Employees notice when a leader doesn’t show up for a day. Sure, the leader might be present physically and ready to work, but when the one in charge doesn’t come to work mentally, the effects trickle down.
Leadership is harder than most people think, says Michael Bungay Stanier, author of The Coaching Habit: Say Less, Ask More & Change the Way You Lead Forever. After all, a person in charge not only has to deliver orders to a group, assign tasks and make sure the tasks are running smoothly, he or she also needs to motivate their staff.
And, the truth of the matter is that most leaders are so busy, with several responsibilities to juggle, that it leads to people not thinking about how to show up for others.
“Are you leading with a carrot or a stick?” asks Barry Moltz, small business expert for Your Business Unstuck, Moltz’ small business consulting firm.
The two approaches to leadership are drastically different. Leading with a carrot incentivizes good work with rewards while leading with a stick prioritizes punishment to push people toward goals.
The best kind of leader is one that shows up every day and puts their best self and effort on display. For example, a genuine leader is one that is aware of his or her responsibilities, takes action for those but also takes time for self-improvement outside of work hours.
Harrison Rusk, managing partner and general manager of Master Car Care and Collision in Houston, Texas, says he recommends a strategy of unplugging so that a leader can “tune-in” and be more present when leading the team. Rusk is a leader that is known for encouraging staff to leave right on time to enjoy free time at home.
Stanier, Moltz and Rusk share their tips on how you can lead with your best self.
Leading with a Larger Purpose
Barry Moltz, a small business expert for Your Business Unstuck, says in order to lead with your best self forward, a leader needs to take a step back and look at the big picture. Focus on the company’s mission, above all else.
He says it’s important to think about why you’re in the business as a leader and reflect on why you are taking the actions you are.
For shop operators who have yet to find their personal leadership styles, Moltz recommends trying out different leadership tactics and eventually sticking with the one that feels like the best fit. To find a leadership style, he says to ask these questions:
What pain point do you personally solve for customers?
What difference are you trying to make?
Why are you performing this type of work?
Moltz also recommends leveraging the team you have so that you don’t get weighed down by every responsibility as the leader.
Leading with a Consistent Focus
In order to genuinely lead, Stanier says a shop owner must think about the strengths he or she has, amplify those strengths. and then focus on dealing with their weaknesses.
“For instance, I’m good at the big picture items and being positive, but I’m less good at the little details,” Stanier says. “They bore me to death.”
Most leaders are leading busy lives, he acknowledges. Regardless, if every leader were to take a few minutes each day to reflect on how they can focus on that particular day, they’d be exponentially more present, the leadership expert adds.
Stanier recommends asking yourself these questions before the day begins. He says to rate yourself on a scale of 1-7, with 1 being low and 7 being high
How active and engaged do I want to be today?
How much risk do I want to take today?
How much do I care about the experience of the people I’m working with?
Ask yourself what can make your approach bolder and more courageous. He then says to ask yourself what will make your great work move forward.
Leading with Separate Interests
In order to excel when staying present with staff, a leader needs to take time away from work all together.
With technology present in every aspect of a leader’s life, from work to home, it can be hard to turn off the work, Rusk says. However, he recommends unplugging from work so that a leader can be fully present in both aspects of his or her life.
He recommends putting electronic devices on “Do Not Disturb” mode every night so family time is not interrupted. If necessary, he says to block off a specific time every night to check in on work-related emails. Be consistent with this practice.
“From smart phones to email, webinars and the expectation to be always available, it can be difficult for us as owners and managers to focus our full energy to the things we care about,” Rusk says.
He says to start with small habits and make sure to perform them every day. Small habits that are built upon can snowball into success. When a leader maintains a work-life balance, it breaks the routine and monotony of everyday life, and allows for the operator to engage the mind in ways that are not stress-inducing.
“A happier life also means being more productive at work,” Moltz says. “Being a leader is a marathon, not a sprint.”
While taking time away from work can be hard, Moltz says a leader needs to sit down and carve out the hours that are considered “work” time and the hours that are spent as “off hours.” He says to set specific hours for work and to make sure they don’t encompass all 24 hours of the day. Then, when the leader takes time off, he or she should shut off all devices and take time for an outside hobby or interest.