“As a leader listen, observe. interact, be transparent. You don’t have to have all the answers. Leave open space for others to create.” 

A lot of leaders think that they have to have all the answers. After all, they were promoted into leadership either because

  • they are very smart – people were always drawn to them and they are the natural leaders everyone wants to follow,
  • they worked really hard and worked their way up proving to others that they have the knowledge and work ethics to be at the top, or
  • they have been in an organization a long time, and now it is their turn to be in a leadership position
  • nobody else is out there who wanted to step up and lead.

When you look at all four scenarios, on the outside it looks like that nobody has been put in a leadership position because they frequently said, “I don’t know. What do you think?” And so for leaders there is this impression that they have to have all the answers. They have to be smarter than everybody else. They have to work longer and harder. And they have to save the team / department / company in times of trouble by knowing, directing, controlling, telling and sometimes even yelling. And yes there are times when knowing, directing, telling, and controlling are necessary. But you want these times to be an exception rather than normality.

Instead, you want to learn from your team and you want to bring out their best by listening, observing, interacting, and being transparent. Your team members are at the front line and they know more about customers, processes, and everyday issues than you do. Additionally, a group of people always knows more than just one person and not only that – when you allow the group to interact, collaborate, and co-create – new ideas come up that not one single person could have come up on his/her own.

So to be effective in your leadership role, step back. Listen and learn from your team. Interact, co-create, be transparent. Keep your ego in check. Use Emotional Intelligence and Conversational Intelligence. Allow them to step up and bring their best. And that is where you will make the biggest difference as a leader.

What tips and ideas can you share with fellow leaders to bring out the best of your team? How do you remind yourself to listen more and to observe? What does “be transparent as a leader” mean to you? I look forward to reading your comments and learn from you.