After more than 25 years of working in different functions across various companies, managers, and geographies, I have come to learn a lot about leadership. By no means am I an expert, yet I pride myself in practicing, watching others, and seeing how leaders’ actions impact the actions of others. Maybe call me a student of leadership.
Personal and professional life is a leadership laboratory. Every day, there are opportunities to further develop and grow your capabilities. I have learned over the years it isn’t about making big decisions or what books you read or quote, but more about how you engage, inspire, and energize people, helping them maximize their contributions.
Below are some of these key learnings, many of which I have learned from my heralded leaders. In these somewhat tumultuous times of the “Great Resignation,” I hope something here strikes a useful chord to help you help your people.
- Treat people like people. “Walk the floor” and take time to know your people and what they are working on. Be authentic, sensitive, caring, and even vulnerable. Recognize that employees have unique work-life balance needs and support them in pursuing them. Remember – no matter your rank or role, we are all human.
- Communicate often, broadly, effectively. Never assume communications transfer correctly. Don’t hide behind electronics – balance verbal, visual, and electronic forms of communication. Read the room and look for the unspoken words via body language – bring disengaged people into the discussion. Praise in public, but provide constructive feedback in private. Performance discussions should be ongoing.
- Trust, empower, delegate, and take ownership. Engage the “bowling alley bumpers,” but let your team “bowl!” Be there to coach along the way, showing your team you are willing to get your hands dirty too. Empower others to own their world, but you are responsible for the team’s outcomes. If the team succeeds, it’s “we” succeeded. If the team fails, it’s “I” failed. Do your best to not be the holdup for things your team is trying to accomplish.
- Be humble; keep your ego in check. Always remember where you started. Put yourself in the shoes of your employees, shoes you likely wore somewhere along your path. Allow your employees to make mistakes and seek to fully understand when they do. Recognize when you may be at fault for a misstep and seek to correct it with proper communication, training, and support. Your job as a leader is to serve, not be served!
- Use appropriate energy, stay nimble. Know when to have a garden hose and when to have a fire hose – not every situation requires the same energy. Surround yourself with talent that complements your strength and development areas. Tap into each person’s individuality and talents to maximize overall team success. Embrace change, and always remember your role in helping others around you through that change.
- Align your team. Usually, teams struggle most because of a lack of alignment, primarily when this occurs at the highest levels of an organization. Always do your best to get team members bought into the mission, especially as it relates to internal and external customers.
- Mentor others. Take the time to mentor and train others, be it at work and/or in the larger community. I have always found added energy and personal joy in helping others be successful. And if you are being honest with yourself, you know you got to where you are in part because someone helped you.
- Be a good neighbor. Giving back to the community has long been a part of my personal mission. Engaging your team with the community and allowing them to give back through donations or volunteerism is a powerful way to unite and build a team.
- Build bridges, stay connected. Careers are long, and you never know when someone from your past turns out to be part of your future. I have also learned repeatedly that the fastest path to go from “A” to “B” sometimes requires you to pass through “C” first, where “C” involves bringing other people along for the journey.
Some days will feel like a giant experiment – you can find a winning formula, or things may just blow up in your face! People are variables. The daily challenges of work are the constants.
As I continue my own leadership journey, I know that wherever I go, the art, science, and language of leadership remain the same. I will do my best to keep these life learnings in front of me as my guide, and I hope they serve you well too!
Eric B. Luftig is currently the Managing Director of EBL Consulting, LLC. Prior to this position, Eric held various Senior Leadership positions at Victaulic, Nordson, and General Electric across Operations, Engineering, and Commercial functions. Eric’s Teams have a long-standing history of delivering business growth and receiving industry recognition for their efforts. Eric currently also serves on the Advisory Board for “Lafayette College’s Dyer Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship” and as a Senior Advisor to the “&Marketing” consultancy firm. He is also the recent past Board Chair for Valley Youth House and also served on the Boards of LVEDC, Northampton Community College, and the State Theatre of Easton. Eric’s strong leadership and commitment to the community through these and several other organizations led him to receive a Spirit of Volunteerism award in 2018 from the Volunteer Center of Lehigh Valley, PA.