Leadership Checklist

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“If your actions inspire others to dream more, learn more, do more and become more, you are a leader.” — John Quincy Adams

I’ve created a leadership checklist that should act like a hub and spoke of effective leadership practices.  The challenge is distilling effective leadership practices into one-liner reminders that are easy to evaluate the behavior, where possible.

I used a specific “user story” format (“As a leader, I …”) to both make each line item a standalone story, but also to test these as personal “unit tests” for leadership.  By making each one more precise, insightful, and actionable, while pinning to effective practices, this should serve as a simple and scannable cheat sheet of proven practices for leadership.  If done well, it should reflect years of insight and lessons at a glance.

It’s a work in progress.  Here is is so far:

Top 10 Leadership Checks

  1. As a leader, I seek first to understand, and I listen to people until they feel heard (empathic listening.)
  2. As a leader, I set the example others wish to emulate.
  3. As a leader, I vary my leadership style to motivate when needed or direct based on the needs and abilities of the team.
  4. As a leader, I vary my leadership style between people-focused and task-focused based on the situation I’m in.
  5. As a leader, I continuously find ways to simplify.
  6. As a leader, I focus on service to others.
  7. As a leader, I allocate time for what’s important.
  8. As a leader, I do what I say I will do.
  9. As a leader, I create a compelling vision that inspires people to rally around.
  10. As a leader, I take feedback and adapt in response.

Core Checks

  • As a leader, I am a self-starter and I take the initiative.
  • As a leader, I am approachable and encourage people to talk to me.
  • As a leader, I ask questions that help move the ball forward.
  • As a leader, I build the confidence of others.
  • As a leader, I know whether my strengths are thought-leadership, people leadership, or both.
  • As a leader, I focus on self-leadership before leading others (self-leadership, team leadership, organizational leadership, etc.)
  • As a leader, I influence others through skills and connection, not power and position.
  • As a leader, I focus on “we” not “me.”
  • As a leader, I over-communicate both upwards and downwards.
  • As a leader, I realize my success comes through others.
  • As a leader, I remind myself that leadership is a privilege in that people choose to follow.
  • As a leader, I scale my impact by thinking in terms of systems and ecosystems.
  • As a leader, I think beyond the moment.
  • As a leader, I treat people the way I want to be treated.

Action

  • As a leader, I ask, “What do we want to accomplish?”
  • As a leader, I avoid inaction.
  • As a leader, I avoid unnecessary distractions.
  • As a leader, I balance the results with the journey.
  • As a leader, I create SMART goals (Specific, Measurable, Actionable, Relevant, and Timely)
  • As a leader, I demonstrate a bias for action.
  • As a leader, I ensure people have intrinsically motivating goals.
  • As a leader, I help identify next steps.
  • As a leader, I help people identify the tests for success.
  • As a leader, I help people identify what good would look like.
  • As a leader, I help people feel a sense of progress.
  • As a leader, I hold people accountable to what they agreed they would do.
  • As a leader, I inspire others to action.
  • As a leader, I maintain quality and deadlines while dealing with multiple priorities.
  • As a leader, I mobilize my team to achieve.
  • As a leader, I structure a path for success.
  • As a leader, I surround myself with people that balance my weaknesses and amplify my strengths.
  • As a leader, I take bold action.
  • As a leader, I take decisive action.
  • As a leader, I turn ideas into actions.

Change

  • As a leader, I anticipate and prepare for changes.
  • As a leader, I build a sense of urgency for the most important things.
  • As a leader, I communicate the “what,” “why”, “who”, “how” and “when” of a change initiative.
  • As a leader, I embrace change.
  • As a leader, I put together the right coalition of people to help drive change.
  • As a leader, I see change as an opportunity.
  • As a leader, I socialize change in effective ways.
  • As a leader, I stay flexible in my approach.
  • As a leader, I understand and can articulate the risks of change and the risks of avoiding change.

Communication

  • As a leader, I challenge ideas while respecting other opinions.
  • As a leader, I communicate clearly.
  • As a leader, I ask solution-focused questions, such as “How might we solve that?”
  • As a leader, I communicate in an open and respectful way.
  • As a leader, I encourage people to bring me problems.
  • As a leader, I encourage people to put their ideas out on the table.
  • As a leader, I encourage an open door policy.
  • As a leader, I know how to manage up, down, and sideways effectively.
  • As a leader, I lead with my “why.”
  • As a leader, I let people know they’ve been heard by replaying back what I’ve heard.
  • As a leader, I listen with the intent to learn.

Decisions and Choice

  • As a leader, I always factor the “right” thing to do and ethics when faced with choices and decisions.
  • As a leader, I am not afraid to admit when I am wrong or someone has a better idea.
  • As a leader, I am prepared to make tough decisions.
  • As a leader, I build consensus for ideas.
  • As a leader, I focus on doing business the right, ethical way.
  • As a leader, I help people understand that until a decision is made its ok to argue like hell but once it is made everyone needs to get in the boat and row!
  • As a leader, I involve the right people for key decisions.
  • As a leader, I know when to defer to other people for their expertise.
  • As a leader, I recognize that not all people will agree with my decisions.

