Leadership

From Military to Business: A Veteran and Strategist Shares 4 Truths of Leadership

leadership truths

Leadership, especially during a pandemic, is a serious issue in today’s workplace. It takes dynamic leaders to lead teams today, as society and the economy are constantly changing. New demands surface and the workplace of today is yesterday’s news. Trying to watch for trends has become a full-time job.

The Society of Industrial and Organizational Psychology (SIOP) publishes a Top 10 Workplace Trends list annually. The changing nature of work was #7 on their top 10 list of workplace trends in 2019, and landed on the list for a third straight year. Proof that the workplace is evolving consistently before our eyes. No single workplace, manager, or leader has the whole concept of leadership figured out. If they did, there would be standardized rules about it. Business is moving faster every single day.

As the world speeds up and the traditional workplace evolves, it’s even become traditional to do things untraditionally. Five years ago, the idea of over 50% of your workforce working remotely, from their living rooms, would have gotten you laughed out of the boardroom. Today, it’s reality.

Yet, even as things change more rapidly than ever before, some core principles of leadership hold steady and will continue to do so. I was given these 4 truths as a young leader in the military, almost 15 years ago. They are truths to lead by because they are core leadership principles that hold steady across years and situations. And all too often we get caught up in the management of work and forget about the leadership that is still very necessary. The 4 Truths of Leadership are the things we all know to do, but must remind ourselves to carry out. Following these 4 truths as principles of leadership will make you a better manager, and better leader during the pandemic and beyond.

The 4 Truths of Leadership

Motivate

The reason, or reasons, one has for acting or behaving in a particular way.

Your job as a leader is to inspire, drive, and motivate people. A team can hit rough spots, battle fatigue, and creative roadblocks. How are you motivating and inspiring them to tackle those things?

Motivation is fundamental, and everyone has motivating factors. These factors can range from just receiving a paycheck to feeling fulfilled in their work.  People have other motivators outside of the workplace that drive their behavior. Stress at home can change the way people think at work, and vice-versa.

Your job as a leader is to not only motivate them daily to do their job, but to find what individually motivates them. Every team member has two types of motivations:

  • Job Motivations
  • Personal Motivations

It’s important to pull these motivations out of your team members and understand the deeper meaning. As a parent, my kid’s activities are everything to me. So getting that project done to ensure my bonus comes in means my son gets new hockey skates next season.

As a professional, it means a lot to me to produce a good product. If I don’t, I want to know why. Feedback is important to me, so I ask for it. Good feedback, even if bad news, motivates me to work harder and put more attention into my work.

Deep down every member of the team has motivators. Finding them, while challenging, will be a large factor in team success. It’s your responsibility as a leader to understand your team’s individual motivating factors and use them.

Teach

To show or explain to someone how to do something.

You must teach the job so your people can learn skills to do the daily work, be successful, and accomplish tasks. Just because you’ve hired or taken on a qualified person does not mean you can neglect this principle. Teaching often requires hands-on instruction and demonstration. The goal is to teach more and more about the daily duties, tasks, and responsibilities as a team member finds their place. Growth in the areas of efficiency, performance, and basic skills knowledge cannot come if you don’t build teaching into your leadership.

Teaching is an essential first step in developing the team. Better prepared team members will be ready to tackle larger projects, workplace issues, and personal challenges. Think of teaching as an investment. The more you teach, the more skills the team has. The more skills the team has, the more efficient they can function. Now, as their leader you can sit back and support the team, instead of having to direct the team. The team is now a self-sustaining object, capable of great things because of the tools they have to work with.

Educate

Give intellectual, moral, and social instruction to someone.

There is a vital, but simple difference between teaching and educating. You teach people so that they can carry out tasks correctly. You educate your people so they can become experts through professional development. Professional development is deliberate, as in, you hold discussions and opportunities for team members to grow outside of the skillsets of the job. The topics here are not leading a teamjob specific, for example you might be having similar conversations with your accounting team members and your marketing team members.

Developing teams and individuals should be a priority, their growth and contributions as valuable members of the organization depend on it. Utilizing their growth for your business goals is the second step in developing the team, as they can now use the skills you taught them and the skills they’ve developed to tackle large projects. Offer them exposure to concepts like lean management, project management, problem solving processes, and management concepts so they can own their work process. The goal is to mold them into the maestro so they can conduct the orchestra.

Discipline

The practice of training people to obey rules or a code. To train or develop by instruction, especially in self-control.

Every good leader needs to understand the true meaning of discipline. The word discipline has many forms, and some stigma. As a leader, discipline means structure, standards, time management, and accountability. Workplaces need those things to survive. Leaders know and understand the principles of discipline. Bosses know how to discipline. In this context, discipline is not handing out punishment, admonishment, or disciplinary actions. It’s about holding people accountable to standards.

Discipline is important in the workplace as good practices keep the team on task, on time, and ready to deliver. This is where a good leader comes in and maintains the momentum of the team through discipline practices and keeps the team moving forward. Routines are often overlooked, but they are very important. When a team starts to function well, it becomes a machine, ready to put out results.

In order to do that, consider coming up with some guidelines with the team that will maintain the workplace environment or vibe. The team’s input on these guidelines will help keep everyone accountable and an owner in the discipline process. Once the guidelines are established, ensure they are communicated, and everyone knows the standards to uphold. At that point, your job as a leader is to maintain a happy workplace environment and give your team enough room to do their work. If you’ve successfully instilled discipline as a workplace value, they will self-orient towards the expected standards.

A Solid Foundation

Utilizing these four truths in your leadership strategy should help solidify your foundation. It seems cliché and monotonous to talk about the pandemic, but honestly, who was ready for it? If anything it has underscored the importance of basic truths like these that can be applied in any unforeseen situation. Under these leadership principles, no idea should be left off the solutions table and innovation should be fostered by leadership – even in challenging times. The pandemic has allowed good leadership to shine through and innovation and resilience to take center stage. While many businesses have shuttered.

And why? Because of strong foundations in leadership. Knowing when to make good decisions and sticking with them. Having a drive to move forward, and having a great leadership strategy.

When the world throws a wrench into your plans, you use it as a tool to get to work, not as an excuse not to lead.

About the Author

Jeff Clark is a leadership coach, strategist, and blogger based in Colorado Springs. His truthful and authentic leadership style helps leaders find their true purpose. He covers business, leadership, strategy, and common workplace struggles. You can see more of his work at jeffsclark.com or at LinkedIn https://www.linkedin.com/in/jsclarkldrs/