A new record: As of June 1, 33 of the companies on the ranking of highest-grossing firms is led by female CEOs for the first time ever. This is a considerable jump from last year’s total of 24. Seven of the world’s most powerful women in business are at General Motors, Hershey, Oracle, Kohl’s, Lockheed Martin, Yum China and IBM, to name a few.
When it comes to being a female leader, Marriott International Global Sales leader knows a thing or two. “Inspiration, not intimidation,” she recently said.
Who has inspired you? Maybe your parents, a friend, a teacher? What did they do that had such an impact on you?
What inspires people? Caring.
What does this mean for those of us who are trying to become better leaders in the workplace? Do we have to tell our employees that we love them? Must we line them up and hug them at the start of each day? No, that’s probably going a bit too far – it is vital, however, that we create a supportive environment. Leaders show that they care about that their team members do and who they are. Simply put, a boss says “go,” a leader says “Let’s go.”
It turns out that the two most powerful words in the English Language are, “Well done.” Not every productive employee is appreciated. But every appreciated employee is productive.
Looking back further, I remember another critical piece of advise. You don’t get the best out of people by hitting them with an iron rod. You do so by gaining their respect, and convincing them that they are capable of improving their performance. I cannot think of any leader who succeeded for any length of time by presiding over a reign of terror.
I always got more out of people by praising them than by scorning them with criticism. Sales people, like all human beings, are plagued by a range of emotions that run all the way from profound insecurity to massive over-confidence. People perform best when they know they have earned the trust of their leaders. When I was younger, I was more inclined to be severe. I cringe when I think back to those moments.
Many people cannot stop long enough to listen – especially when they had become successful and all the people around them are being obsequious and pretending to hang on their every word. They launch into monologues as if suddenly they know everything. Putting these megalomaniacs to one side, it always pays to listen to others. Unless you understand people, it’s very difficult to motivate them.
People buy into the leader before they buy into the vision. Many people who approached the area of vision in leadership have it backwards. They believe that if the cause is good enough, people will automatically buy in and follow. But that’s not how leadership works. People don’t follow worthy causes; they follow worthy leaders with a cause they can believe in. They buy into the leader first.
Be the leader you wish you had. Be the leader you would follow.