The Scaling Lounge: Business Strategy • Operations • Team

7 Traits of ‘A Leaders’: Leadership Qualities That Attract and Keep 'A Players'

August 29, 2023 Adriane Galea Episode 72
The Scaling Lounge: Business Strategy • Operations • Team
7 Traits of ‘A Leaders’: Leadership Qualities That Attract and Keep 'A Players'
Show Notes Transcript Chapter Markers

Human-centric leaders share 7 key traits – and they go way beyond the cookie-cutter “keep an open door policy” cliches that a quick Google search will spit out at you. 

Remember, ‘A Players’ don’t play for ‘B Leaders’ –  this quickie episode is just the framework you need to start leveling up your leadership game. 

Quick overview of what we cover: 

  • How creating a culture of respect for each team member’s ideas equally circumvents both people pleasing- and imposter syndrome-driven behaviors
  • Why you should expect to lose your best people – and what it says about what you both value
  • Not only is throwing people under the bus way beyond passé – it’s super damaging for humans with feelings (i.e., everyone)
  • How to delegate outcomes rather than tasks (and why that matters)
  • The 4 ways your team members are looking to feel by working with you 
  • Why boundaries are the ultimate kindness 
  • How to avoid ‘hoarding your vision’ (and what  unlocks for your biz when ‘your vision’ becomes ‘our vision’)
  • Why you must check your privilege at the door



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Speaker 1:

Welcome to the Soulpreneur show, a podcast for a new generation of leaders, visionaries, disruptors and trailblazers who want to do business better. Our goal is to provide you with stories and insights into the strategy, systems and soul behind scaling, service driven, impact first, human centric businesses to help you create time, financial and lifestyle freedom. We want you to have a business that you not only love and pays you well, but that prioritizes what you want for your life, so that you can take actual unplugged vacations, you can step away from social media and you can spend your time doing things you love with the people you love. Let's get to it. I was asked a really great question last week, so I was doing a training, and it was on building a team how you can, how you can build a team to take over the day to day tasks in your business so that you can focus on growth level tasks that are actually going to move your business forward. And one of the things that I said in this training is something that I say quite often, and that is that A players don't play for B leaders, and so one of the people there had a phenomenal question, which was what makes an A leader, and I had an answer for it, but I didn't have as good of an answer for it as I would have liked to have had because I've never been asked that question before. So I really thought and thought and thought a lot about it and said you know what? I want to come up with an actual answer for this and I'm going to share it here. So we are going to talk about A leaders and what that means. So I've identified seven key traits that are like outside of, if you Google, like oh, what's a good leader? What are traits of leaders? And it's like oh, it has an open door policy and blah, blah, blah, blah, blah. Like we're not talking about that stuff. We're talking about stuff that's a little bit, that's a little bit more. I don't know. I would call it like human centric, but it's just, I don't know, it's different. Maybe I'll come up with a better way of saying that, but it's just, it's different, it's not your standard, traditional. Like these are traits of good leaders. So what does it mean to actually be an? A leader, first and foremost, I would say respects ideas equally. When you are respecting ideas equally, it's allowing people to understand that they can bring anything to the table and feel comfortable and not feel like they're people pleasing, because this was one of the things that I had that I did come up with in the moment when I was asked this question was talking around people pleasing, because when you are creating an environment, when you are the leader and it's your business, there tends to be a sense of your employees or your team develops this understanding of you are the person that needs to be happy, like they need to make you happy with your work. And it was one of the big things that I talked about over and over again was like that's not helpful to a team, it's not about you, it's about the business. And if you want to have a self-sustaining business, if you want to have sustainability in your business, where you are not the only driving force of growth in your business, one of the big things that has to go is like it's not about you, it's got to be about the mission, of what the business is trying to accomplish. And so if you want to mitigate that people pleasing and it's not people pleasing and like oh, I don't want to say no, which it could look like that too, but I mean people pleasing in the sense of they want to make the boss happy. They want to make sure that you, as the owner, have what you need and that things are working well for you, and that's not necessarily helpful. And this goes hand in hand with that is respecting ideas. Equally is about saying yes to everything. It doesn't have to be being excited about everything. It doesn't have to be about being like whoa, that's such a great idea about everything. But if that's the way that you want to treat one person's ideas with the oh my gosh, that's so great. That's how you should be treating everyone's ideas, particularly in public, in