The uncommon behaviors of a great leader you’ll never forget

There are some leaders that make the rest of us look like we’re still on our L-Plates. A great leader is not only one you’ll never forget; they’re one that you’ll continue to learn from long after they move on due to their incredibly high demand in the market — rightfully so, I say.

I’ve had a couple of these leaders in my career. We no longer work together, yet their impact still acts as a little voice inside my head that tells me never to give up.

Forbes Writer, Brent Gleeson, asked a group of leaders/CEO’s what they thought made a great leader and one answer was “They earn respect from their team.”

While it’s a helpful answer, it’s not uncommon. Respect and leadership go hand in hand and you’ll find it as a leadership trait listed in any good book handed out in companies across the globe such as “Crucial Conversations” where the phrase “Respect Is Air” was birthed from.

Let’s take a look at some uncommon behaviors of great leaders. See if you can relate.

They quietly work behind closed doors in your favor

A great leader fights for you in secret. They don’t always tell you and often you hear about it from another colleague. They help you in secret because it’s the right thing to do, not because they have anything to gain from it.

And by help, I mean fighting for you when another leader seeks to take advantage of you or use you for their gain. When it comes to performance review time, they stick up for you in the round table discussions.

Then there are the conversations where other departments are looking for subject matter experts and your name is put forward. You answer the call and are asked to give an opinion or help with a work matter that makes you feel good when you get home.

You don’t know how the person found their way to you and you don’t care. Meanwhile, you tell the great leader who made it happen and they say nothing. They’re happy because you’re happy.

They create surprise and delight moments as if you are their customer

Gary Vaynerchuk made this phrase popular and a great leader does the same.  They treat you like their customer instead of their slave and surprise and delight you.

One such moment from my career that comes to mind was when a great leader nominated me to work as a product owner in an innovation lab. That opportunity surprised me and delighted me. Five years later, the decision to give me that opportunity is still paying huge dividends. My career in technology and having to work in an agile environment was made possible because of his decision.

Then there are the nominations to attend extra learning, customer meetings, leadership secondments, and surprise time off when you’ve broken up with your romantic partner and could really use some time away from it all.

A great leader treats you like their customer.

They use the power of kindness to surprise and delight you whenever they get the chance.

They are humble in victory and defeat

Humility gets results — Larry Bossidy, the former CEO of Honeywell

Humility is underrated. Great leaders do it and don’t even realize. They don’t read some killer books or copy Richard Branson after seeing him speak at a seminar. The art of humility is just what they do.

The difference here, though, is that great leaders are not just humble when they win. We’ve all seen a leader who is humble in victory — that’s a pre-rehearsed expected outcome for any leader.

What is uncommon is to be humble in defeat.

A great leader I worked with once lost a huge multi-million dollar deal. You’d think they’d be pissed. They had to go and tell the leader they reported to and it was not an easy conversation. Money was spent. Tender teams were assembled and galvanized. People had to travel on planes and sleep in hotels.

What surprised me was that his humility during victories carried over to the defeat column. He was humble in defeat and even reached out to the company who won the opportunity to wish them all the best. He didn’t vow to never sleep until he won the deal or kill his competitor with a hunting knife while posting hustle-till-you-die quotes on Instagram.

He was grateful for the opportunity and showed his strength of character. As a team, we weren’t losers; we did our absolute best and that was good enough.

They keep in touch when they are no longer your leader

Like I eluded to at the start, great leaders will come and go. They are rare species who are in high demand.

The uncommon behavior of a great leader is that they never truly leave you. They are always one call or text message away. They understand that leadership never ends even when the paycheque and associated job title does.

They are more than just your job reference. They are more than a person you would call a friend. They are more than just a coffee catch-up.

They are this indescribable human being who you find it hard to explain and get emotional about when you think about them in the mortal sense. Yoda and Gandhi look small in their shadow.

A greater leader never leaves you and affects the way you think for the rest of your life. They are the saints of the business world that sail through their careers often not understanding how incredible they are.

The takeaway is this: if you have had a greater leader affect you, then you can do the same for someone else. Each of us has the opportunity to be a leader whether our job title says so or not.

Work behind closed doors to help people in their careers, treat your colleagues like customers and create surprise and delight moments for them, be humble in victory and defeat, and be there for your team by staying in touch even if you move on.

It’s the simple, uncommon behaviors that any of us can replicate that makes a great leader — who’ll never be forgotten, even when they leave this world.

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