I was at a conference recently, and one of the speakers paraphrased a quote from George Washington:
Remember that it is the actions, and not the commission, that make the officer, and that there is more expected from him, than the title.
That quote has really stuck with me for some reason. The point that the speaker was making is that sometimes you need to exercise leadership beyond your immediate responsibility. You have to act as a leader through your influence and behavior even when it isn’t your job.
But it’s just as meaningful the other way (which is probably the way that George meant it). People who do have “the commission” aren’t automatically leaders. Or, not necessarily good ones.
I’ve been out of school for twenty years now, and I’ve had lots of bosses. Old and young, women and men, on-site and off-, and frankly, good and bad. A good leader (in this case, a good boss) is not just the person you work for. It’s the person who inspires you and makes you better — makes you want to be better — at what you do. If the actions make the leader, this is what I think those actions are:
Take seriously the fact that you are in a leadership position.
Treat employees with respect.
Trust your people. Assume the best unless given a reason to do otherwise.
Say thank you, often and sincerely.
Don’t let things fester. Address discord.
Give people as much as they can handle, and then maybe a little bit more.
Be as thoughtful about culture as you are about profit.
Be bosses, but be human. Know the right balance between the two.
Be willing to work as hard as you ask anyone else to work.
Let there be some fun. A beer at work isn’t going to kill anyone.
Bring your joy to your job.
It only took me about two minutes to write this list, and that’s because I’m working for two women who do all of this all the time. Thank you, Tracey and Amy. I learn something from you every day, and it is a pleasure.