public forums, in public settings. So let's say you're in a meeting, a team meeting, and let's say you've got. Let's say you've got. Sarah and Stephanie are in your meeting and Sarah brings idea A and you're like Sarah, that's brilliant, oh my gosh, I love that idea. That's so like yes, let's definitely take that, I'm wrong with it. And then Stephanie comes and brings idea B and you're like stuff, like I'm just not sure if that really would work out. Like that's a, it's a good, it's a good try, good effort. But I think we're going to run with. I think we're going to run with Sarah's idea and what you've essentially done is you've created an imbalance in the way ideas are received by the person in charge. This doesn't have to be necessarily the business owner. This is leadership. It's not necessarily the business owner. So if you have, if you have other leaders within your business, I would say that, like this is important for those leaders, and so that's respecting all ideas equally means saying to Sarah's idea that you know, like that's actually a great idea and that's something we should be running with is saying, yes, sarah, thank you so much for that idea. I think that's fantastic and I'd love to think about that some more and look at how we could put that into practice and then take Stephanie's idea and be like yes, sarah, stephanie, thank you so much for that idea. That's an excellent idea. I love that and I love that you are bringing these ideas to the table. I'm going to think more on that and figure out which is going to be the best direction to go. And so you've treated, you've put equality behind the ideation process, and this is going to create more co-cohesiveness within the team and it's also going to create a spirit of like brainstorming and being willing to bring all things to the table, because you're you are not just Respecting what everyone is saying, but you're creating an environment of like, yes, yes, and that's an. It's an improv activity. If you have any type of theater background, there's an improv activity and it's called yes and and, where the whole point of the game is, even if you're like no, I don't agree with that you have to yes and someone and that's essentially what this does you want to yes and every idea, yes, that's so fantastic, thank you for that. Yes, I like I'm so glad that you brought that to the table and I'm gonna think about that and then, at the end of the day, you can come back and say, like you know, sarah's idea is the one we're gonna we're gonna wind up running with, but like I love that you all brought the rest of these great ideas and so you know it's it's. Of course, you're not gonna be able to run with every idea and implement everything, but when you bring a culture of yes and it's so funny, I did not plan on saying that, but as I spoke through this, I was, like it makes sense for yes and that if you yes and everyone's ideas it's it's just gonna create a real like. It's not necessarily a community, but it's gonna. It's gonna cultivate a dynamic within your team that is Not afraid of failing, because when you start to shut people down, that's when they start to guard and they'll only bring an idea to you if it's their best idea, and a lot of times there are really fantastic ideas that they're like imposter syndrome me about, where they don't want to bring the idea to the table because they're like what's not my best idea, and so you know, I don't want this idea to get shot down. They might not consciously be thinking any of that, but that's essentially what winds up happening. So respect all ideas equally and treat and respond to all ideas with an equal level of Excitement, or make sure you're neutral about all of them. However, you would typically respond if it's like okay, I'll think about that. Okay, then treat. You know, just make a decision on like how you want to equally approach Anything that's brought to you. The second trait of an a, of an a leader, is Establishing a culture of mutual respect. You're gonna see, there's like a through, there's a real through line here. That's a lot about respect and a lot about equality and making sure that everyone feels heard. And so number two on this list is establishing a culture of mutual respect. Now this when I say this, I mean that this is about instilling that confidence and loyalty starts at the top. So there's a there's a general sense of like. Okay, if someone is working for you, if you are, if you are providing someone with a paycheck, there is a natural sense of like. They need to, they need to respect your authority or something like. I believe that respect is earned. But you know, if you are like, if you are employing someone, there's a natural, almost a food chain about it where they should be Respectful of your time and your. You know they're learning from you, they're they're being able to, they're paying their bills because of you, all that stuff. But like, that's real old school, that's a very old school way of thinking about things. And yes, there is, whether you want to believe it or not, like there is a hierarchy to things. Like the boss is the boss, is the boss and at some point, like there's someone who has to, has to make the decisions, who has to own the decisions. So there is some sense of like, there is a hierarchy, but it doesn't mean that you have to approach your relationships with people in that sense. So when I say establishing a culture of mutual respect and instilling that confidence and loyalty starts at the top, I believe that this looks like letting people know, because I think that this is such a