Seven Tips Learned from Top Leaders

Jim Kouzes speaking at ETSU, Courtesy: ETSU Photo

One thing has resonated with me since I heard Jim Kouzes, co-author of The Leadership Challenge, speak a few weeks ago at East Tennessee State University; that is the fact that we are all leaders. Think about it. Even if you say “I’m ‘just’ a mom/housewife/dad/older sibling, etc. we exert tremendous influence on those around us. And, as Scott Starnes said in last week’s post, “leadership is influence.” This is the final post in my month-long March blog theme of leadership. I’d like to thank my guest bloggers, Scott, a student of John Maxwell’s, and also Ken Fairbanks who covered new methods of online learning and leadership in education.

In reflecting on the subject of leadership, I took time to consider the best leaders/bosses I ever had and came up with these seven tips that a good leader/boss does.

  1. Communicate with your troops- Top leaders are open to communications. They know that open doors and open communications channels are always better than stonewalls.
  2. Hire bright people- Top bosses generally brag about hiring those who are better than they are. Put the “right people on the bus” as Jim Collins says and watch where they’ll go.
  3. Emphasize the positive– In my career I’ve had many bosses who were eager to share and point out the negative. That’s human nature I suppose. But the boss I clearly remember wrote, “Great job Mel!” on post-it notes. What a day brightener! I tacked those post-it notes to my office bulletin board.
  4. Give credit where it is due- The best bosses aren’t intimidated by smart employees (see #2 above.) They gladly share praise and credit for good ideas.
  5. Know how to build consensus- Inevitably you have to work with many different personalities, whether it’s at home or in a business setting. Look for ways to pull them together. Something as simple as a regular meal together can be a team booster.
  6. Be honest and expect honesty of those around you– It’s amazing how people will live up (or down) to your expectations of them. Throughout my career the trickle down effect of leadership holds true; it’s the leader’s actions and integrity that permeate the business.
  7. You are influencing others whether you know it or not- This is a personal anecdote. One day several years after our first meeting,  I re-connected with a woman in her role as a newspaper reporter. She told me how much I had influenced her to become a journalist. I was actually shocked because I barely remembered our earlier meeting. You never know when you may be influencing others. Today we regularly influence others online through the digital footprint we create on our social media channels.

Exercise: Close your eyes and think about someone over whom you have influence. Is is positive? Is it for good? Or do you need to modify your leadership style?  Take action today. They are watching you as their role model.


  • Jeff Brunson says:

    Mel, these are seven great tips and are reflected in the recent book by Liz Wiseman, “Multipliers.” And I love it when folks like you stand up against that old addage that leaders are born not made. That is not just unfair, it is completely inaccurate. It really is largely about ‘influence’ isn’t it?

    • maryellen says:

      Thanks for your support Jeff. Coming from you that is a real compliment as I know what a quiet leader you are! I would like to read Liz’s book. It sounds fascinating.

  • Linda Pucci says:

    These are great tips, Mel! I especially have to remind myself of #7, because like you, I sometimes get feedback about some piece of “wisdom” I gave that I don’t even remember.

    • maryellen says:

      Isn’t it amazing how we are influencing others without realizing it Linda? Thanks for commenting.

  • Tiffany says:

    Great tips, Mel. I think the common thread is to encourage excellence in yourself and others, and then acknowledge and reward that excellence.

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