5 Essential Pillars of Good Leadership for a Positive Work Environment
Leadership has really been on my mind lately. A few weeks ago, I had the privilege of attending a joyful reunion with some of my former employees. While it was an extremely wonderful evening, throughout the night I couldn’t help but to feel a tinge of bitter amongst the sweet. While my departure from TLA Entertainment Group was on a positive note – based on a profitable buyout – I can still feel the loss. Yes, I have a new, successful career, which I have found to be both immensely satisfying and rewarding, but I find myself wistfully reflecting on my former company, missing the camaraderie that accompanied it.
Although I left the company in good hands, on good terms, the business has unfortunately dwindled, leaving only a handful of the same employees I worked alongside. Throughout the night I continued to hear from nearly everyone about how much they missed working together and what an incredible “family” it was. It was extremely gratifying to know that I played a part in creating such a wonderful work environment. Recently though, through networking and meeting many new people for my current work, I have come to the unfortunate conclusion that our experience at TLA was the exception, not the norm.
Documented guidelines, such as John Maxwell’s 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership and insights on things such as employee engagement by Patrick Lencioni, exist to help companies create healthy and productive working environments, yet remain largely untapped. Luckily, throughout my years of experience and time spent studying effective management, I have developed my own thoughts and simple guidelines for building a positive workplace. Looking back on my time with TLA, I have discovered that what I instinctively felt to be the most effective style of management is in fact based on what I have found to be the five essential pillars of good leadership. These are the guidelines by which I lead, and the foundation upon which a successful and rewarding workplace is built
It’s said that honesty is the foundation of any good relationship, so it’s no surprise that this applies to leaders’ relationships with their employees. Dishonesty creates a lack of trust between both parties, leading to miscommunication and misaligned priorities. Without honesty, often low-quality performance occurs because people do not trust one another and are not committed to working hard at their jobs. Trust is mutual; People are more likely to be honest with those who they feel to be honest with them. You can demonstrate honesty and build trust through being consistent, doing what you say you will do, and equally applying clear standards of conduct to everyone. You’ll be surprised by how much harder your employees will work and how much more faith they will have in you, more readily following your requests.
As is true with trust and honesty, respect is a two-way street, not a cul de sac. Every employee, no matter what their job, should be shown respect and display it abundantly. Not only does respect contribute to job satisfaction, but reduces stress, creates fairness, diminishes harassment, and subsequently increases employee engagement. Employees who respect one another feel like a part of the team. This only increases effort to build relationships, share ideas, and grow. Upholding the other pillars of good leadership (honesty, compassion, fair discipline, and open communication) can help to show respect.
Have you ever been in a situation in which your feelings were dismissed where they could have easily been affirmed? If you have, then you know what it’s like to feel dismissed, undervalued, or misunderstood when all it would have taken is some compassion. When employees don’t feel cared about by their leader, it’s fairly easy for them to not want to exert effort. Keep in mind that everyone has a life outside of his or her job. By expressing compassion for your employees, they no longer feel like a number; they feel like a valued individual. Compassion and understanding are what connects us as human beings despite our differences. We care more about people who show that they care about us. This trickles down to performance as well. We want to work harder for those who understand, relate, and care about us. You can demonstrate that you care by investing your time in your employees, guiding them, and taking their feelings into account.
4. Clear Expectations
We all make mistakes. We’re human. But setting clear expectations for standards of behavior can greatly help to reduce any confusion and even minimize error. You cannot expect anyone to live up to vague commands. It’s equally as important to show no favoritism, to be consistent, and to hold everyone accountable to the same standards. Treating everyone equally creates no space for employee resentment and wastes no time on further explanation down the road. By making known what is expected of each employee and treating him or her the same when expectations are not met, it sets the tone for a reasonable and impartial workplace.
5. Intentional Listening
Often we listen for the purpose of talking. We are so busy preparing our response that we don’t fully hear, let alone process, what we are responding to. More times than not, open communication has to do with listening and not speaking. If you are not listening with an open mind, you aren’t listening at all. It becomes easy to lose sight of problems that are happening right under your nose. If you aren’t aware of any issues, you certainly cannot resolve them. By listening thoughtfully, you’ll be privy to problems you may otherwise not know about. Better yet, by knowing what is regularly transpiring, you will begin to understand what motivates your employees and can anticipate and avoid problems before they occur. Always remember that listening thoughtfully with an open mind requires time and intention. Additionally, when you listen and communicate openly, you create room for a consistent dialogue, which only helps to foster honesty and hard work.
Remember to be honest, show respect, express compassion, set clear expectations, and be present & communicate openly and you will get back so much more than you can even imagine. Being a leader is not always easy, but by following these five simple pillars of good leadership, you can begin building a stronger organizational culture, which not only makes for an enjoyable environment, but can also contribute greatly to your bottom line. You too can be the exception to the norm.