We’re All Leaders. Let’s Be Good Ones!

If certain leadership behaviors were learned and recognized early and often, how great would our workplaces be? Let’s pinky pledge to do our best every day

Ever wondered why there are so many leadership models and books on leadership out there? Models and stories are fine. And they certainly sell books. But does any of it make a difference? There are many models to choose from crafted by well-meaning people, I’m sure (for example, formal, primal, situational, servant, and informal leadership). I think there are so many because we each have at least one story about a time when leadership was “done” to us—and it wasn’t good. Am I right?

Without even realizing it, we all crave leadership—in whatever form. We need to know the general direction the team is expected to go and at least some vague notion as to how we’ll get there, together.

I propose that we begin to coach our employees (and everyone in our family and friends circle, too) that we are ALL leaders, so we might as well practice being good ones.

Below is my list of leadership best practices crafted just for this column. You may want to swap some of these out and other items in or add to the list, especially those items more appropriate to your organization or situation. That’s fine. This is just a place to begin.

At all times, in every situation, and in no particular order…

  • Be aware of everyone around you.
  • Behave in a way that is continuously above reproach.
  • Realize someone is always watching.
  • Know that you’re an example to someone—probably more likely a group of “someones.”
  • Understand that judgment happens—be a good leader anyway.
  • Praise in public in the way you know the “praisee” prefers.
  • Recognize that you seldom succeed on your own.
  • To keep your people, shield them and take the hit.
  • Stand with your people when challenged.
  • Acknowledge the work of others.
  • Practice empathy and grace.
  • Coach or correct one-on-one and in private. Always. No exceptions.
  • Remember that “listen is an anagram of silent.”
  • Follow your gut, not the crowd.
  • Be kind. Even when that isn’t easy to do.
  • Know that sometimes the first one to speak really does lose.
  • Own your mistakes.
  • Apologize. Even when you don’t believe you were wrong.

If these behaviors were learned and recognized early and often, how great would our workplaces be? There would be no need to “do a culture initiative” or strive to change organizational culture.

Full disclosure: I work on these items continually and admit to struggling with at least one of them every day. After all, I’m only human. You, too? But let’s pinky pledge to do our best every day. After all, that is all anyone can ask of themselves and others.

Dawn J. Mahoney, CPLP, owns Learning in The White Space LLC, a freelance talent development (“training”) and instructional design consultancy. She is passionate about developing people through better training, better instructional design, and better dialog. Mahoney asks the tough questions to ensure the training content is relevant to the work and performance expectations. She does this work because she loves to see the moment when the learning “dawns” on her learners. If you need help, get in touch with her at: dawnjmahoney@gmail.com.