As a leader, whether of a product, business, or team, numerous skills are required for success. The most effective leaders motivate and inspire their teams, use data-driven approaches to achieve objectives, and possess numerous positive traits. However, one of the most crucial characteristics of exceptional leaders is prioritizing their team’s needs over their ego.
Great Leaders Share the Spotlight
Outstanding leaders never claim credit for their team’s achievements but always accept responsibility when things go awry. They’re quick to redirect praise to their team members, recognizing that their team’s accomplishments reflect well on them as leaders. Simultaneously, they protect their teams from undue blame when problems emerge, taking accountability to foster loyalty, commitment, and risk-taking. Exceptional leaders don’t require the spotlight for validation; they elevate their teams and let them shine instead.
- Regularly recognize and celebrate team members’ individual and collective achievements.
- Encourage a collaborative environment where everyone feels valued and heard.
- Practice active listening and be open to receiving feedback from your team.
Skip-Level Meetings: Fostering Transparency and Trust
One method exceptional leaders use to support their teams is by conducting skip-level meetings. These meetings allow leaders to connect with employees who don’t report to them directly, fostering a culture of transparency, trust, and innovation. By offering employees a platform to express their ideas, concerns, and feedback, leaders empower their teams and cultivate a sense of ownership in the organization’s success. This approach leads to improved decision-making, increased accountability, and stronger talent pipelines.
- Schedule regular skip-level meetings with a diverse group of employees.
- Create a safe space for open and honest communication during these meetings.
- Act on feedback and suggestions to demonstrate your commitment to continuous improvement.
Leaders Who Sacrifice for Their Teams
As Simon Sinek writes in “Leaders Eat Last,” outstanding leaders make sacrifices for their teams. “Leaders are the ones who are willing to give up something of their own for us. Their time, their energy, their money, maybe even the food off their plate. When it matters, leaders choose to eat last.” By prioritizing their teams, exceptional leaders earn trust and commitment, driving superior results.
The best leaders build a bench stronger than them. Lift them up, and let them shine. Be wary of leaders who constantly want attention and praise while their teams do the real work behind the scenes.
- Let those in your team get the spotlight. Let them present at the big meetings so they get visibility and growth. Coach and prep them from the sidelines.
- Be present and available for your team, even when it’s inconvenient.
- Offer support and resources to help your team achieve their goals.
- Model empathy and understanding when team members face personal or professional challenges.
Demanding Excellence and Providing Constructive Feedback
Great leaders also expect excellence and push their teams beyond their comfort zones. They offer constructive criticism and challenging feedback to help their teams develop and reach their full potential. Exceptional leaders set high standards and support their teams in achieving new heights.
- Set clear expectations, goals and performance standards for your team.
- Don’t mince your words when coaching or giving feedback. Be clear and actionable, while also kind and caring.
- Provide timely, specific, and actionable feedback to help team members improve.
- Encourage continuous learning and development through training and mentorship opportunities.
Focusing on the Right Metrics
To be an outstanding and impactful leader, it’s vital to concentrate on the appropriate metrics. While Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) offer insights into a specific aspect of a business’s performance, not all KPIs carry equal importance.
Leaders must discern critical signals from the noise. They need to help their teams identify and concentrate on their North Star Metric, a single metric representing the core value a product or service provides to customers. This metric should be universal across the entire organization, aligning everyone towards a shared goal.
- Collaborate with your team to identify the most relevant North Star Metric for your organization.
- Regularly review and adjust the metric as needed to maintain alignment with your organization’s goals and vision.
- Communicate the importance of the North Star Metric to the entire organization and ensure that everyone understands their role in achieving it.
Balancing Incremental Gains and Moonshot Thinking
While incremental improvements matter, transformative innovations redefine industries. Leaders must pursue a mix of incremental gains and moonshot thinking. Incrementalism maintains existing products as moonshots work to create the next wave of growth. A balanced portfolio of innovation avoids stagnation or disruption.
Goals are only as good as a leaders’ ambition and willingness to push the team to stretch — to reach for the stars. So why do so many product leaders focus on incremental improvements or set incremented North Star goals? Because it feels safer to tweak a tried-and-tested product or service in order to eke out those extra few percentage points that might make it marginally better. Its almost guaranteed to show some incremental growth and short term returns. Whereas the bigger bets may very well deliver nothing, especially in the short term.
But there is a paradox here: it is often the transformational, moonshot innovations that lead to truly transformative success. Moonshot thinking requires leaders to push past constraints and take risks in pursuit of breakthroughs. It is not impeded by past assumptions and leads to innovations that redefine industries. Leaders must create psychological safety so teams feel empowered to experiment and possibly fail in the pursuit of radical innovation.
The Innovator’s Dilemma shows that companies focused on incremental gains often miss disruptive changes that threaten their business. To avoid disruption, leaders must cultivate a moonshot mindset to spot opportunities for revolutionary change. Otherwise, product teams motivated by incremental gains rarely disrupt themselves.
- Encourage your team to think both short-term (incremental improvements) and long-term (moonshot innovations).
- Allocate resources and time to support both types of projects.
- Foster a culture of experimentation and learning, celebrating both successes and failures as opportunities for growth.
In summary, exceptional leadership demands a combination of skills, qualities, and characteristics. One common thread among the best leaders is their willingness to prioritize their team’s needs over their ego. By fostering a culture of inclusivity, transparency, and innovation, great leaders can empower their teams to achieve greatness. They must also be adaptable, continuous learners who communicate effectively and actively seek out diverse perspectives. Great leaders understand that empowering their teams is the key to success.
By implementing the actionable tips provided in each section, leaders can work towards developing an egoless leadership style that promotes collaboration, innovation, and growth within their teams. This approach ultimately leads to a stronger, more successful organization that can adapt to challenges and capitalize on opportunities.