In 1919, Leslie Irvin became the first person to jump out of an airplane with a parachute. Think about that leap – once you jump, you are completely committed. You can’t turn back, you are heading downward towards your target.
Today I want to encourage you to take some leadership leaps – and while you do need to commit to it – you will succeed more fully if you really leap (and try not to leave one foot on the plane). Having said that, these leaps will have a much safer landing than Mr. Irvin might have had if his chute hadn’t worked. (It did).
Here are the leaps I recommend that you take . . .
Take the Leap to Listen
This one may seem obvious. Whenever I ask a group if they wish they were better listeners, nearly everyone raises their hand. We all know listening is important. We all want to be better listeners, and yet most fall short of that goal. As a leader, listening to others is one of the most important things you can do because it does several things:
- Ensures you understand their message
- Gives you an opportunity to learn something
- Engages people and makes them more willing to share their ideas
- Sends a powerful message that you care about them
- Builds trust and your relationships with others
Any one of these reasons is enough – taken together, they are a mandate for us as a leader. And before you read on, read the last two bullets again. This is clearly a leap worth taking.
Take the Leap to Expect the Best of Others
In this world people tend to live up to, or down to, the expectations we have of them. When we expect much of people we might be disappointed. Lower expectations may lead to less disappointment, but it will also lead to lowered results. (Tweet that).
This one might feel like the biggest leap of the four listed here, but it is also the most powerful. Why? Because when you raise your expectations of others, you will likely do the other three more naturally. Do you believe your people have the potential to succeed? If you do, let them know and raise your expectations of them!
Take the Leap to Ask More Questions
Leaders aren’t expected to have all the answers. If you think you are, you are missing the point. We don’t have all the answers, and often our team members do have answers. Not only that, but often they have the same answers we do, but when they provide it (rather than hearing it from you), they have much more ownership.
By asking questions we create greater ownership, we get better answers, and we get better results. Stated that way, why wouldn’t we want to do that?
One big reason is that when we are asking (rather than asserting), we lose some control of the situation and the conversation. Taking the leap to let go of the control will bring great rewards, but you must leap and ask if you want those rewards.
Take the Leap to Provide More Praise
I’m not suggesting that we ignore corrective feedback or sugarcoat the truth. What I am suggesting is taking the leap to give people honest, straightforward, specific and meaningful praise. “Nice job” is fine, but not exactly what this leap is about. This leap is to willingly, openly and regularly let people know how their work matters, that you appreciate both their effort and their results.
Think about the people you have most enjoyed working for or with. Chances are you knew they appreciated you and your work. Can your team members say that about you? If not, this leap is imperative. If they could reply affirmatively, keep taking this leap.
Listen. Expect the best of others. Ask more questions. Provide more praise.
Take these four leaps and your work as a leader will be easier, less stressful and more effective. These actions might not be comfortable to start. They might not even be, in some cases, what you think a leader really should do. Just like Les Irvin trusted his parachute, when you take the leap and trust yours, you will get great results.
And, like Les, when you take the leap and go first, others will follow. What became known as the Irvin parachute gained rapid acceptance, and by the early 1930’s about 40 air forces around the world were using parachutes.
Take the leap – you will enjoy the ride.