Energy, Motivation, and Inspiration

  • As a leader, I build a team of energizers and weed out the energy sappers.
  • As a leader, I demonstrate passion and enthusiasm.
  • As a leader, I give others meaningful work and show them why it’s meaningful.
  • As a leader, I identify opportunities.
  • As a leader, I invest in people’s strengths to help them blossom.
  • As a leader, I look to the future with possibility.
  • As a leader, I make people feel valued for their contributions.
  • As a leader, I make the workplace an enjoyable place to be.
  • As a leader, I reward effort and results.
  • As a leader, I reward people when they excel.
  • As a leader, I spend more time in my strengths and less time in my weaknesses.
  • As a leader, I take time to renew and recharge.

Influence and Connection

  • As a leader, I balance connection and conviction.
  • As a leader, I build trust through reliable actions.
  • As a leader, I connect with people’s values.
  • As a leader, I demonstrate compassion for people and their situations.
  • As a leader, I demonstrate empathy for the people.
  • As a leader, I demonstrate empathy for the situation.
  • As a leader, I establish rapport before trying to influence.
  • As a leader, I read a situation to know who the owners, influencers, and decision makers are.
  • As a leader, I recognize that I cannot please all the people all the time.

Learning, Growth, and Self-Awareness

  • As a leader, I am a lifelong learner.
  • As a leader, I am open to feedback and constructive criticism.
  • As a leader, I encourage healthy competition.
  • As a leader, I encourage people to test themselves and stretch themselves.
  • As a leader, I encourage testing results.
  • As a leader, I find the lessons and carry the good ideas forward.
  • As a leader, I find ways for people, processes, and products to grow and evolve.
  • As a leader, I focus on strengths and limit liabilities.
  • As a leader, I follow the growth.
  • As a leader, I get feedback on my actions and the impact on people.
  • As a leader, I give honest and constructive feedback—the kind I would like to receive.
  • As a leader, I help people spend more time in their strengths.
  • As a leader, I know and act according to my principles.
  • As a leader, I know how to provide specific, accurate, timely, and relevant constructive feedback.
  • As a leader, I know my weaknesses.
  • As a leader, I model the best.
  • As a leader, I own my mistakes.
  • As a leader, I provide opportunities for my people to excel
  • As a leader, I seek input from multiple perspectives on how to improve.
  • As a leader, I improve my weaknesses that are liabilities.
  • As a leader, I use mistakes as learning opportunities.
  • As a leader, I use tough situations as leadership opportunities.
  • As a leader, when I make a mistake, I do what I can to make it right.

Problem Solving

  • As a leader, I ask clarifying questions about the problem.
  • As a leader, I break down problems into smaller, easier, more manageable chunks.
  • As a leader, I challenge myself to take on big hairy challenges.
  • As a leader, I focus on the task and keep my ego out of it.
  • As a leader, I frame the problem in a way that’s actionable.
  • As a leader, I help people focus on what they control.
  • As a leader, I prioritize solving the right problems first (solving the problems that have the most impact).
  • As a leader, I solve problems.

Teamwork

  • As a leader, I ask people what they need to be successful.
  • As a leader, I break the work down in a way that can be managed effectively.
  • As a leader, I clear roadblocks for people.
  • As a leader, I create a sense of ownership.
  • As a leader, I create ways for people to collaborate on problems.
  • As a leader, I delegate tasks effectively.
  • As a leader, I empower people to get their jobs done.
  • As a leader, I encourage others to spend more time in their strengths and less time in their weaknesses.
  • As a leader, I encourage others to take bold action.
  • As a leader, I encourage people to share what they know and grow others.
  • As a leader, I encourage people to team up.
  • As a leader, I find a way for the team to win.
  • As a leader, I foster team spirit.
  • As a leader, I give others the leeway to do the work.
  • As a leader, I help clarify expectations and roles.
  • As a leader, I help find ways to make my team more productive.
  • As a leader, I help manage and balance personalities on the team.
  • As a leader, I help my people balance their work and life.
  • As a leader, I help people find roles that unleash and bring out their best.
  • As a leader, I help people internalize what success looks like.
  • As a leader, I help people work together by focusing on the greater good.
  • As a leader, I know how to get out of the way and let people do their jobs.
  • As a leader, I know the strengths individuals bring to the table.
  • As a leader, I know when to play quarterback and when to play coach.
  • As a leader, I share what I learn to help make others great.
  • As a leader, I set clear boundaries and allow people to act within those boundaries.
  • As a leader, I value and encourage diversity on the team.
  • As a leader, I value the unique contribution that each individual brings.

Vision, Mission, Values

  • As a leader, I can communicate the mission in one line.
  • As a leader, I can prioritize effectively across competing concerns.
  • As a leader, I can relate the vision and mission to what people are doing.
  • As a leader, I co-create a compelling mission that is simple, sticky, and powerful.
  • As a leader, I co-create a vision that people sign up for.
  • As a leader, I create a larger playground for more people to play.
  • As a leader, I demonstrate that I respect other people’s values.
  • As a leader, I have a vision for the organization that inspires.
  • As a leader, I help people see the forest from the trees by communicating priorities and setting focus.
  • As a leader, I know what my values are and I communicate them to others.
  • As a leader, I live my values.
  • As a leader, I respect other peoples’ opinions even if I disagree with them.

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