Career and Jobs

The 1 Simple Skill All Brilliant Leaders Master—Both Inside, And Outside Of Work

She was excited. She was a bit anxious. Still, she left the house with absolute optimism.But, she returned home totally devastated. Why?

I’m talking about my youngest daughter, who recently turned 16. She just got her driver’s license. And, now, she’s hunting for her first job. Today, she went to apply at a nearby restaurant. “It was horrible,” she said when she returned home. “I walked into the restaurant and asked for the manager. I introduced myself. I handed him my resume and told him I was looking for a job as a hostess.”

“How did he respond?” I asked, seeing she was visibly upset. “What did he say?”

“He didn’t even look at it,” she said. “He actually just handed it back to me and told me that he had just hired a bunch of new people. Then, he said he was busy and quickly walked away.”

Okay, while nothing about this exchange seems totally atrocious, and while I understand my daughter might over-personalize rejection of this nature, I couldn’t stop thinking about how this young manager might be destroying his own leadership potential.

Was the manager rude? Maybe. Or maybe my daughter just interpreted his quick response as rude. Should he have spent more time getting to know who he was rejecting? Maybe. But, my guess is that he was being totally honest about just hiring a bunch of new people, and being busy. Did the manager make a huge mistake? Yes. He did. And, the mistake has nothing to do with either hiring or rejecting my daughter.

Just to be completely transparent, my daughter isn’t socially awkward. She’s well spoken. And, she looks a lot like my wife—beautiful. So, why do I think this young man is destroying his own leadership potential? It’s simple. He overlooked the one simple skill great leaders understand—the power of hope.

What is hope? And, why is it so important to leadership?

Hope is not about hoping to land that one job. It’s not about hoping for a raise or a promotion. Instead, hope is the idea of possibility. Hope is the understanding that something better is possible. And, great leaders understand that they can give people hope—as if it’s something they can pull out of their pocket and just hand to someone else. Great leaders understand that hope isn’t something they can just give to their employees, but everyone they meet. And, great leaders understand giving a person hope is bigger, better, and more empowering than giving a person a job, a promotion, or a raise.

Think about this for a second. Of course this manager should be honest and tell my daughter that he’s not hiring right now. That’s appropriate. But, he should also understand that she will never apply to that company again—because he is now her perception of it. And, he was hopeless, not her. In fact, my daughter immediately told me “I don’t want to work for a company who treats people that way. I don’t even want to eat there again.”

How do great leaders hand out hope—both inside and outside of work? They:

1.    Cheer ambition. My daughters resume is sparse. Of course, she’s looking for her first job. But, she’s also a straight A student. She works hard, and her ambition to achieve is obvious. Great leaders would take the time to cheer for that ambition whether they have a job for her or not. This manager could have taken the time to glance at her resume, see her 4.2 grade point average, and tell her, “Wow. Someone will be lucky to hire you.”

2.    Applaud experience. Great leaders understand that employees don’t just bring their employment resumes to work; they bring everything they’ve experienced to work. And, that experience deserves applause because it’s completely unique to every individual. My daughter, for example, is volunteering for hospice. Is that relatable experience for the restaurant industry? No. But, does that mean it’s invaluable? She’s dealing with human death. That’s a bit more complicated than greeting and seating hungry patrons. Great leaders applaud all experience.

3.    Acknowledge interest. This should be obvious. But, it’s often overlooked. Still, great leaders understand that all great achievements started with desire. So, whether we’re talking about inventing the first cell phone, the first human travel to Mars, or a hostess position at a favorite restaurant, interest and desire is important. All leaders, at some point, need to ask employees or applicants, “What do you want?” and “Why did you come here?” If people have a desire to be a part of your organization, great leaders understand that they deserve to be acknowledged.  

4.    Celebrate potential. All leaders understand that some employees will surpass them in life, career, and success. Great leaders appreciate finding those people, and celebrating that potential. Why? Because hope is bigger than all of us. Change is bigger than all of us. And, if you look back on your own career, you’ll realize that the greatest leaders in your life weren’t the people who gave you a position. Instead, they were the people who inspired you to reach for a bigger position. Great leaders celebrate potential.

“I didn’t even get a chance,” said my daughter. “He didn’t even give me a chance to impress him.”

I paused, thinking about how this manager is destroying his own potential in leadership. I thought about how the one simple skill great leaders master in their lives, is the ability to give people hope. “You don’t want to work there anyway,” I replied. “If he doesn’t understand what he did wrong, there is no hope.”

My daughter looked at me. “I’ll be a boss someday,” she said. “And, I won’t let anyone treat people the way he treated me.”

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