Leaders should set high expectations for their team members, much as great teachers do. They should demand excellence and maintain high standards. At the same time, leaders have to instill a belief in their team members that these lofty goals are achievable. They have motivate others to work through adversity. Too often, employees perceive the path to success for senior executives as seemingly smooth and fast. They don't know about the obstacles, failures, and mistakes. Understanding the rocky nature of the path to success actually matters. Leaders who share stories of their own challenges and failures can actually motivate their employees more effectively than those that appear infallible. Moreover, sharing failure stories actually helps build pscyhological safety, as Amy Edmondson has argued. In Unlocking Creativity, I wrote about fascinating research by Xiaodong Lin-Siegler and her colleagues on this topic. Here's an excerpt:
- Amy Edmondson. Teaming: How Organizations Learn, Innovate, and Compete in the Knowledge Economy. (San Francisco: Jossey-Bass, 2014).
- Kathleen Elkins, “The surprising dinner table question that got billionaire Sara Blakely to where she is today, Business Insider. April 3, 2015. http://www.businessinsider.com/the-blakely-family-dinner-table-question-2015-3 Accessed March 5, 2018.
- Shana Lebowitz, “A self-made billionaire explains how Britney Spears helped her teach a key business lesson to her employees,” Business Insider, June 22, 2016. https://www.businessinsider.com.au/sara-blakely-teaches-spanx-employees-to-embrace-failure-2016-6 Accessed March 5, 2018.