I am sure that we have all encountered people (whether in leadership positions or not) who spend most of their time seeking to pull down or destroy others. It may be the person who whispers negative stories about a co-worker in our ears when we start in a new job or department, or it may be the boss who passes all the mistakes onto the team – making them look bad whilst he or she remains unscathed. It may even be persons who delight in criticizing and dismantling each and every new idea simply because they didn’t think of it first. Unfortunately, we will meet many persons who would rather pull others down than lift them up.
The ugly truth is we live in a world which is more primed and geared towards the negative aspects of humanity than it is towards anything positive. For example, in the media, positive stories about the achievements of others, their successes, their good deeds, often make up a small portion of what constitutes news. There will be far more stories relating to the misdeeds of men and women ranging from simple misunderstandings through to illicit and even immoral activities. This clearly is more appealing to the masses. So it appears that there’s a propensity within our very nature to focus on the negative aspects of others rather than the positive.
However, despite how natural this may seem and irrespective of how much appetite any of us may have for seeing the negative in others or situations and then pulling them down, it is those leaders who master the ability of lifting others up who are the most effective. When we find and highlight the positive attributes of our team members, we are lifting them up. When we support the development of our people – making them better at what they do and even better as human beings – we are lifting them up. When we reward our people for the right behaviours shown and the good deeds performed, we are lifting them up. Effective leaders will seek to create environments where the good in our people (no matter how small it may seem) is put on luminous display for the encouragement of all.
Not only is effective leadership witnessed when we lift others up through highlighting their good and positive attributes, it is also visible when we seek to create leaders beneath us and not followers. Insecure leaders tend to want to suppress others and would much rather keep followers in check than allow them opportunities for growth and even advancement. It is said that good leaders eat last – they allow their people to go ahead of them, to get there first. When we lift others up, we give them the opportunity to reach their full potential and, with that, we increase the likelihood that more leaders will emerge within our ranks.
So, what practices can we adopt to make us the kind of leaders who consistently lift others up? One must be that you become a cheerleader of sorts for your team members – celebrating every big or small ‘score’ that they achieve. When we create an atmosphere of cheering on our people for business and even personal wins, we not only lift up the individual but the entire team as well.
Another way is by freely sharing our knowledge and experience with them. Too many leaders hoard their knowledge so that those under their charge will not advance further than they ‘allow’; all in an attempt to keep people down. Effective leaders openly share their knowledge, insights, and experiences with their team members for the benefit of all. Isn’t it better to have more persons armed with relevant and/or varied knowledge on the team? This allows for faster problem-solving even in the absence of the leader. Sharing knowledge is easy – if you just came back from a workshop or training conference, why not prepare and deliver a presentation to your team so that they too can gain the insights you gleaned?
I encourage all of us, whether we hold formal leadership positions or not, wherever possible, to lift others up – our society can use much more of this. As aptly summed up in a statement by Robert Ingersoll: “We rise by lifting others.”
(Davidson Ishmael holds a MBA in Leadership and Innovation and is an operations manager in the financial services sector.