Today I’m going to change your view on leadership with an 11-year old friend of mine – Logan.
His fresh perspective on leadership blew me away. And not only will it add to the deep, intuitive leadership skills you already possess, but it’s simple enough to challenge the fundamentals and take them to a whole new level.
To prove my point, I’m sharing our discussion on the three things leaders avoid doing and how the same lessons apply to everyday life (you can watch the video here). With these refreshing, timeless insights, you’ll be better prepared to lead the transformation into a healthier, empowered work culture.
What Do You (Really) Think A Leader Is?
Most people have trouble coming up with a clear definition of leadership without adding in some jargon.
You can blame it on the fact that “leadership” is a word that is tossed around so often that we assume we all know what it means. Some of the most common answers revolve around being “someone who has business acumen” or who “sets the vision and goals for a company”, followed by a list of qualities like empathy, diversity, or responsibility.
These answers are all valid, but the jargon distracts from the core mission…
According to Logan, a leader is someone who “leads people and helps them out to be successful in life and in jobs.”
You couldn’t ask for a more poignant, straight-forward answer.
But most importantly, it’s revealing.
There is no doubt that young people have a distinct image of people in leadership. They may not say it exactly, but they expect a leader who can visualize success and provide others with the momentum and tools they need to reach that goal.
And the common thread that ties it all together?
They put people first.
And for transformational leaders to accomplish that objective, they need empathy and connection. Which, in turn, requires extraordinary communication that extends far beyond the boardroom.
But to accomplish that, you have to steer clear of the 3 things leaders avoid doing:
Complaining – criticizing – and comparing.
Leaders Don’t Complain, They Solve Problems
I asked Logan how he felt whenever he complained, and his response was, “I feel bad because it’s not something you’re supposed to do anyways…you won’t be successful if you keep complaining a lot.”
The main take-away here: complaining never produces success in the way you’re expecting it to.
As opposed to what you’re trying to do (help your team get back on track, improve performance and avoid future mistakes ), you’ll demoralize and demotivate them.
Complaining focuses on the problem, rather than putting your energy into creating a solution.
So instead of complaining and pointing fingers, transformational leaders focus on helping their team find solutions. This approach allows others to grow and develop while also helping to create better results overall.
It will also create an environment where people feel valued and respected, where everyone is encouraged to bring solutions to the table and get the work done to make it happen.
And if this still seems basic to you – be honest with yourself and think back to the last time you complained at work. How did it affect your attitude, your peers, or your results?
Then decide to become more aware of when that complaining spirit rises up, and shift that energy in a positive direction.
The bottom line:
- Don’t immediately complain about tough decisions or poor performance.
- Pay attention to employee morale.
- Focus on the solution rather than the problem
- And ultimately, remind them that their success is a common goal you share with them.
You’ll be surprised at how much valuable time you’ll save, and what better results you’ll create, by not complaining.
Leaders Don’t Criticize, They Revise
Logan didn’t know what the word “criticize” meant when I asked him about it.
So I explained to him that “Sometimes telling someone, ‘Hey, you need to do this differently’ can be a good thing. But there are other times where people just want to tell others that they’re doing wrong for no real reason.”
Logan nodded in agreement and said, “It just happens.”
His immediate response made me realize how normal and even expected criticism is in our day-to-day lives. So much so, that an 11-year-old understands it as a fact of life that “just happens”.
A transformational leader, however, seeks to change that narrative.
And while “criticizing others” should be one of the obvious things leaders avoid doing, what’s less obvious is its more productive alternative: constructive criticism. When executed thoughtfully and strategically, constructive criticism accepts flaws and failure, and offers feedback with suggestions for improvement.
Note the difference:
If you criticize someone, you don’t give them a chance to learn from their mistakes. You don’t provide constructive ways to address issues and solve challenges. Instead, you’re reinforcing old behaviors and adding nothing new to the conversation.
In short, criticism is feedback without a way forward.
Constructive criticism, on the other hand, changes the content of your communication.
For example, if you start off by saying, “You’ve been really slow lately,” or “Your sales numbers have dropped dramatically,” you haven’t offered anything helpful. This kind of feedback rarely builds positive relationships between individuals.
Contrast this with saying something like, “I’ve noticed your sales have dropped recently and I want to share with you some ideas of how to get them back up.”
This kind of communication will build trust and meaningful connections through open dialogue.
