What Great Leaders Do to Light a Fire

This month’s blog is an excerpt from my upcoming book: Light a Fire in Their Hearts: A New Leader’s Guide to Igniting Employee Engagement and provides a a list of what it is that Great Leaders do to engage and inspire their employees on a daily basis. While recognition and rewards programs have their place, as in life, it is often the simplest most common sense things that make the biggest difference when it comes to bringing out the best in employees.

What Great Leaders Do to Light a Fire

  1. Be an engaged and passionate employee. Learn to light a fire in your own heart first, and then help your employees to ignite their own. This, so that they can experience greater joy and fulfillment at work, which will benefit them, the team and the organization as a whole.
  2. Encourage employees to keep their power rather than to trade it with every pay cheque. In reality others ‘choose’ to follow you, so prove that you are worthy of their trust.
  3. Live a balanced life and by extension, do not thwart your employees’ efforts when they try to do the same. Leadership is a matter of public health: what a person experiences during the day at work has a direct impact on their health and well-being, on that of their family, and on how they show up in the community.
  4. Be a kind and confident person and invest time in connecting with your employees. Learn more about them – and eat your lunch somewhere other than in your office, for goodness sake!
  5. Model what it means to ‘engage and inspire,’ rather than to ‘command and control.’ Find ways to help employees reconnect with their passions and talents. Involve them as you paint a shared vision so that they can see how their contribution is making a real difference.
  6. Take ownership of the role you play in the performance of your team. That is, if you have under-performing employees take accountability for your role in the situation. Guide and mentor your employees as they learn and try new things. Be clear about objectives and have the courage to involve team members in frank and open conversations about their performance.
  7. Give back to the community and inspire employees to do the same. Lead by example and demonstrate social responsibility (because you really believe in it, not just because it looks good!).
  8. Be inclusive and make it clear that respectful behaviour is a corner stone of the organization – and that gossip and vexatious behaviour will not be tolerated. True inclusion is setting aside stereo-types and seeing every single person on your team for who they really are and what they can bring.
  9. Help employees feel safe and that you’ve got their back. Be prepared to defend them when others come calling with complaints or to dump more work on their already full plate. Even though you can never fully guarantee job security, help employees see that you will always treat them with dignity and respect and provide support, even in difficult circumstances.
  10. Be an expert at managing your team’s workload. Manage client and senior management expectations. Teach your employees how to negotiate deadlines while maintaining professionalism, how to set priorities, and how to ask for help when they need it and pitch in to help team members when they are swamped.
  11. Be very competent at work and continue to invest in boosting your abilities. Not only do you need to be good at engaging people, you need to inspire confidence through competence. Shine when you are the one in spotlight as you deliver presentations to senior management, clients and stakeholders. Show your brilliance to your employees so that they are inspired to show you theirs. Practice continuous learning to continue to expand your skills set and encourage employees to grow both personally and professionally.
  12. Recognize and give employees full credit for their contribution to the success of the organization. Always so thank you and give credit, where credit is due. When you get praise, make sure that you take the opportunity to shine a light on your employees. Take the opportunity to elevate and position them with management so that their good work can get noticed.
  13. Help employees to connect with and value one another. Avoid favouritism, which is a top morale killer and is often at the root of toxicity – remind them that you are all playing on the same team.
  14. Be passionate and enthusiastic – not “flat” and humourless. Recognize that “Fun is Fuel” and the key to reigniting employee engagement and boosting productivity.
  15. Show that it is important to stand up for what is ethical. You are like a beacon shedding light on what is right from wrong at work – help your employees navigate the grey areas and respect them and provide guidance when they are authentic and express their truth.
  16. Demonstrate that having ‘fortitude’ does not mean winning at all costs! It is o.k. to admit that others are right sometimes. Demonstrate that forgiveness and patience are just as important in the workplace as they are at home.
  17. Be uplifting rather than condescending. Remember that true leadership means to be in service of others and to accept the responsibilities that accompany increased authority.
  18. Help all employees release their inner-leader. Recognize that while not everyone is suited to take on a formal leadership role or even desires to do so, every individual needs to feel like they are in the driver’s seat of their life and their career in order to do their best and succeed.
  19. Model what it means to be at once vulnerable and confident. Remind employees that the success they desire almost always resides outside their comfort zone and to feel fear is normal. Share with them tools and strategies to help support them as they engage to make their next big leap towards their goals.
  20. Give off positive energy and be compassionate in stressful situations. When facing tight deadlines and working under pressure, it is easy to get caught up in the insanity of it all and get sucked into a vortex of negativity. Rise above it and never lose sight that you are dealing with people and not robots.
  21. Most important: Put aside salaries and perceived status, and at the heart of it, you will find that we all hold the same high degree of value as human beings – keep this in mind ALWAYS!

Leading entails great responsibility… if you are fortunate enough to have such a privilege, make sure the example you give is a good one.

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