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When it comes to leadership, Bob Dylan had it right when he sang “The times, they are a changin'”

Becoming a great leader is not a destination, but rather a journey that requires a self-sustaining mindset and a commitment to learn, align, adapt, and evolve with the needs of your stakeholders.

Things change, right?

Depending on the era, you may recall best practices in leadership including:

  • Autocratic--command and control leadership

  • Participative leadership

  • Democratic leadership

  • Situational leadership

  • Level 5 leader

  • Leading from behind

  • Being an inclusive leader

Having been in leadership for 38 years and reading and researching many of the previous leadership “strategies,” there is one thing I believe to be irrefutable:

Becoming a great leader is not something you can take a step back from and admire when complete. Regardless of methodology.

“I’ve finally arrived.”


Becoming a great leader is an ongoing process of learning, forming, building, bonding, changing, detailing, refining, adjusting, aligning, and adapting.

You are never quite where you want to be. You’re never perfect. You’re always under construction.

Just consider…managing via video versus in-person. Work from home challenges and nuances. The hybrid workforce. Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion. Unconscious bias.

In his book “What Got You Here, Won’t Get You There," author Marshall Goldsmith, widely recognized as the world’s #1 leadership thinker and executive coach, asks five basic questions of 360-degree raters about the leader he is coaching. He asks does the executive in question:

1. Clearly communicate a vision

Create a “North Star”—if you don’t know where you are going, then how can you expect others to follow you?

2. Treat people with respect

You can learn a lot about a person by how they treat the waiters and waitresses at lunch or dinner. It’s real simple: treat people the way you wish to be treated. Today, some studies show that upwards of 52% of employees are looking to change employers in the next year. That’s scary stat for any leader. If someone is struggling with the “new normal,” take the time to get into their operating reality and understand the why. It may be something you can easily fix before you lose them.

3. Solicit contrary opinions

This creates an opportunity for learning and growth. Diversity of opinion creates strength, adds depth, and brings balance to any team. You wouldn’t want to build an orchestra with all drummers, would you? You never want a team consisting of think-a-likes and act-a-likes and do-a-likes. What’s the old saying?… “If you are the smartest person in the room, then you are in the wrong room.”

4. Encourage other people’s ideas

If you are able to do 1, 2 and 3 consistently, your team should come to the table overflowing with new ideas and creative insights. You don’t have to have all the answers, just be good at asking the right questions and let your team do the rest.

5. Listen to other people in meetings

Really listen! Make them feel like they are the only person in the room and that their thoughts really matter. Remember, the most flattering thing you can do to another person is to listen, because in effect you are saying that “your thoughts are more important than mine.” When was the last time you learned something when you were speaking?

Pretty simple list, right?

You would think that with 38 years of leadership under my belt I would have this list down to a science.

I don’t.

I aspire to be a great leader. Sadly, I am not.

It’s hard.

I work to get better on this list every day while simultaneously trying to adapt to the changing environment. One thing I know for sure: I am always under construction.

I hope you are, too.

At Butler Street, our Leadership Effectiveness training can help you create a common leadership language, retain your people, increase employee engagement and nurture future leaders. Contact us to learn more.


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