4 Steps You Can Take to Become a Better LeaderJun 28, 2022
In this article, I'm going to show you how you can start to lead from the front. Whether it's in business or life, leading from the front can help us all.
What is leading from the front, and why does it matter?
This is a leadership style originating from the military. It speaks to the General riding alongside you into battle, not the one who's nestled miles away, safe at camp.
This draws an apt comparison to today's corporate structures. Many companies have executives sitting on different floors, inaccessible to the general team and overly-detached from the day-to-day of their business.
Leading from the front changes that. When you adopt this leadership style, you say, "I will lead by example, and I will serve my team."
This isn't only for philosophical benefit; it makes a real difference in company success. This is because, as noted in the Harvard Business Review, corporations that have servant leaders see higher levels of retention. When you play an active + visible role in your company, you help create solidarity and give purpose to the team.
Unfortunately, many leaders miss the boat when it comes to leading from the front.
The Primary Reason Leaders Struggle: Ego
Ego can lead us to become self-centered and overestimate our own importance. This leads to:
Never being able to take feedback
Not playing a visible role within the company
Failing to listen and include team members in decision making
Seeking validation through praise
If you've found yourself doing any of these (I know I have), it's okay. We will go through a step-by-step approach to improving the poor leadership habits outlined above.
Step 1: Be Open to Feedback, Often
Without feedback, you will not grow as a leader or a company.
We shield ourselves from feedback because of fragile egos. When we've tied our self-worth to a job, it can be hard to hear that we're not performing at a perfect level.
The good news is that no one is perfect. You are a work in progress, but you won't be able to take the next step forward without getting feedback from your team.
How do you do it?
Start with asking these questions to your team members:
How can I help you better in your career?
Are you looking for more or less guidance from me?
What is something you think the company could be doing better?
Do you feel heard at work?
Pro tip: Send these questions to your team members before meeting them. This gives them time to think through their answers and removes the feeling of being ambushed.
Step 2: Be Visible, and Be Accessible
This is where so many leaders fumble. As companies grow, natural hierarchies are going to be created. This doesn't mean that you, as a leader, should be inaccessible.
A simple change, such as starting to eat lunch in the breakroom, can go a long way toward building connections with your team.
Step 3: Become a Better Listener
Listening is a leadership superpower.
In Leaders Eat Last, Simon Sinek argues that leaders should speak last in group meetings. This (i) gives others a chance to talk and (ii) gives you more time to gather information from your team.
Listening is a superpower because it can help you uncover blind spots. Your team members bring unique perspectives to work; hearing them out can help you uncover something you may have glossed over in the past.
Step 4: Stop Seeking Validation
If you want praise, go sell ice cream.
If you want to lead, stop seeking validation from others. Being a leader isn’t about seeking those to celebrate you. It’s about building up others to be celebrated.
It’s also about making hard choices. Your job is not to be a people pleaser; it’s to lead. That can mean firing toxic staff members, laying people off with grace, and admitting when you’ve messed up.
Leading isn’t about trophies. It’s about a sense of duty to those around you.