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How to Be the Leader Your People Need Right Now


To become a better leader, it’s imperative to look through the lens of your employees’ experience.

This means getting real about leadership, the current business conditions, and your responsibility to determine what comes next for your team.

Here are some ideas to consider to become the leader your people need right now.


Recognize Common Lies About the Workplace

“Don’t study leadership, study followership and figure out the way to create it.”  

In Marcus Buckingham’s best-selling book, Nine Lies About Work, he explores concepts that perpetuate falsehoods in the workplace. Here are a few of his theories. 

LIE: People Care Which Company They Work For

TRUTH: People may be attracted to a company for its brand, but how long they stay is dictated by their team and their work environment. These realities are driven by the team leader.

LIE: The Best Companies Cascade Goals

TRUTH: The best leaders cascade meaning. That meaning is defined by the rituals you put in place, the stories you tell, and the heroes you recognize.

LIE: The Best People Are Well-Rounded

TRUTH: Each human has a unique contribution. Your job as a leader is to maximize that attribute. Teams aren’t the antithesis of the individual. Teams were made to make uniqueness useful.

LIE: People Need Feedback

TRUTH: Your job isn’t to give feedback. It’s to pay attention and help your people do better. Focus on what your people do well. Ask questions to determine how it can happen again.

LIE: People Have Potential

TRUTH: People don’t have potential; they have momentum. This means all are capable of change. They don’t have strengths and areas of opportunity; they have strengths that are their areas of opportunity.

Add Pauses Into Your Team’s Workday

According to WhiteSpace at Work founder and CEO Juliet Funt, WhiteSpace is time with no assignment. It’s a pause to think, plan, strategize, create, innovate, feel, recover, and reflect.

Instead of filling time as we do now with busy work, reply-all emails, and meetings, WhiteSpace releases the pressure gauge on the insatiability, conformity, and waste of current work reality. Here’s how.

Use the Wedge

Take a reductive mindset. Schedule a small moment of time to pry apart two activities that would usually be connected such as back-to-back meetings. To accomplish this:

  • Add hall time like the in-between class bells in high school
  • Cut five minutes from every meeting
  • Don’t always make a meeting take as long as it was scheduled
  • Break the compulsion to fill time if you finish early
  • Turn off cameras when you can

Fight the Thieves of Time

When the anxiety waters start rising, spot a thief and ask a question. Think of the questions as your emergency triaging tool.

  • Thief: Drive | Ask: Is there anything I can let go of?
  • Thief: Excellence | Ask: Where is good enough good enough?
  • Thief: Information | Ask: What do I truly need to know?
  • Thief: Activity | Ask: What deserves my attention?

Try the Yellow List

Start a Yellow List document with a section for everyone you frequently work with. Before you send an email, pause and ask: should this be an email? If it’s time-sensitive, it should probably be a phone call or DM. If it can wait, put it on the Yellow List. After a few days, have a verbal debrief of everything on your Yellow List.


Lean into Serendipitous Moments

Serendipity plays an important role in achieving success. It’s great to have a vision and make a plan, but you also have to keep your mind and eyes open for those unexpected sources of inspiration along the way. Here are five serendipitous ideas to lean on as you navigate your leadership journey. 

Be Open to More Than One Right Answer

Successful leaders acknowledge there are several paths to success. When leaders are vulnerable and transparent, it allows room for constructive feedback and helps avoid confirmation bias. Listening without interjecting long-held beliefs allows for unexpected collaboration, creativity, and innovation.

Believe You Can Learn Something From Everyone

Asking questions, being open to learning from others, and collaborating to achieve a better outcome can dramatically change your leadership trajectory. Being open to feedback and self-analysis creates space that opens up possibilities for success. When leaders stray away from humility, it closes the door on learning and improving.

Have Clear, Unambiguous Goals

It’s no secret that the key to success is hard work, but that alone doesn’t guarantee achievement. Effective leaders work toward clear goals, and they don’t justify poor results when goals aren’t achieved. Rather, they evaluate what could have been done differently and find new ways to move toward that goal. 


In the words of Earl Nightingale, “You become what you think about.” This has proven true for leaders who take time to set realistic, success-driven goals for themselves and their organizations.

Stay Close to Customers for Inspiration & Ideas

To understand what customers truly find valuable is vital to success. When leaders ask questions and listen to customer feedback, they are much more effective. Customers can also be sources for new ideas that lead to fresh solutions and innovations.

Focus on Mission, Vision, & Purpose

Effective leaders return to their guiding principles each time they need to make a key decision. When leaders communicate strategy to their team rather than focusing on individual tactics, everybody can align around the key pillars of the strategy and come up with alternative methods for achievement.

Becoming the Leader Your People Need Right Now

Now you know more about how to be the leader your people need in the current business climate.

By acknowledging misconceptions in the workplace, adding natural pauses throughout the workday, and taking advantage of serendipitous opportunities, you can figure out the next best move for your employees. 

Now is a moment of transition and possibility. As a leader, it’s up to you to set the course.


Tags: Leadership
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