Most of us in business leadership have at least some degree of pride in our title, whether it’s manager, director, vice president, CEO, or owner. We put it on our business cards, on our office door, under our name in mail and email signature blocks. It lets people know two things: what you do, and how far you’ve risen.
Of course, there’s nothing wrong with taking pride in your hard work or being happy when it’s rewarded. But the farther up the ladder you go, the more important it is to remember how little your title means to the people who matter most: the people on your team.
In the workplace or elsewhere, it’s human nature to try to exercise whatever power you’ve attained. But for too many leaders, that reaction leads to a sense of isolation and arrogance that are not only isolating but counterproductive.
When you’re with your team, here are the most important titles you can bring:
When you draw people out and make it clear that you welcome their input, the advantages are twofold: First, you benefit from their unique perspective, their knowledge, and their ideas. Second, you let them know that their contributions are valued. Make yourself accessible and keep your ears and mind open.
Whatever the situation, people respond well to communication that’s honest, clear, and forthright. Keep channels open for communication with your team, both in groups and one on one. Respond to questions with candor, and try to find out what you don’t know. Especially in a time of crisis or uncertainty, make sure people know everything they need to know. There’s no greater way to build trust in a team.
Great teams don’t come together by chance. There’s always a coach who watches, assesses, and makes decisions based on what’s best for the group. Where does the team need more help? Who might function better in a different role? How’s the group’s morale? What challenges will the next week likely bring, and how can you prepare together?
Even though a leadership role naturally sets you apart, be willing every day to roll up your sleeves and help do what’s needed. Understand your team’s roles well enough to be genuinely useful, defer to the judgment of the team member in whose area you’re working if need be, and never consider any job beneath you.
Above all, be the person your team trusts to look out for them, stand up for them, be their advocate, and guide everyone together toward successful outcomes.
Titles are great, but it’s the high esteem of your closest colleagues, your team, that will bring the most meaning to your work life—and bring you continued success. You may not be able to fit it onto a business card, but it will be visible just the same.