Think about standing in the spotlight. Envision yourself standing in this position all the time, every single day! As a leader, you are always on stage. And if you are on stage, then the stage eventually becomes a part of you. Do you remember attempting to mitigate an interpersonal conflict that you are involved with directly? This may be challenging only because your emotions are involved. This is normal! Learning how to manage personal conflict from a third party’s perspective may be the best approach and eventually you become really good at thinking this way! This is my point. The function becomes a part of your personality. It is not different with leading and influencing. Leadership is a position. How an individual operates in that position is, to a degree, a reflection of their personality and values!
According to McKinsey & Company, the traditional outlay of leadership includes solving problems effectively, seeking varying perspectives, supporting others, and driving results (McKinsey.com, 2023). And serving in a leadership position, I can safely say, leadership comes with a major challenge – making employees feel valued…consistently. Humans are complex beings. Leadership is not about you. Leaders are here to serve in their role, specifically serve the workforce, to help them, and to make the workplace more human. Leadership is no different. It is not about the “I” but rather about the “we”; which means, when your team fails, you fail…in the front lines; when your team shines, you shine…from behind the scenes, of course! Your actions as a leader in a leadership position correlate to the value you see in your team members.
What does it mean to value an individual? Showing how the individual’s work, skill, and dedication to the team, and project, positively impacts the mission with micro affirmations is a good start. Micro-affirmations are intentional, thoughtful, and sincere. They are an act of kindness and are simply priceless. Examples of micro-affirmations may include :
● A handwritten note. A tangible, priceless note carries weight. I once worked for a Commander who wrote personalized handwritten notes, thanking her workforce. I often heard that that note would carry them through on the hardest days. Even in the virtual world, mailing a handwritten note continues to be an option!
● Taking a genuine interest in someone’s life – professionally, of course! Sometimes this begins by finding a shared connection or common point of interest. For example, talking about a mutually agreed upon favorite food or restaurant. While this is small talk, it shows a genuine interest, which translates to, “They cared to remember” …
● Remembering the other person’s humanity, even on the days you are upset or frustrated with them. As leaders, you may be in a position to accept blame on behalf of your team. This comes with the territory. Stay strong enough to take ownership of their mistakes, as well as privately sharing how to mitigate the mistakes and turn them into opportunities.
● Consistently recognizing employees’ good work. The latter can be difficult to do especially in a leadership position. Some of you may disagree, but I have seen that by not recognizing the work, it diminishes value! A good place to start is at regular team meetings. Make an effort to highlight an employee’s good work and an idea. Another option is to ask peers to highlight peers. The encouragement and empowerment among team members contribute to an inclusive space. A space that is safe enough for peers to work collaboratively and take joy in each other’s success.
● Genuinely asking for input & feedback. When employees believe they have a voice, it translates to, “I have a stake in the mission,” – and highlighting at what point you used their input in your decision-making is essential to their value and worth!
Whether you are leading a group, program, or both, remember that leadership is a privilege. Your actions are impactful and will leave an imprint on the people it impacts the most, your employees!
By: Bina Patel, PhD
McKinsey.com.(2023). Decoding Leadership: What Really Matters. Retrieved Decoding leadership:
What really matters | McKinsey