I’ve heard this sentence a few times in my career, spoken about great leaders I have known and respected. I’ve even uttered it myself on a couple of occasions. It’s one of the highest complements a leader can get, because of its underlying connotation – that person is an uppercase LEADER. There’s no question of the cohesiveness and esprit de corps of the team. Their loyalty is on their sleeves.
They trust that their leader will do right by them, always – that translates to results, and ultimately, greatness. And perhaps even some gaping holes in a few brick walls.
How can you get to that place with YOUR team?
I’ve observed 5 critical roles that a leader must play to get their teams “walking through brick walls” for them.
- The Counselor - Not every day is going to be a good one, and not everything is going to go the right way. The team needs a way to relieve the pressure brought on by these ups and downs – but it can’t happen in public. That’s where the leader comes in behind the scenes, making themselves available to their team when the chips are down, letting the steam come off honestly through active listening, and then offering quiet and steady encouragement.
- The Defender - When the leader is in public, and the arrows fly about the team’s performance, the leader takes the hit – or, if the critique is unjustified, the leader passionately defends the team’s honor. The blame is never on the team – it’s on the leader. Conversely, when things go well, the praise is always on them (Think Jim Collins and his concept of the Level 5 leader in his book “Good to Great”).
- The Contextualizer - Great teams always know the “why” behind every strategy, tactic, and process – and it’s up to the leader to deliver that critical context, as the decisions are being made, and with as much candor and transparency as possible.
- The Fair Dealer - It’s all about consistency in how praise and rewards are given, and discipline and terminations are delivered. There are no playing favorites, and no dog houses. The great leaders use the full spectrum of accountability, and never fail to set the proper expectations.
- The Cheerleader - This is where I call “leadership relentlessness” comes in. The mountain is never too high. The wall is never too thick. There’s no “can’t” in anyone’s vocabulary. The team WILL prevail. There is a cause worth pursuing with vigor and passion. And it all must be delivered with a measured positivity that instead of oozing hubris or folly, passes on a quiet confidence and determination.
If you can take on these roles, and be there for your your team in these important ways, the rewards will be great. It reminds me of one of my favorite quotes by Sun Tzu:
“Regard your soldiers as your children, and they will follow you into the deepest valleys; look on them as your own beloved sons, and they will stand by you even unto death.”
(Photo by Bigstock)