Leftovers are my favorite part of the Thanksgiving holiday. I look forward to hot turkey sandwiches or a turkey/stuffing casserole. My family grew up making a delicious fried pancake from leftover mashed potatoes. When served up with gravy, and perhaps some vegetables, these leftovers can keep me happy for several days.
While leftovers can save money on my groceries, this food doesn’t look and taste quite as good as the day it was first served up. The same thinking applies to myself or my clients when considering leadership. We need to give our best efforts when leading others, not just the leftovers.
Leftovers That Hurt Our Leadership Efforts
When we lead only because we have to, our efforts can feel like leftovers to those we are serving. We might not devote enough time to the team’s needs. We could disregard their requests for resources. Some leaders withhold praise or show little enthusiasm for team members’ efforts.
Leaders who ignore their teams are often in pursuit of their own aspirations or goals. If you hope to get rich, covet the corner office, or strive for more power, you won’t have time or energy to actually lead. Team members will notice.
When leaders pursue what’s best for themselves, it can feel like everyone else is only getting leftovers.
What Leaders Should Pursue
To avoid the leftovers that come from self-centered leadership, here are some better things for leaders to pursue.
- Build trust. Patrick Lencioni’s focus on defining trust as requiring vulnerability is a powerful antidote for leftover leadership. Leaders who practice this well can admit weaknesses, acknowledge mistakes, readily apologize, and say “I’m sorry.”
- Speak the truth. It is tempting to shade the truth to “protect” others. But, there is nothing courageous about telling a “white lie.” When we lie, regardless of how small, we are not being truthful and will pay the price for it. Failing in this area results in team members, customers, and vendors who feel like the recipients of leftover communication.
- Focus on what is important. Leaders are often tempted to chase the wrong priorities. Maybe it’s the easy win. It might be only what will make them look or feel good. When a leader’s priorities aren’t focused on what is most important – employee engagement, inclusion, change management, or something of your choosing – everyone else will be stuck with the leftovers.
Giving Your Best
Today’s workplaces need leaders who will commit to being their best selves every day. Practicing trust building, truth telling, and focus are not easy tasks. That’s probably why so many leaders choose the leftovers route. Your team members can’t produce the results you are looking for when your time, energy, or resources are diluted or focused elsewhere. Even I get tired of leftover turkey.
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