huge, especially in a small business that there is a fear that you're Going to lose people. Or there is a fear that, like, someone's gonna take your best ideas and go and start their own business or they're going to leave and they're gonna take clients with you or whatever. And now you mitigate that through, like you've got a solid NDA and you've got a solid non-compete and whatever. Like you can mitigate the. You know, going out on your own and taking your clients and taking money from you. That can all be done contractually. But once you get past that, how can you take that a step further and say I think that a good leader is someone who is willing to say, like I understand that I might, that I might lose you at some point because you're so good at what you do. But a great leader is someone who says I expect to lose you at some point. Like I don't want to, I would love to keep you as long as humanly possible, but you're like, you're so talented and You're like, you're so great to work with and this is such a valuable exchange that we get, like there's a real symbiotic Relationship that happens from what you are able to contribute to this business. That I expect at some point, like you, there's a good chance you're gonna move on and when that day comes, I'm gonna be incredibly sad about it but I'm gonna be incredibly happy for you because I care about you as a human and making sure that you have what's best for you and that you're doing, you know what's best for you and your family and all that good stuff. So when you can treat someone like that, like there's a, it's one thing to be like I'm your boss and this is my, this is my company and whatever, and I Expect that it's, or that I, you know I'm okay with at some point. If you move on, like, I'm gonna be happy for you. But to come at it from like, no, I expect it. I expect at some point I'm gonna lose you and hopefully I don't, but at some point, like because you're so phenomenal and it's really going that like that sense of like, while this person Trusts me to the point, like they're, they care about me first. They care about me as a human, above and above and beyond, above and beyond all else, and that is loyalty and confidence in your people, and it starts with you. If you want them to have loyalty to you and Confidence in your ability to lead them, then show them, demonstrate that. Demonstrate that to them. That's number two. Number three is taking next level ownership. So what I said a minute ago this was a good segue into this. Around you know, there is some type of hierarchy, like if you're the business owner, like the buck stops with you, to use that sort of cliche saying so taking next level, onish ownership is really being able to own that. Every mistake that happens is is yours as the leader. If you are the owner of the business, the mistakes that your leadership makes, they're yours. If you are a leader within someone else's business, the mistakes that people make who are, you know, I don't want to say under you, but like they're your direct reports, they're people that you are mentoring or advising or that you are in some type of supervisory capacity around. Whatever, like their mistakes, they're yours. They're yours to own and it's not a bad that, because mistakes and failures are not a bad thing. This is I'm literally like I'm writing a book on failure, like I think that failure is such a dirty word and it shouldn't be, and it really takes ownership of like. You're not only allowed to fail, but when you do, I will take ownership for it, because in reality, it all comes back to you anyway. And so this goes beyond like. I think we can, I think we can establish at this, at this point in 2023, when this is being recorded, that you know, it's not, it's not good leadership to like throw your employees under the bus. That if something goes really wrong with a client, to be like on a call with a client and be like, oh you know, like, yeah, it was because my, it was because Jane like didn't, didn't do her thing. I'm like, I'm really sorry about it. I'm going to make sure that doesn't happen with Jane again. Don't throw your people under the bus Like. I hope that that goes without saying at this point. But take next level ownership of it to like if you go to like, first of all, you're not throwing the Jane under the bus to the client. But if you go to Jane and you're like listen, this is on me, the fact that, like, you didn't get your work done in the way that it on time, or in the way to to the standard that it, you know, needed. That's the standard that needed to be upheld, whatever that looks like to go to Jane and be like I own that it's on me. This, this comes back to me, that I own that this didn't happen and it's not all in you. I will share in this burden with you because it comes back to me. I didn't, maybe I didn't give you the right tools or I didn't give you the right at like I needed to check in or what else needed to happen. How can we do this better next time so that it doesn't happen again and when you can share in? Because if the person is a, is a human who has feelings and and integrity, and something goes wrong in this example like, let's say, something went wrong, a deadline didn't get matter, the standard wasn't there and you can and they say like, yeah, I understand, I didn't meet the deadline, like they're probably going to feel at least a little bit icky about it. I mean, unless it was like a fan, you know, if it was a family emergency or something like it and it just couldn't be helped, then that's not out Like I take ownership for this of like where the mistake came