The One Quality Most People Want From A Leader

June 14, 2016, 12:00 AM UTC
Photograph via Getty Images

The Entrepreneur Insiders network is an online community where the most thoughtful and influential people in America’s startup scene contribute answers to timely questions about entrepreneurship and careers. Today’s answer to the question,” What leadership style should every entrepreneur try to adopt?” is written by Andy Lark, chief marketing officer of Xero.

Understanding what leadership style works for your personality and being consistent is what every entrepreneur needs to do to drive an organization forward.

The key isn’t what you choose to do – it is what you choose to do consistently. The only way to understand what leadership style works with your team is to ask for real-time feedback. Ask your team after your next one-on-one how they experienced it – did they get value from the conversation? Do they feel you heard their challenges and concerns? Seek feedback and journal actions. Distill those into no more than three clear leadership actions you plan to consistently implement across everything you do. These should be the most significant skills or actions you plan to nurture.

Around these three actions will be other smaller actions you need to work on. Leaders are human. They mess up. The more human they are, the more they mess up. Some argue that if you aren’t messing up, you aren’t pushing hard enough. But messing up means cleaning up.

Central to making progress is establishing clear metrics that function not only as a finish line, but also a constant reminder of what you need to do. So, if you plan to develop quality, high-performance relationships with your direct reports, you might set a goal of consistent one-on-ones that result in constructive conversations and clarity on progress of objectives and key results. To do this, you might develop a simple spreadsheet to remind you of the one-on-ones and on which you score their quality. Instrumenting leadership behavior changes the quality of that behavior.

As a leader, it’s crucial you identify the behavior you most want to see in your leaders – you will become a reflection of them, and they of you. For me, that quality is humility, which helps you understand that, no one person will ever have all the right answers given the complex world we live in. You don’t learn from others, or your mistakes, unless you’re humble enough to understand this.

Humble leaders ask for feedback or constructive criticism and they listen when it’s dished out. They admit their mistakes and aim to empower teams. They show courage by being comfortable with calculated risk and failure.

A recent Catalyst study showed companies with humble leaders are more likely to be innovative and have teams that are more dedicated to the company.

There are a few ways entrepreneurs can build a more humble culture in their organization:

Show that it’s ok to be human

Real people aren’t perfect all the time. Showing your team that you’re human helps them understand that you’re more than just a boss. By being transparent about your mistakes and the lessons you’ve learned over your career you can foster stronger teams and a culture of selflessness, where work politics takes a back seat to what’s best for the company, customer and team.

Encourage open, unfiltered conversation

A lot can be misconstrued over email. Encouraging your team to actually stand up and talk to each other can improve awareness, team dynamics and company culture. Airing out various perspectives can help team members feel more included and in the long run, can improve innovation. By incorporating more points of view, you’re more likely to come up with more creative solutions.

Get comfortable with the unknown

Embracing uncertainty and not knowing all the answers can actually drive a curious team to fill in the blanks. By not assuming you know everything, you create room for your team to search high and low for solutions, to test ideas and challenge themselves.

Growing a startup isn’t a linear journey. You’re going to make many mistakes and the ability to admit when you’re wrong is a critical quality that can be used to bring your teams closer together. To help your employees understand how to take calculated risks, fail fast, iterate and keep pushing forward.

By leading an organization to be human and humble, you will get to see amazing people do amazing things. Simply because you’re establishing an environment where it’s ok to try and fail – as long as you try.