Our True Purpose as a Leader

by John Keyser

I recently heard a talk Carly Fiorina, former CEO of Hewitt Packard, gave at the Global Leadership Conference. To her, an essential part of leadership consists in our recognition of the potential within each person and helping them to bring out their potential. I love that. To me it captures our responsibility as a leader.

As leaders, it is not about us, it’s about our team. And that means each member of our team. We have a responsibility to them and owe them our attention, taking a genuine interest in them and helping them to actualize their potential.

In order to identify the potential within our team members and to see if they are living up to it requires conversations and our full attention with each person.

This can range from mentoring, investing in their ongoing professional growth, investing in team development, and as simple as offering words of encouragement.

Through our conversations, we can also gain important feedback. What are they learning from our clients? How do they think we can do our work better and more efficiently?

When we ask them for feedback about us, we model humility and an openness to continuous growth. Which in turn, can normalize the feedback we give them. Doing so embraces and unlocks the true power of the team.

I recently watched the film Carousel, one of my favorite Broadway musicals. I was moved when the speaker at Louise’s high school graduation advised that, “if someone does not like you, well, try to like them anyway.” Louise and her antagonist ended up hugging with big beautiful smiles on their faces.

When we have team members whom we do not have a good working relationship with, as leaders it is our responsibility to change those dynamics. It is important to realize that everyone in our companies has internal struggles, some more than others, but everyone does! These struggles may be professional and/or personal. Regardless, they can impact the team dynamics and performance.

We can make a difference. We can help them get back on track to living out their potential by learning and growing through the struggle they are facing. Again, this is done through conversations, a supportive note, a smile, a prayer, letting them know we care, without rescuing them.

While a little off this topic, Fiorina had another point that I totally agree with and want to pass along. She said bureaucracy tends to stifle potential with all the rules and approvals required. Yes, it sure does. Each of us needs to consider how we can minimize this.

As leaders, let’s make sure that our high priority is quality relationships with our people, being present to them, having conversations, asking purposeful questions, listening to understand and learn, empowering and helping them succeed by living out their full potential.

This is our true purpose as a leader.

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