My Leadership Secrets

Leadership is a tough job sometimes. I get it. Truthfully.

I’ve been leading people for 20 years… Or 36 years, if you count when my first little brother was born. But that “leadership” (bossing my brothers around) didn’t end up very well for me, haha. To make a long story short, they ganged up on me once they were old enough! *covered face emoji*

Actually, my first few real leadership jobs didn’t go very well either! Some of my leadership secrets came from learning through experience. I was a terrible “manager” instead of a leader. A leader cares about their people. A leader supports their people. A leader makes their people feel safe, and a leader inspires people to WANT to achieve goals with them. I didn’t do any of those things. I cared about profit, systemization, and hitting goals so I could earn my management bonus. This was me before all of my personal development, and I learned the hard way that when people don’t feel taken care of, safe, and appreciated, they don’t perform for you. In fact, they don’t even want you around. Some of my employees even hated me. I totally understand this now. I wish I could apologize to every one of them because they deserved better.

Over the years I have read hundreds of books, attended thirty or more leadership development intensive courses, and tackled my Master’s in Business Administration. But not one of those things really showed me how to be the leader I am today. I developed my leadership secrets through experiencing real-life challenges with my staff, achieving goals with them (their business and personal goals), and really listening to them. Those were the biggest keys to our success. Notice I say “our success” now, vs. “my success” like I did as a “manager.”

I really differentiate between leadership and management. I used to be a manager. Now I am a leader, and I am so proud and honoured to be able to say that. I will ALWAYS keep improving myself because my teams deserve that; it feels really great to be around the people I lead because I do a pretty good job of it, and I feel mostly love and appreciation when I’m around them. Lucky for me, I’ve been blessed to find the most INCREDIBLE team in the world. Truly. And if you’re a client of any of my businesses I know you will agree: happy employees create happy customers. Happy employees really care.

You may have noticed, that the average employee does not feel like they owe you anything as their leader. And it’s true, they don’t. Today’s employees require:

  • An emotionally intelligent, organized, clear, and incredibly inspiring leader.
  • Very clear roles and goals.
  • Monthly reviews of KPIs and job descriptions when applicable.
  • You to keep your word, every time.
  • A feeling of safety and security created and sustained by you.
  • Lots of appreciation, and appreciation in their preferred “language.” (Check out the book “appreciation languages in the workplace.” This will save you SO MUCH TIME & MONEY! Your employees have a specific appreciation language, and until you know what it is, you can spend hundreds of thousands of dollars — trust me I did — on employees and STILL have them feel unappreciated because you didn’t take the time to learn that their preferred language is quality time, or words of affirmation, instead of YOUR preferred language.)

Click here to for the test that I recommend you have all of your employees (and yourself of course) take. 

My final leadership secret for this week is to ask your staff to write you a letter that tells you what would keep them working with you for 30 years. These letters will make you cry, inspire you, and give you the exact information you need to be the leader they deserve and crave. You can become the leader that they will work hard for, achieve goals for, and truly care about. That is the secret to leadership. Trust me.

TIP: For those leaders with dozens or even hundreds of employees, you should do this exercise with seven or fewer of your direct reports, and then your department leaders should do this exercise with the people in their departments. 

The even bigger leadership secret is that great leaders are always growing other leaders. So go teach this to someone else!

For more on effective leadership read some of my other tips: “Having ‘Challenging’ Conversations as a Leader.”

Business can be better™ and it should be!

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Kelli-Rae Tamaki

Kelli-Rae is truly passionate about successful business, and believes it can always be better, which is why she has spent 22 years studying, running, coaching and consulting with businesses, just like yours.
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