It’s one thing to supervise, oversee, or manage a bunch of people at work; it’s quite another to lead them. A lot of the time, the former approach gets things done, but it’s the latter approach that truly allows each person to come into their own.
Great leaders do exactly this: they’re able to tease out the greatness in each of their people such that everyone shines in their own way, while also coming together as a team with everyone else.
Of course, it’s much easier said than done. For a host of reasons, most executives in leadership positions find themselves meeting KPIs and achieving what they set out to do, without being able to step into the realm of inspirational leadership. Contrary to popular belief, though, it isn’t a realm that’s only available to the select few who are “natural leaders.”
Leadership is a skill, and like any other skill, it can be cultivated and sharpened into excellence. To that end, here’s how great leaders unlock their people’s full potential.
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What so many people often misunderstand about employee motivation is that it’s something that has to be given to people. Given, there are two different kinds of motivation: the kind that’s driven by external rewards like rewards and punishments, and the kind that’s what we consider internal drive.
Despite the fact that so many leaders often focus on the first “external” motivation, research has shown that it’s the second kind of motivation (“intrinsic motivation”) that is far more effective in reaching excellence.
The implication, though, is that there is no one-size-fits-all; if you truly want to motivate your employees, there’s no shortcut to it. Different things motivate different people differently; some people are most driven by the knowledge that their work is impacting others (or the larger society) positively, while others are more traditional type-A achievers.
Knowing who in your team is motivated by which desires necessitates that you cultivate deep, personal, genuine relationships with each of them to understand who they are, what they value, what their ambitions and dreams are, how you can help them to actualise these, and what’s standing in their way.
Growth can only occur when people are constantly challenged to rise above their past achievements. The second part of that sentence is crucial: you need to help people understand that progress and growth should be measured against themselves, not against others.
Of course, friendly competition between team members can help precipitate growth too, but the crux of the matter is that growth is about beating yourself more so than beating anybody else.
This is also one of the main thrusts of the growth mindset, which has been shown to help people thrive both at work and in life. Growth-minded people are most concerned with self-improvement, and are thus unafraid of taking on bigger, greater, challenges or of risking failure. Great leaders cultivate growth mindsets in their people by:
Getting your people to realise and practice this is key, and to that end, helping them develop self-efficacy is critical.
For your people to feel like they can rise to any challenge you throw their way, they need to have a strong sense of confidence couched in self-efficacy.
There’s a slight difference; confidence refers more to a general self-perception, while self-efficacy relates more specifically to your perceived skill levels vis-a-vis particular tasks you need to accomplish.
The point is, though, that people need to feel sure in their own abilities and talents. Great leaders help them do this by showing them what they can achieve if they really set their minds to it.
This requires, first and foremost, that you help them identify their core strengths. These aren’t just the areas they’re good at. According to business consultant and former Gallup senior researcher Marcus Buckingham, enjoyment is a crucial element of strength as well. In other words, strengths are those areas that you’re both good at and that enjoy.
Focusing on these strengths is key to developing growing self-efficacy; the better the strengths-task fit, the greater the performance. That, in turn, feeds back into a strong sense of personal achievement and better employee engagement.