Be a servant leader

Leadership isn’t about telling people what to do.

If you watch a lot of war movies, you might think it is. However, the skills needed to direct troops in the middle of a firefight are a tad different from the everyday work most of us do. You don’t need to yell “Incoming!” into your team’s faces when Chet the product manager requests a change to the design. Besides, he’s always asking for changes—you have to pick your battles.

The best leaders practice servant leadership.

They listen to their people. They get to know their direct reports on a personal level, and understand what makes them tick. These leaders are real humans, not robots!

Servant leaders flip the traditional power pyramid on its head. You work for your team.

Give your direct reports what they need, and then get out of their way. You’ll still need to provide oversight and direction, but for god’s sake don’t micromanage their work.

Now when I say get out of your team’s way, I’m not telling you to pat yourself on the back, grab a six pack, and golf the afternoon away with Chet. It’s your job to keep the communication flowing—both within your team, and with external stakeholders.

Use weekly one-on-ones to get to know your direct reports. Get them out of the office —it makes people more comfortable. You can  take a walk… or better yet, grab a coffee!

Let everyone know how they’re doing. You have to understand what matters to each person. Keep feedback objective, and try to put yourself in the person’s shoes. Pepper a little bit of empathy into every piece of feedback, and you’ll be good to go.

It’s your job to advocate for your team internally. Hey, if you don’t do it, there is literally no one else that is going to. So pick up those pom–moms (metaphorically, if you prefer) and look for ways to make your team’s life easier.

You don’t have to give your team a silly name, or anything like that. However, if you want to have a modicum of fun with your life, go for it. Just understand that you’re never going to beat “Team Chet-ta Cheese” at his own game.

Finally, don’t forget to stop and smell the roses. If you don’t celebrate your team’s success, you’ll eventually drive their motivation and spirit right into the ground. Find time to acknowledge the hard work that your direct reports are doing. Trust me, they’ll thank you for it.