- Encourage progress, not perfection.
- People are more likely to respond positively to you when you treat them well.
- Criticism doesn’t motivate people to change (and usually ends up making things worse).
Moral of the story is that criticism is one of the things leaders avoid doing because it leads your team nowhere. Instead, consult its better half – constructive criticism – so you and your team can get better at recognizing patterns and making positive, measurable changes.
Leaders Don’t Compare, They Create Connection
What’s the best way to teach comparison?
Okay well, at least it worked with Logan!
At first we set up the scenario of his Mom baking cinnamon rolls and I asked him how he would feel if the one he got was bigger than his sister’s and vice versa.
If he got the larger one, Logan said he would “feel pretty happy”, but wished they ended up with the same thing.
If he got a smaller one, he would feel “a little bad” because he wanted the big one.
In short, it was a sticky situation with no obvious solution.
This simple exercise boiled down to this: comparison never leads to what you really want to feel.
When you compare yourself to people on your team, you’ll notice that you end up feeling worse about yourself and less confident in your ability to succeed. Similarly, communicating how one individual team member compares to another will only drive them apart.
So in your effort to inspire better performance through comparison, the result you actually create is an environment of competition rather than collaboration.
For example, let’s play the scenario out like this:
One of your employees (we’ll call him Bob), has been progressing much slower on a project compared to Jill. So you go up to him and say “Hey, have you seen Jill lately? She’s been moving fast on that project but it looks like you’re not keeping pace. How come you’re working slower than her?”
I think you can guess how well Bob might react to that statement.
Instead of bringing comparison, a great leader will bring support and a solution.
For instance, instead of saying “Bob, you’re working slower than Jill,” consider saying something like “Hey, I noticed you’ve been slower than usual. Is there any way I can help? Since Jill’s ahead of schedule I could ask her to help out.”
By offering suggestions from the thought of “how can I bring the team closer together” as opposed to matching them against one another, you encourage teams to grow together and foster collaboration.
- Recognize each member’s strengths and abilities.
- Acknowledge positive performance more often than not.
- Foster an environment of growth and connectivity by avoiding comparison and inviting collaboration instead.
Ultimately, comparisons are an endless cycle of disappointment. By giving them up, you’ll save time and energy creating possibilities and positive outcomes.
In sweeter words, don’t focus on the size of one cinnamon roll against another. Be grateful that they‘re both delicious!
Make The Move To Ownership & Gratitude
You might think that these three things leaders avoid doing sound like common sense. After all, isn’t it obvious not to complain, criticize, and compare?
But awareness doesn’t necessitate implementation.
At the end of the day, leaders don’t have to avoid these things.
What sets transformational leaders apart is their conscious decision to take better ownership over their thoughts, words, and actions.
So next time you find yourself in a position where you could complain, criticize, or compare, use this one move to avoid all three:
Gratitude will immediately lead you back to how you really want to feel and transform your communication.
In Logan’s case, he turned a sticky situation into a sweet victory by turning his attention away from the size of his cinnamon roll and towards his gratitude for his family, health, and food.
And although you will have more challenging situations to face as a leader, no situation is too big or too complex to benefit from gratitude.
Conclusion: Lead The Change As A Transformational Leader
Although these 3 principles may seem obvious from the surface, you’ll realize how deeply ingrained they are in every day conversations at work and in daily life. For instance, take an honest look at your own life…
Have you complained at all this week?
Could you be better with your feedback?
Do you catch when you compare yourself to others (and vice versa)?
If your results are not where you want them to be, I guarantee you have room for improvement in these fundamentals.
And throughout your time as a leader, I’m sure you’ve experienced your own fair share of complaint, criticism, and comparison.
It starts early (as Logan proved), and although you can’t guarantee a lifetime free of those three things, you can start making a difference by taking ownership and introducing more gratitude into your life and others.
If you have the burning desire to make an even BIGGER impact by transforming your entire team and the results you generate, here’s my message to you:
If you desire greater business, it’s possible through YOU.
You don’t have to wait on anyone else to lead the charge forward.
And if you feel called to step into a higher level of leadership, I invite you to grab a free copy of my ebook “22 Great Qualities of a Transformational Leader”.
You’ll learn exactly what it takes to inspire, influence, and lead your team to success, at a level of performance ordinarily unimaginable.
So you can be ready to lead the transformation.
To your evolution,