The Open Door Swings Both Ways: Secret Number Two of a Three Part Leadership Series

This post is part two of my three-part series on secrets of successful leadership. In this post I will focus on the need to be trusting and bold. Don’t work alone, but collaborate. Be ready to step up and do the grunt work. Be a director, but also be ready to take direction. Remember, great success comes from great collaborations. You don’t have to make it on your own.

While techniques and methods are critical underpinnings of strong leadership, they are not its heart and soul. The difference between a technically good leader and a great leader is the actual passion, commitment, and caring that goes into the role. Leaders have the ability to inspire and recognize that each person has something to offer to the team process. Success is not a one-person show, but a collaborative effort. Stated another way, get out of a routine and take an approach that foments creativity and cooperation. So much more will come from the process when everyone on the team has an invested interest. One who can garner enthusiasm, creativity, experimentation, and positivity from others is the greatest leader of them all.

It can be scary to go in a new direction. But consider this, you’ve probably been working in your industry or a similar position for a decade or more. You can get in a rut – it’s inevitable. Your logical mind repeats learned responses and your creative mind sometimes just dries up. So, look to those who work for you to bring new insights and ideas. Let them run with those ideas.

Don’t be afraid to do the work of those who work for you. If your employees see that what they do is not beneath you, that you are willing to dig in and work side-by-side with them, they will feel that their work is valuable. After all, if it’s good enough for their leader it’s good enough for them. This is not to say to do their job for them, but it’s one aspect of leading by example. I have one executive coaching client who is a highly successful attorney at a huge international law firm. When it is time to put a big presentation together, she always stays and helps with the finishing touches. If that means copying or collating, that’s what she does. She never sees that such work is beneath her – and she always feels that her participation shows those who work for her that she deeply values their contributions. Many leaders forget that even the little gestures contribute to success. A great leaders steps in wherever and whenever necessary to get the job done.

Let’s call this bold, embracing new style “collaborative leadership.” And, let’s acknowledge this style for what it is: a way to get everyone involved.
Those who are involved feel wanted and integral. Those who feel wanted and integral feel important. Those who feel important, feel an obligation to contribute and make their very best effort. Those who are making a real concerted effort and applying themselves to a task are going to bring their best ideas and be the most creative. Those who are creative are going to get to the best solution. And, applying the best solution gets the best results and usually makes the most money.

In short, active collaboration will make you a great leader, a leader who gets strong, positive and wanted results.

Here’s the flow chart of what occurs with active collaboration and participation:

Leader makes team feel wanted and integralTeam members who feel wanted and integral feel importantThose who feel important have incentive to contributeThose who want to contribute make the best effortMaking the best effort results in creativityCreative ideas result in the best solutionsApplying the best solutions gets the best resultsThe best results mean successThe leader, through the process of collaboration, has achieved success in the project, the process, and the marketplace

To be clear, the best leaders cannot do it on their own. They have to step out of their office and out of their own heads. They have to trust those around them and bring them into the process. They also have to work on getting those around them to trust the leader too. It’s not enough to ask that your people contribute. You have to be willing to show a little vulnerability and that you are open, willing and ready to learn from them; you don’t know it all – they can help.

What this says about great leaders is that they have great people skills and this includes the ability to hire and surround themselves with bright, sharp creative minds who bring something to the table that challenges the leader and makes the leader better. Think about that for a moment more – the best leader must be confident enough to surround herself or himself with others who are smart and creative. Often this means hiring those whose ideas are not in complete alignment, or at least hiring those who are willing to challenge the leader in a constructive manner. Because the process of collaboration, the process from which success thrives and grows, does not necessarily mean consensus. It means sharing the entire process and getting personally involved in the means to the end as well as the end in itself.

This also brings us back to the old concept of an open door policy. Remember, success is a two-way street. It means that when you have a new project or assignment, you will actively go out to seek input. But, it also means that you will promote the idea that others can come to you with their ideas, problems and solutions. If they can initiate a change that will be promising for you and your business, they should be encouraged to do so. This process of collaboration is not then limited to the opportunities you knowingly and deliberately take to the floor. It also encompasses the multitude of other processes that are taken for granted because they already are entrenched in the organization. Let someone with a new idea feel welcome to open even an old idea up for discussion and change. Fresh ideas are the germs of the greatest change.

Greater intellectual power will come from many and from networking of energy and ideas. Consider being bold and look for the opportunity to find the strongest people in your organization. Then bring them in. They will make you look better because they will help you bring in the results you seek.

Here’s secret number two: Collaborate. Seek out the best in those around you. Use your employees and management team as the avenue to make you and your operation a success. Your entire operation will benefit in the microcosm of your business and in the macrocosm of your industry.