“Treat people as they are, and they will remain as they are. Treat people as they can and should be, and they will become as they can and should be.” Goethe
Wow. When I read that quote, I felt every word on a molecular level. It literally reflects my career. I was blessed to have countless leaders who largely treated me according to my potential…and not according to my behavior. My behavior (aka performance) was pretty good, but they saw way more than what I was producing.
The best leaders seek out the best in people – the potential in people – the seed in people. Once they find it, they call it out. They let it be known, out loud, that they see something special in you.
The best leaders challenge you and hold you accountable. As such, they will risk not being liked.
Many leaders rarely love their teams enough to risk not being liked. They’d rather tip-toe around mediocrity and normalize sub-par performance. And THEN turnaround and blame the staff for not being engaged…and not working hard…and not being professional. Basically blame EVERYONE else. (Do you see the problem?)
The best leaders don’t do that. They look at themselves in the mirror and asks the tough questions:
- Do I believe in that person?
- Do I see potential in that person?
- Have I created a climate where mediocrity is the norm?
- Does my team respect me?
- Do the people on my team respect each other?
- Have I lost my zeal as a leader?
- Would my team re-hire me as their leader if they had a chance to?
The best leaders see the potential, communicate the potential, celebrate the potential and test the potential.
“Test the potential” means that, periodically, leaders have to remind others of their potential. The leaders may have to give constructive feedback, and they will not hesitate to do so.
Takeaway: The BEST leaders treat people according to their potential.