Kickass Leaders Focus on These 3 Things


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What's up, #shiftyestribe! The topic of my dreams is finally here: Leadership. There's a lot to unpack here, so I’m going to be talking about leadership in a number of different forms. I'll be fired up and likely ruffle some feathers this month, which is fine with me because there are some important things that a lot of leaders and companies get wrong that just need to be said. 

Before we dive into anything around leadership, I want to emphasize that you do not have to be in a position of leadership, in terms of actually leading other people, in order for this to be relevant to you. Leadership applies to every person on every team in every function and even if you're not a leader of people now, you likely will be at some point in your career. So, everybody listen up.

The key ingredient is a leader who is highly adept at leadership of themselves and others who also knows how to make culture a living, breathing thing.

First off, I want to address the “why”—why leadership matters. We are not trying to become great leaders just to be able to say we're great leaders. The reason that leadership matters is because every single outcome that you're chasing in business—whether that is higher team performance, engagement, collaboration, a better culture, more cohesive teams or higher sales numbers—literally any outcome is greatly impacted by leadership. 

According to a recent report by Deloitte, global organizations invest approximately $31 billion annually on leadership development programs. In a related study, the Corporate Leadership Council found that those dollars spent have only improved global productivity by 2%. So, companies understand that quality leadership is important but what they’re trying isn’t working. I think they’re having trouble because they are missing what the essence of leadership is really all about—how to articulate, create, and drive exceptional culture. The key ingredient is a leader who is highly adept at leadership of themselves and others who also knows how to make culture a living, breathing thing.

Adapting to different people and situations is a key to great leadership. Not everyone is influenced and motivated by the same things.

Leadership, at its core, is really about the influence of human beings on other people, so we're talking about human dynamics in all forms—even if it's negative. For example, you have a toxic person on your team or in an organization, and when that person is in the meeting, nobody wants to speak up or talk. If that person poo-poos an idea or a change that it taking place and other people are quick to agree, “Yeah, yeah that sucks.” That is leadership. It's a negative example of it but it is the influence of that person on others based on their attitude, the energy that they bring, and how they show up. The same is true for an extremely positive employee and the impact they have on the rest of the team. Both an example of leadership; it is applicable across the board regardless of your function or role and relevant to everyone. 

As we cover this topic, we're going to dive into the three buckets of leadership which are: self leadership, leadership of others, and leadership of an entity

  1. Self leadership is around emotional intelligence, self-awareness, leadership presence, growth mindset, and continuous improvement. This is important because a workplace Gallup poll showed that 82% of managers and executives were seen as lacking in leadership skills by their employees. Leaders need to get real about their performance and make strides to make sure they are delivering for their teams.

  2. Leadership of others: This relates to how you lead other people effectively; how to navigate conflict; how to give and receive coaching and feedback; how to lead through change. Can you influence and inspire? Do you make others feel listened to? Can you navigate difficult conversations in a direct, effective way? This ties into your relationship management and situational leadership skills.

  3. Leadership of an entity: This is about workplace culture, the leadership of a team, organization, or department, and how to drive a team’s commitment to an intentional code of conduct for how people show up and impact each other. For the most part, asking most leaders or organizations to explain exactly what their culture is results in a blank stare. According to recent Gallup research, less than half of U.S. employees (41%) strongly agree that they know what their organization stands for and what makes it different from its competitors. These are just two symptoms of poorly defined and executed culture. Great leaders understand how to articulate, create, and sustain exceptional company culture.

Each of these three buckets belong to you as a leader. In order to be a fully rounded, exceptional leader, you have to have skills and knowledge in all of those areas. not something that you just do right once and it works. It is something you have to constantly cultivate.

Lastly, there is a metaphor that resonates with me when it comes to leadership; that leadership is a tree, an apple tree for example. You can't just plant an apple tree, then pluck an apple the next day and enjoy it. You have to cultivate and grow the tree in order for it to bear fruit, and leadership is the same way. It is not something that you just do right once and it works. It must be constantly cultivated. If you want fruit, you have to create the right soil, the right conditions, you have to water, feed, nurture and nourish it every single day to keep it alive and healthy. Eventually, it will provide delicious fruit. In business, this fruit is our desired business objectives: high-performing teams, retention, a stronger bottom line, and the multitude of things that are important to organizations and leaders.

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This article was created by keynote speaker Galen Emanuele for the #shiftyestribe. Free leadership and team culture content centered on a new focus every month. Check out the rest of this month's content and subscribe to the Shift Yes Tribe at