in. It's not about that, it's just like. I support you and understand that like things happen. But if it was like Jane was just super late getting it done and it threw the whole thing off like a mistake was made, that Jane is probably going to feel badly enough about it that if you say I want to share in that burden with you, like that's going to go a long way, that is a dip, that is next level leadership. Taking next level ownership is next level leadership. I would also go so far as to say, like if you do have to fire someone and it's such a terrible thing to do and I have had to, unfortunately I've had to fire, I've had to fire in my own business I've had to fire and what like. When I was the little bit of corporate experience, I have had to fire before and it's not fun and it never gets easier, it never gets better and it never like. It's just sucky every time. But to take ownership of like I own that. This is not working out. The like, the, unless it's. You know there's an integrity issue where the person was stealing or something. You know something where it was. It's not ethical. I've got to let you go. Sorry, this isn't going to work out, but if it's, you know, if it's a performance issue, particularly if it's a performance issue, I'm going to go ahead and say that comes back to you, my friend that when you are having to get rid of someone for a performance issue on your team is probably your fault and I don't say that in like it's fault, as in you are to blame, but it's your fault. Like something, something went awry that could that should have been anticipated and prevented by you as the, as the leader of the business, to have trained better or to have been more thorough in the hiring process. I learned that it's. I learned that not too. It was. It was a few months ago like I was not thorough enough in a hiring process where I brought someone on that was just not ready, and I felt terribly about it because it was not this, it was not the person's fault, it was my fault that I didn't, that I didn't vet hard enough, and the consequence was like I had to own that. Like this falls back on me. I didn't do my job well enough and now I'm putting you in the position that you should not have to be put in because you did nothing wrong, but I still need to let you go and that's on me and it's a, it's next level, ownership of things it's a really, it's a really tough. It's a really tough thing to do. So that's number three. Number four so we're on or have halfway through the list. Number four is cultivating ownership and independent thinking. So there's a really old school way of thinking that, like, I don't pay you to think, I just pay you to get your job done, and we, we buck that idea at every, on every level. We I tell people straight off I didn't, I didn't hire you to just be a yes man or yes woman or yes, I didn't hire you to be a yes person. I want someone who is going to truly own their capacity within this business. I want you to think, I want you to bring your ideas to the table and I want to do my job to like make sure that that feels respected. And so I am going to cultivate ownership and independent thinking from my team and this is in. This goes, this goes back to the concept of failing. I'm going to encourage an environment of failing that you know. It's okay, if you don't, if I give you a tap. If you are, if you are newer, if you are newer to doing something, if you are at any point, but especially when someone is new to your team or if they are taking on a new responsibility or a new role or a new whatever it might look like, if you, if you can go to that person and say, like you did, you did a fantastic job and know that it like wasn't to the mark, that you would have done it, because I believe that 70% perfect is perfect. I got this from Brandon Lucero 70% perfect is perfect. And that doesn't mean that we don't deliver 100% to clients. Like we want to make sure that our client work is always up to the mark. We are always delivering to the highest of our ability. But when you can, when you can, approach something is like. I understand that that's not maybe the way that I would have done it, but that was great and I'm just gonna, I'm gonna, I'm gonna say I'm gonna sign off on this instead of going in and tweaking and nitpicking. It's you know. Of course you have every right to go back in and make suggestions and revise and if you can explain why you are making the revisions and suggestions that you are. I think that's even better. Like, let's give a tool for not just going in and like changing things, but give a tool for critique of like this is how it could have been made better. You did a fantastic job and this is the. This is I'm gonna make these changes and this is why now, and we can talk about it and find out how that person would respond best to like would it make the most sense to like, get on a call If you're you know, if you don't work in the same office together. Like would it make sense for us to do this together and actually have a discussion and we can walk through the changes together so that you feel like you are a part of this? Or, you know, can I send you just like, a loom video, or can I just make notes into a Google doc or whatever makes the most sense, and be willing to meet that person where they are to say, like I'm willing to do this any way that you need, because it's not about me, it's about you and I want you to feel comfortable in owning. I believe it. This is something that I teach is like give people, give people outcomes like I want. Instead of being like I want to delegate a task to you, I'm