Let’s start with a clear understanding here, when I say “be a hero for your team”, I am not referring to a heroic fixer; someone who believes that their job is only to show up at the very end of a challenge to save the day. Also, I am not talking about being a leader who would only show up to give a congratulatory message to the team when they have accomplished a great success. Finally, I am not talking about the top individual contributors who exceed their targets every quarter.
I am here talking about the people who makes it their job to enable us to become a little bit better every day, the people who make us feel safe to be creative at work, the people who will give us their honest tailored feedback without generalization, the people who keep challenging themselves to be better every day for their teams, the people who will go out of their way to help us when it does not really benefit them in any way and finally the people who have our best interest in their heart without any hidden agendas. Basically, I am talking about the people who their teammates call them heroes, and they would never claim such a title for themselves.
To “be a hero for your team”, I believe it is about practicing some set of behaviors. Great leaders practice them every day that they become a normal habit for them; a habit engraved in how they think, act and react.
Here are the behaviors to practice to “be a hero for your team”:
Always showing genuine appreciation
Showing a genuine appreciation is not easy. For great leaders to show genuine appreciation, they know how to apply a very complex formula; giving the right appreciation, at the right time, and with the right communication channel. In order to do that, great leaders are always attentive, understanding and compassionate. They understand the value everyone brings. They work closely with their teams on a regular basis to see them in action. They put the time to know everyone, which allows them to create an “appreciation plan” designed to address the need of each one individually. Showing gratitude cannot be a one-size fit all task; therefore, showing sincere appreciation is hard.
Great leaders understand that there is a genius in everyone, and they work to recognize and celebrate small and big wins as well as defeats when effort was put. Their appreciation is unique to each individual and yet it touches and inspires the team as a whole. Great leaders are attentive and compassionate to the team needs, at the group and at the individual level.
Acting with an uncompromising integrity
Integrity is a mix of actions that helps create a trusted relationship between the leader, the team members and the whole-team. Great leaders deliver on their promises every time, and in case they cannot, they do not avoid confrontation (never); they are proactive to create a plan B to deliver on their promise. Great leaders are also dependable; in some ways they are idealistic but with a touch of reality. They do not compromise their values and they have the courage to stand up for what they believe is right for their team members every time.
Great leaders set clear expectations. Under their leadership, they provide an unprecedented transparency that allows everyone to know where they stand and in what direction they are heading. They support everyone aspirations and they shape these aspirations to the greater good of the team.
Being a helpful guide all the time
Great leaders are lifelong learners and they are never hesitant to bring relevant experiences to their followers. Being a heroic leader means that people will be running towards them when they need guidance. Great leaders are generous with their time, they see each interaction or question as an important coaching event, where they can create a difference and learn from it as well. Heroic leaders do not simply answer a question, but they help their followers to come up with a “thinking framework”; guiding them to the right path to come up with the answers themselves. This helps heroic leaders give a chance to their followers to become the hero of their own path, choosing the path they believe is right.
Also, heroic leaders are technically proficient in the field they practice. It helps them to inspire others to follow. They understand that leading people is about having the ability to convince others in believing the vision they have for themselves and the vision they have for their followers. Being proficient is important because it allows others to trust that the path set by the heroes.
Exercising a constant state of self-awareness
Heroic leaders know that they are not perfect. These great leaders know that the best way to serve their team is to understand that their actions do have an impact on others. They also operate in an on-going quest of improvement. They formally and informally seek feedback to continuously shape the way they work to match their team needs and dynamic.
They understand that they can embrace diversity by becoming more self-aware of any bias they may have. They know that embracing diversity in the workplace is a powerful force that brings the different minds together to create the best value every time; a value that will never be matched elsewhere.
Pursuing the work with the highest passion
Heroes do their absolute best in the sake of the purpose they serve, and professional leaders do exactly that. The heroic leaders pursue their work with extra focus, optimism and persistence. They tend to be very stubborn, while staying humble and actively listening to others. Heroic leaders have this internal drive that allows them to fight hard when it feels everything is going against their way; it is their way to practice discipline when everybody else would let go. This inspires everyone to have the win at the end of the task, no matter how long it takes.
Bringing it all together,
I like to think that to “be a hero for your team” is a really different mindset than to “be the hero of your team”. Great leaders do not like to draw attention to themselves. They understand that success, great success, is drawn out of a team who unites to produce an output that cannot be matched by a singular person. Great leaders do not want to be the one and the only top player. They also understand that they work for their team and not the other way around.
Practice the behaviors that makes you a hero and your team will deliver nothing than their absolute best for the purpose & the goal you layout to them; it will be worth it – be a hero for your team!
One last thought: Let me give you a side story here on how I came to see heroes in action and the power of joy and inspiration those heroic leaders were creating. Almost exactly 12 years ago – October 2007, I have started my very first job, where I have worked in a team of 8 people. I worked with this team for a period of 14 months between 2007 through 2009. At the time, there were days where we would spend days & nights in the office; we would clock in by 10 am and leave by 8 am the next day. There were also periods of time where we spent 3-4 days in a row working straight hours. The team was a hub leading very complex projects and delivering a unique customer and technical experience that was ahead of its time. That said, these were one of the most fantastic days because I was lucky to be working with some great examples of people who happen to be heroes for their teams. Thank you to all the heroes who impacted me in my professional careers since 2007.