silent accountability. When you are putting yourself in a position of leadership, it's a vulnerable position because you're always being observed. You're living in a glass house. People make judgments about you, and that judgment translates into what sort of response level they're going to give to you, how hard are they going to work, based on how you live in congruence with your values.
Kruse: How can millennials manage people who are a generation or two older?
Love: I'd say three things, Kevin. Number one: always get focused on what the outcome is of the group. When you're in a position of leadership, that's important.
Number two: look at the strengths of those people and the assets of those people. The goal is to align those assets, those desires, with the team. This is something I learned by interviewing General Walt Boomer, who is a retired four-star Marine officer and former CEO. I asked him, “Walt, what's more important–mission accomplishment or taking care of your people?” He said, “Let me think about that… Taking care of your people. As long as you've got the right people in place, they'll get the job done.” I think it's important to have that sense of mission accomplishment and then also looking at the assets, looking at the resources that your team brings and always align that with the organizational goals.
Then, number three: ask your people questions. Ask them things like, “What can I do to make your job a lot easier? Is there anything I can do to help you accomplish this?” I think taking a genuine interest in your team, walking around and engaging with them, and asking how you can help out are some of the ways that you can definitely get their enthusiasm going.
Kruse: By leading from the heart and asking questions of how to help first, and then following up with the other pieces, you’ll never have a problem winning people over.
Love: I think that takes a special person, Kevin, because so many people with their personal hubris, their ego sometimes gets in the way. And leadership isn't about that. It's all about getting the job done, aligning the resources of your people, making sure that they're engaged, they're fulfilled, and not about pounding your chest and saying, “Hey, look at me.” In fact, I think true leadership is invisible. At the end of the day, you want the team to say, “We did this ourselves.”
Kruse: I like to challenge our listeners to become 1% better every day. Is there something you’d like to challenge them to try?
Love: I would say do these two things. Number one: write down your personal core values, not necessarily what you think are good at work. Here's a question that helps you hone in on this: If you had all the money in the world, all your relationships were perfect, and you had all the time in the world, what's left over? What are those values that you hold true to you? When you clarify those, you get them on paper. When you make decisions ask yourself, “Does this decision line up with my personal core values?” That's the thing. What's true too, Kevin, is that leadership is very personal. People are making personal decisions when they come to work by observing you and how you live in accordance with those values.
Then, number two: write down your personal mission statement. What is it you want to do on this planet? It might not have anything to do with business or making billions or anything like that, but what are you on this planet for? I think that gives you clarity in what direction you're going in and it also builds up your personal confidence.
When people see someone that lives in congruent with a set of core values and makes that hard right, and they know exactly where they're going, that's attractive to people. That's what causes people to respond in a way that says, “Yes, I'm willing to follow and I'm willing to stay with you to the end.”
Kevin Kruse is a New York Times bestselling author, host of the popular LEADx Leadership Podcast, and the CEO/Founder of LEADx.org, which provides free world-class leadership training, professional development and career advice for anyone, anywhere.