Working the cash register at my hometown grocery store, an extremely grumpy customer yelled at me to the point of tears. I was 16 and unaccustomed to verbal attacks. I was so embarrassed about letting it upset me. When the store manager pulled me aside, I thought I was in trouble for screwing up. Instead he surprised me by telling me it was OK, that everyone makes mistakes and no one deserves to be treated the way that grouch treated me. He reassured me that my feelings were important. It made me feel valued as an employee, and like an important part of the team, even though I was young.
When I saw the quote above, it made me think of that store manager and how he inspired his employees to do a good job. I want to say that again – INSPIRED to do a good job. That is a critical element of a good leader. As a teenager I could see the difference between managers and leaders – some managers scare people into doing their job, and fear is certainly a motivator. But when one can INSPIRE an employee or team to do their best, and where people actually WANT to achieve, that’s the secret sauce. This goes for managers, teachers, coaches and more.
John C. Maxwell came up with a list of The 21 Indispensable Qualities of a Leader. Here are my favorites from his list:
- Character: Do the right thing. It may not be the most popular, but do the right thing. Character is an essential part of an effective leader.
- Charisma: Be more concerned about making others feel good about themselves than you are making them feel good about you.
- Commitment: It’s that ONE more push-up, it’s sticking to it even when it’s tough. Show up every day.
- Competence: Keep learning, growing, improving
- Courage: Become Friends with Fear. Failure is merely a stepping stone to your goal – learn from your failures. Get OUTSIDE your comfort zone.
- Positive Attitude: You have a choice. Your team is a mirror of your attitude.
- Responsibility: My fitness trainer actually does the work-out with us – she doesn’t just stand there with a clipboard.
There’s a poem, All I Really Need to Know, I Learned In Kindergarten about playing fair, being kind, cleaning up your mess and living a balanced life. This is so true, and I had the good fortune to learn so much about business and life from that little hometown grocery store thanks to some great leaders at Showerman’s IGA.