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7 Brutal Truths About Leadership Not Too Many People Want to Hear

If you've ever experienced great leadership, you probably remember how that person -- your boss -- made you feel. Because true leadership, at its core, is a matter of the heart.

Poet and civil rights activist Maya Angelou famously stated, "People will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel."

Starting on the journey toward great leadership demands having to face some brutal truths about what truly defines leadership success. However, it may not be what you want to hear (or read).

1. Leaders must face conflict to solve problems.

Conflict is unavoidable when human beings are involved. Rather than being passive-aggressive, true leaders are aware that cutting through conflict with active listening skills to understand a situation from all angles is a much faster solution to resolving an issue than running away from conflict and avoiding people.

2.  Leaders must grow people.

Leaders with a high degree of integrity make it a top priority to know their people in order to grow their people. They spend considerable time pouring into the lives of others through mentoring and by exposing them to new responsibilities that will stretch their development. Leaders who fall short with their commitments to growing and improving their people will likely fail at forming lasting relationships that lead to results.

3. Leaders must put employees ahead of customers.

Every leader's role should be about serving the employees -- those who are closest to the customer experience, first. Great leaders realize that their No. 1 customer is their employees. If they take care of their people, train them, and empower them, those people will become fully engaged about what they do. In turn, they will reach out and take care of their second most important customer--the people who buy their products or services.

4. Leaders must make the workplace safe.

Research on psychological safety by Amy Edmondson of Harvard indicates that when leaders foster a culture of safety -- meaning employees are free to speak up, experiment, give feedback, and ask for help -- it leads to better learning and performance outcomes. When psychological safety is absent, fear is present. And fear is detrimental to achieving a company's full potential. 

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