Even Santa Claus has his own book of leadership lessons. I’ve learned from Jesus, Churchill, and Teddy and Franklin Roosevelt, as well as the whole gang of notorious leaders in my friend Steve Williams’ great book Business Lessons From History's Most Ruthless Leaders. Now, Santa Claus has entered the leadership arena with Eric Harvey’s book The Leadership Secrets of Santa Claus: How to Get Big Things Done in Your Workshop All Year Long, as told to “creative elf” Steve Ventura.
Besides being fun to read, this is the best kind of book, filled with sound, but easy-to-understand, advice that makes a lot of sense. There are no frills, flurries, or—best of all—charts. The book simply shares honest advice on leadership from the big guy himself.
Over the years, I have found that the best advice is human advice, meaning when leaders treat their people as people and as not a part of a system. That’s why I normally lean toward books like this one.
It has also confounded me that most business owners I know have not spent a lot of time on leadership, which is not only a shame but also a serious contributor to the lack of effective leadership in companies in our industry.
Although it’s true that some people are born leaders, most of us are not. Most of us must study, read about, emulate others, and do whatever we can to become great leaders. Reading books like this one is one of the best ways to learn leadership. From Harvey’s book, here are nine tips on being a good leader.
- Be accessible (physically and mentally) to employees who would like your attention: To this, I say, “Amen.” Be intentional when you talk to your people and truly listen to what they have to say.
- Be considerate of staff members’ needs: Nothing says leadership like caring for your people. People in leadership positions who don’t care about their people get the respect they deserve.
- Provide employees with the training, tools, resources, and feedback required for success: Just like leaders need to be continually trained, so do employees. You never know enough, and without training, you can never achieve full mastery of your position.
- Keep employees in the loop: This goes without saying, but we’ll say it anyway because assuming that everyone knows what’s going on is always the wrong thing to do. Part of being a good leader is repeating the same messaging over and over again. This might sound boring, but it is the only way to make sure you always have solid communication and keep everyone in the loop.
- Help team members maintain an appropriate balance between their professional and personal lives: Pay attention to this, especially when you are dealing with people under a lot of pressure. It’s better to play the long game and make sure everyone is healthy both physically and mentally so that they will be around and productive for a long time.
- Demonstrate respect for employees’ time and talents, as well as for them as individuals: Managers who refuse to do this are not leaders and will never gain the respect and admiration from their team that a true leader needs to have.
- Solicit, and listen to, staff members’ ideas and concerns: This is a tough one for a lot of people. Sometimes, the hardest thing for a leader to do is to listen to what their people are saying, but it is also the most important thing for a leader to do. People need to know their opinions are valued.
- Help everyone develop and grow: This is so important. I suggest that you put everyone on your team on a career path plan. A great leader will see themselves as a steward of their associates’ careers. They are the one person who has the most influence on the individuals on their team, as well as the power to make or break their careers. This is a great deal of responsibility, and a true leader treats it as such.
- Fairly distribute the work and workload: The operative word here is “fairly.” Ensure that everyone does their fair share of the work, but also make sure that everyone gets to share in all projects—especially the more challenging ones that will provide them with the career experience they need to learn and grow.
And finally, my own idea is to get them ready for the next step by preparing them to be the leaders of tomorrow. You can do this through your actions and words. I always urge the managers I work with to train their people as if they were to going to be their successors; in the end, one of them will most likely become just that.
The one test of a great leader is what the people on your team you are managing think of you as a leader. Ask yourself, “Would my team follow me through hell, no matter what?” If the answer to that question is a resounding, “Yes!” then you are a truly great leader.
It’s only common sense.
Dan Beaulieu is president of D.B. Management Group.