Some of the leaders that I have most admired in the past have been those that are not afraid to get their hands dirty when it comes to working with the team. I recall my linebacker coach at McKinley (go pups!) that worked harder in the weight room than anyone else on the team, and came to practice ready to sweat. Or perhaps my sprint coach at the University of Chicago that did wind sprints with us and was just as tired at the end of practice as we were. Maybe the plant manager that made it a point to go out to the floor at shift changes to talk to employees and ask them about their families and their day.
In all of these cases, I saw that these individuals were not just there to tell us what to do, or to take all the credit for a job well done. Instead, they were invested in the TEAM’S success, and nurtured and fostered an environment of inclusion. If there was an issue, they were not caught off guard by it, because they walked ahead of us, and in many cases, shielded us from the impact as much as they could. They motivated us, encouraged us, and made what we were doing have value.
So my advice to leaders or those looking to lead: get in the fray. Don’t be afraid to get out of the comfort of your office to spend time with and among your employees. Find out what their issues and hot buttons are. Charge the hill ahead of them, and be willing to do even more that what you would ask of them. When employees see a leader like that, they are driven to follow.