Steve Jobs once said, “It doesn’t make sense to hire smart people and tell them what to do”.  Which says a lot when you think about it.  Good leaders don’t need to be the smartest person in the room.  Good leaders, while not always thrilled with certain news, never kill the messenger.  Good leaders can follow as well as they lead, and good leaders are never hard to follow.  

Usually in the second interview, I ask all of my potential hires, “What leadership style do you prefer?” I guess the most common answer I get has to do with communication.  Being able to share ideas, work through trouble issues, and make suggestions without it reflecting poorly on them.  Most of us want to be led like we would lead, and the best leaders lead as they would like to be lead.

Below are what I like to call “Gibb’s rules of leadership” to help leaders stand out and make a difference.

Rule #29 Great leaders don’t have to be the smartest people in the room.

When everyone on the team agrees, leading and following is simple.  When we disagree, that is where the rubber hits the road.  Great leaders give their team every opportunity to convince them that what THEY are saying, is the best way or the right answer.  Then, the leader makes the decision and great followers carry out that decision whether they agree or not.  In the end, the director, manager, or Vice President, still has to “make” the decision.  Leaders are empowered to take the risk so they do. Which is why it should never be taken personally if your idea isn’t used.

Rule #34 Don’t shoot the messenger.

I never like giving my boss bad news.  In fact, I labor on it for a few minutes before I call her, just to make sure of the “delivery”.  I don’t hesitate too long, as I think its important for a timely delivery so that it can be acted on if need be.  Such is my case, a great leader fosters a relationship with their team that allows for what I like to call “constructive conflict”.  I understand that her displeasure with bad news is not directed at me while it might be directed towards me.  Unless it of course is my fault, but we won’t talk about that right now.  I had a band director in college that would tell us “if you are going to make a mistake, make it loud so I can fix it”.  If we foster a team environment that makes the team afraid to convey bad news, point out potential problems, or God forbid, disagree with the leader, then we limit our team to only what the leader is capable of doing on his or her own. 

“If you are going to make a mistake, make it loud so I can fix it”

Rule #78 Treat them like they work with you, even if they work for you.

I have always said, “I can lead or I can follow, but I cannot follow someone who cannot lead.” You can use your position to demand your followers.  How far they will follow you is most likely limited by that approach.  If you are a leader with no followers, then you are just out for a long walk by yourself.  Most people inherently want to follow great leaders.  They want to be around them, hear their thoughts on certain things, and value their opinions, but they also want to be valued and respected themselves.  They spend a significant amount of time around you during the week. It is so much nicer when they don’t dread being there.  Fostering a culture that your team “wants” to be in, rather than “has” to be in, helps cultivate a team that enjoys working together. 

Rule #78 It’s a team sport.

Great leaders are typically great listeners.  It is important to keep your finger on the pulse of the team. Stay engaged with your team. Share some non business moments during the week.  Culture is a big deal.  Good culture is no accident.  If, in a position of leadership, you are intimidated by the strengths of other people, your culture is going to be poor.  You will be limited by what you can accomplish only by yourself.  Instead, consider a team member’s strength as a compliment to a weakness you may have.  Better yet, maybe you are strong in this aspect,  but they are stronger.  That added strength enhances the value of the team.  Think of what an awesome team you have if you don’t have to be the strength of every aspect of it.  That is why even the greatest of quarterbacks, need an offensive line.