“Treat others as you would want to be treated.”
“Be the change you want to see in the world.”
There is no shortage of sayings in our vernacular reminding us that what we put into our environment, it reflects back.
Those axioms — or at least the spirit that guides them — are not only the tools for a full and satisfying personal life but also a rewarding professional career, particularly if we find ourselves in leadership roles.
When people come up behind us to take direction, it is both a distinct honor and a unique challenge. It’s hard not to find others’ trust in us gratifying, but it can also feel like a bright spotlight on our every move.
None of us are expected to be perfect. Making space for what makes us human, moments where we struggle and fall short, is not valued enough in such a competitive world.
But, we get the best from others, and ourselves, by seeking to lead by example.
Whatever life stage or professional space you find yourself in, incorporating these tips, which I’ve carried with me from the start of my career in PR to launching a boutique firm in the middle of a pandemic, will guide you.
Focus on inspiration
Inspiration is a quality that we frequently think belongs to something or someone else, but not ourselves. A poem, a beautiful sunset, a favorite book, or the example of a mentor are all inspiring. But, inspiration doesn’t have to come in big packages to leave a mark on those around us.
The way we deliver constructive advice, give a heartfelt “thank you,” or tackle a new task that intimidates us can all have a significant impact on others in our orbit. When they are in a similar situation, it’s our example they may very well follow.
Which brings us to the less glamorous day-to-day happenings. Leaders often ponder how best to motivate their teams, whether it’s meeting tight deadlines or engaging in unexciting but important tasks to keep the business moving.
But, “how to better motivate” is the wrong goal. Motivation is a tank that needs to be repeatedly, and externally, refilled, and that becomes another task to add to your to-do list.
Inspiration, on the other hand, is a spark that doesn’t need energy; it generates it.
Many of us became used to hiding, deflecting, or playing down our mistakes, however innocent, when we were still kids. It was not only the easiest way of avoiding getting in trouble, it prevented us from being “found out” — the dreaded fear of impostor syndrome.
It will never be easy to acknowledge when we fall short. But, it is impossible for those around you, especially those looking to you for direction, to trust your word otherwise. For brand-oriented PR professionals, this is something we advise our clients all the time. Accountability is everything — and it starts with each of us.
When you take responsibility for your mistakes as a leader, you’re creating a culture where mistakes are accepted as part of the learning process, and personal responsibility for both acknowledging them and making situations right is expected from everyone on the team.
Emphasize the positive
Unless we’re unnaturally lucky, life seems to hand most of us two less-than-ideal situations for every one that makes us smile. Changing that ratio is largely out of our hands, though our perspective on any situation is well within our control.
If it all sounds a bit like self-help boilerplate, consider this: Whether it’s constructively advising someone on our team on a different way to approach a task, looking for an alternative to something that’s fallen through, or even taking a few deep breaths and reframing our mindset, we always have power to influence what happens next.
When tackling this list, expect to personalize and add tips — as well as occasionally forget to lead by example on a day-to-day basis. That’s normal, and human. The effort is what matters, which your teams, mentees, and peers will see, feel and always be inspired by. Believe me, you are that amazing.
This article originally appeared in the Memphis Business Journal.