delegating an outcome to you. That's how I think about it, and so, in this sense, like it's not about just delegating an outcome and you are now delegating ownership of that outcome, and this comes in the form of like. It might not be 100% the way that I would do it, and I might give you feedback along the way for what this looks like, and there might be times where I do just go in and make some changes because it has to be in, like we're on a deadline and that's just where it is. But like, whenever possible, I'm going to say like thank you for that, you did a great job on this, and so it creates confidence. Like it's going to instill so much more confidence in someone to be able to like understand that, even if it's not perfect, that it will be accepted. That will be accepted by the person who needs to accept it, and that is their boss. So that's number four. Number five is listening to understand rather than to respond. I'm not going to go too far into this one, because I think that this isn't just leadership. Like I think this is just a good human thing that more of us could stand to practice in our everyday lives. But it's not the point of listening to what someone has to say is not to necessarily be able to say something back to them. It's to make someone feel seen, heard, appreciated and understood. That is, I believe, that every time, my goal, particularly with a team, is I want to make sure that someone feels seen, heard, appreciated, understood at all times, and that might not happen at all times. I'm not perfect and there are. I'm sure there are things that I could be doing that I'm not currently. That would create more of that environment for someone, but that's usually what people need. I learned this from. I worked at the one corporate experience that like I really do have is from. I worked at Chili's for a long time and they had a process for guest relations was called last and it stood for listen, apologize, solve and think. I haven't thought about this in so long. The last it was. The last approach was listen, apologize, solve and think. And so if someone had a complaint and this isn't necessarily about something going wrong, it's just about like being able to listen, and to listen to understand rather than to respond and so you would listen to someone, you would apologize that that was their experience, you would find out what's the best way that I can solve the problem for you and then you would thank them for sharing it with you and thank you for thank you for bringing this to my attention so that someone feels. I believe this all comes back to someone feeling seen, heard, appreciated and understood. So you were listening, not to formulate what am I going to say back to this person, but listening really to try and understand where this person is coming from and to see them for, like, see the human, for what they need in that moment. And then number six is establishing and enforcing boundaries. I think boundaries are like the ultimate kindness, because they create fairness in a system and not everybody. I'm not going to go too far into this one either, because, hopefully, boundaries are kind of the standard, but I believe that they're like I want to be the cool boss, I want to be the laid back boss, like I want to make sure that everyone feels all these other things, like I want to make sure that they do feel seen and all that good stuff, and so I'm going to be a really chill boss and I would want to work in an environment where everyone is, you know, just sort of. They're left to like, have lots of ideas and come back and and it's really free thinking and. But the thing is like you are not. The reason you own a business is because probably you want things that other people don't. Most people don't want complete independence over things. They're actually going to do better with some guidelines, and so boundaries are a kindness for most people. So just because you would prefer a work environment where you're just completely left to your own devices and you can have 27 new ideas every hour and on and on, and, on, and on and on and on, and you can just like pivot and change gears, that's really stressful for a team, and this isn't just like establishing boundaries for your team and how they're treated. This is about establishing boundaries with yourself too, because I had to really learn this when I when I was like, okay, I'm, I want to. That's one of my things for this shoot, like I want a bigger team and to expand on that, one of the things that I had to have like a come to Jesus moment with myself around was that it's not fair to a team for me to have as many ideas as I have all the time, and it's not that I'm going to box myself in and I'm going to push those ideas down. It's that I need to establish boundaries with myself so that I'm not it's going to stress them out if I'm constantly like we're going to launch this new thing and that new thing and the other new thing and it's constantly changing. Or like we had this plan going and now, because I had this other idea of the way that it could be done better, let's do it this way and there's no checker, checker, balance around like no, hang on a second. That's maybe not a good idea. Like you, the, the, the. There will be a lot of steam loss. There's going to be a lot of confidence lost and people are going to be like we just worked so long and so hard on this to do it this way. And like, if you need a pivot, take a pivot If it's going, if it's going to make or break, like you just have to do it, what needs to be done. But if it's like constantly, just constantly, coming up with