“The leader’s job is to see the best in human beings who have never caught sight of the best within themselves.”
What I love about this quotation from author and leadership expert Robin Sharma is that the leader’s job number one is to look for the best in human beings. I can’t think of a better way to lead, not to mention a better way to live outside of work.
It’s no coincidence that the best practices for being a human-centered leader apply to building a rich and fulfilling personal life. After all, great leaders make it easier for others to see and realize the best in themselves. Can’t that be said of our greatest personal relationships?
As you chart a course for the new year, rather than envision how you’ll lead separately from how you’ll live, consider practices that apply to both spheres in your life. Chances are that your leadership will attract greater success and your personal relationships will benefit from intentionality.
What might those principles be? Here are four prompts to get you started. They surfaced recently in a podcast conversation when the host asked how I nurtured trust after accepting a leadership position.
1. Are you getting out of your own way?
Great workplace collaboration and friendships in life are built on a mutual respect for one another. Respect plays out in acts of service. Avoid decisions that give pride and fear the driver’s seat. When you put yourself first, you’re signaling to others that they don’t matter. Soon they’ll look elsewhere for authentic connections. Pride and fear are often driven by insecurities, and the root of most insecurities is comparison. It’s been said that comparison can be the thief of joy. Remember that nothing should be compared to you except you. When you make room for service of others, you effectively push away the focus on yourself or how you compare.
2. Are you communicating with intentionality?
I know; you’re nodding and ready to move on, but don’t take this one for granted and tell yourself that you’ve got it covered. Candid communication that builds trust takes intentionality and an ongoing effort because transparency can’t be shared haphazardly. Breaking trust can happen in a moment, while building trust takes incremental interactions of consistency and authenticity over time. A great way to open the lines of communication is to show or share gratitude with someone else. I’ll talk about this more during my Off the Rak episode with author Chester Elton (coming up on January 25), who specializes in advising leaders on making gratitude part of their everyday work environment.
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3. Have you defined what authenticity means to you?
There isn’t one magic formula to follow for authentic behavior. You have to decide what that means for you. Morgan Stanley CEO John Mack once told me that he liked to focus on leading with the three Hs, which stand for humility, honesty, and humor. I adapted his idea and made it my own. I like to think about communicating with humility, honesty, and heart. What values are important to you, and how do you want to live by them every day? Here’s a great list of values by Atomic Habits author James Clear. He recommends choosing fewer than five to live by, and then at the end of the year, Clear creates an “Integrity Report,” where he reflects on how he lives by those values.
4. Do your relationships have purpose?
We know that humans are wired to seek meaning in their lives, which is why it’s critical to have a shared purpose at work. It’s what drives us to do better and tells us the role we have to play in the bigger picture. Our friendships are no different. Being intentional about who you spend your time with doesn’t make your friendships any less real; it’s how you honor yourself and your values. Do you spend the most time with people who share your values? If so, those bonds become stronger because your friends become a source of camaraderie and people you can turn to for guidance when the chips are down. They can also be mentors or accountability partners who help you stay the course if you’ve asked them for that kind of support.
As the new year gathers steam, I hope you’ll take time to consider these trust-building leadership prompts that have served me well personally and professionally. If a leader’s job is to see the best in others when they might not have caught sight of the best within themselves, let your challenge be to do the same in everyday life with these four principles.