new ideas and new ways of doing things, like you're going to burn people out, it's not fun for people. It might be fun for you and it might be like the thing that's going to be the most fulfilling for you to constantly be in that, in that, in that momentum of pivot and excitement and building the plan or flying the plane while you're yeah, building the plane while you're flying it. That's stressful to a lot of people and you've got to be able to mitigate that. So it's not just about boundaries of like, setting boundaries with people so that there is fairness established within you know the system, the ecosystem of your business itself, and where people are like they're maybe not going to like it because you're holding people accountable and all like. Those are boundaries, for sure, but also you need boundaries with yourself to create fairness for your team outside of just what you want, because it's not about you. And then the seventh and last thing is having generosity of vision. And so I believe that generosity of vision means that you're not hoarding your vision as your own, like you need to be able to articulate what the business's values are. You need to be able to articulate what the vision is, what the mission is. I call this MVP. This is something else I got from Chili's. Was it's mission, vision, passion. Chili's had an MVP and I really have carried that into my own business. There's MVP that's like minimum viable product and blah, blah, blah, blah blah. That's not what I'm talking about when I say MVP. It's mission, vision, passion, and so, like my mission oh, I'm going to be able to say that I don't have this written down the sole printer mission is to help big hearted business owners with a, with a big mission, to create big impact. Oh gosh, I'm not going to remember to have the whole thing, but there's, it's, it's around those lines and so, like, I know that that's my mission and I want to bring my team into that, because the vision that I have it's not just mine. I want them to have that too. I want them to be excited for that and that's this is a good reminder to me as I'm saying. That is like I don't think we've talked about this in a while Like me with my own team of, like I want them to share in that. I want them it's, it's that sense of ownership, like it's not just my vision, I want it to be theirs too. I want them to be excited and lit up for being a part of that vision and being able to help people like it, really like what I'm doing, I believe, is really it doesn't necessarily change the world, but it changed someone's world. It absolutely changes someone's world, the work that I do. So don't hoard that vision. Allow other people to share in that vision and make it. Allow them to feel like it's their own and that they're, they're truly a part of it. Those are the seven. I'm going to give you one little bonus one, though, and I'm going to say this and I'm going to just leave it here and not get too far into it. But the last one is especially if you are working with, if anyone on your team comes from a traditionally marginalized background, so someone you know, where there is diversity in race, gender, culture, sexual orientation, blah, blah, blah, on and on and on, whatever that looks like. If someone is from a traditionally marginalized background community, then I think that here's your bonus is next level leadership. A players know how to check their privilege at the door. I heard it was really poignant for me was I heard it was a. She was a black woman who was speaking on this around the one of the Brené Brown books, and she was like she was being very critical of Brené Brown and saying like this is, yes, like you're talking about leadership, but it's not like. It's clear that you are a white woman who led and this experience is outside of what could. I don't want to put words in the in her mouth, but it was really. It was it. Was it really affecting? It was really affecting to me as someone like well, I am that person to like. I am a white woman who is leading, and that's just something that I want to keep in mind and I don't have the words to articulate around that exactly yet. But I wanted to just offer that of like. If you are working with you know anyone other than people who are exactly like you that you want to understand that like your life experience is not, is not what someone else has walked, and you want to be generous in creating compassion and empathy for what other other people have have walked in their own life, and you know just being respectful of that. So that's where I will, that's where I will leave you. Just to recap those seven plus the bonus Number one was respecting all ideas equally. Number two was establishing a culture of mutual respect. Number three was taking next level ownership. Number four was cultivating ownership and independent thinking. Number four is listening to understand rather than to respond. Wait a second, I'm off. Number five is listening to understand rather than respond. Number six is establishing and enforcing boundaries. Number seven was generosity of vision, and then that bonus is checking privilege at the door. So that's where I would start. That's my jumping off point. For what it? What is a next level? A leader? What is an A leader? Because if you want a players, you got to be an A leader to so hope that was helpful for you. I would love to know your feedback, as always, and I'll catch you in the next one.

Traits of a Leader
Taking Ownership in Leadership
Integrity, Ownership, and Independent Thinking
Leadership Principles
Principles of Being an Effective Leader