Great Leaders Have No Rules | Kevin Kruse

Summary of: Great Leaders Have No Rules: Contrarian Leadership Principles to Transform Your Team and Business
By: Kevin Kruse


Embark on a journey to transform your team and business with Kevin Kruse’s book, ‘Great Leaders Have No Rules.’ Discover contrarian leadership principles that defy conventional wisdom, such as abandoning an open-door policy and eliminating rules for creative freedom. Learn the significance of balancing both trust and essential boundaries while fostering a culture of innovation, engagement, and vulnerability. Challenge yourself to adopt these powerful strategies, building a cohesive team, and ultimately, realizing your leadership potential.

Manage Time: Cultivate Balance

We can learn from Steve Harvey’s controversial memo that asked people to schedule appointments with him rather than dropping in unannounced. Open-door policies in the workplace, aimed at promoting trust and communication, often decrease productivity and hinder team decision-making skills. A more balanced approach is needed: designate specific times for employee meetings, giving everyone opportunities to discuss concerns while providing undisturbed time to focus on pressing tasks.

Instead of being shocked by Steve Harvey’s memo that demanded appointment scheduling, we should see wisdom in it. Harvey, who was hosting numerous shows across different states, understandably demanded some peace before going on air to recharge and concentrate. In essence, his request was reasonable because the ‘pop-in’ culture would disrupt his focus.

The takeaway message: ditch the open-door policy and thoughtfully plan your schedule. Most workplaces adopted an open-door culture intending to foster trust, collaboration, and communication. However, this approach could backfire by reducing a leader’s productivity and restraining team members from developing crucial decision-making abilities.

Surprisingly, 50 percent of your team members might not feel at ease to express their concerns through the open-door policy. Worries about potential repercussions such as being labeled as troublemakers or having their concerns dismissed can be powerful deterrents. Additionally, they could fear provoking new tensions within the team.

On the other hand, those who take advantage of the policy might disturb your workflow incessantly. This kind of open-door approach can deter employees from making independent decisions, causing them to seek constant validation and creating a dependency culture.

To lead efficiently, find a balance between open- and closed-door strategies by setting regular intervals when you’re accessible to employees. It could be during a once-a-week full day session or on an hourly basis daily—whatever accommodates both your and the team’s needs best. By doing so, your team will still feel supported while you’ll have the necessary uninterrupted time to face pressing matters.

Rules or Standards: Choose Wisely

Imagine being stuck in a situation where you’re forced to team up with bureaucracy to spend $250 on an overnight stay when a simple $10 increase would save a lot of time and money. Bizarre, isn’t it? Yet, strict adherence to rules, rather than intelligent decision-making, is a reality in many workplaces. Unfortunately, a rule-laden environment leads to decreased accountability, unnecessary suffering for the majority, and a shift from focusing on outcomes to activities. A better alternative is to set flexible standards for employees that encourage mutual accountability and enhance trust within the organization.

It’s not uncommon to find workplaces with rules that make you wonder if common sense has taken a vacation. As companies grow, so do their rulebooks, attempting to maintain order and reduce risks. However, these rules can have the unintended consequence of eroding trust, leading to underperformance.

Rules in the workplace tend to create three significant issues. Firstly, employees lose accountability. The presence of excessive rules reduces a team member’s ownership over their job, which in turn diminishes their emotional investment in the company. With little investment, an employee is less likely to care about their own or the company’s overall performance.

Secondly, these rules often result in the majority suffering to protect the minority. Consider Nick, a business owner who installed filtering software to prevent employees from accessing personal emails during work hours. The strictness ended up blocking essential websites and software updates, forcing Nick to invest time and energy into manually unblocking them for each employee. The trade-off of a vigilant minority was a decrease in overall efficiency and increased frustration.

Lastly, rules tend to shift a team’s focus from outcomes to activities. Many managers forget what truly matters – the end results. When they become obsessed with micromanaging every aspect of an employee’s workday, they hinder the team’s potential for achieving real outcomes. A rule that mandates employees be in the office to prevent distractions at home only leads to more distractions like time wasted on social media in the office.

A more effective approach is to set standards rather than impose rules. By creating a culture that upholds jointly agreed-upon standards, employees become accountable to one another and the leader. Trust grows within the team, and everyone feels a sense of empowerment rather than the confinement brought on by rigid rules. So, the next time you’re faced with installing more rules, consider opting for flexible and trust-enhancing standards instead.

Rise Above Popularity for Leadership

Our inherent need to be liked can prove detrimental to effective leadership. Striving to be liked by all may lead to poor decision-making, a dysfunctional work culture, and ultimately harm the team you are meant to lead. Great leaders prioritize values over the quest for popularity, which in turn garners respect from their team members.

The need for belonging and being liked is deeply ingrained in human nature. Right after our most basic needs like food, shelter, and safety, Maslow’s hierarchy places our need for belonging. A 2017 Gallup survey supports this by revealing that employee engagement is positively impacted by solid friendships at work, and many contemporary companies have adapted their environment to foster such connections.

However, being a leader demands a different approach. If you’re someone in a leadership position, your focus shouldn’t be on being liked by your team members. Rather, your priority must be to make the right decisions for their sake. The hard reality is that you cannot be equal to your team members when you have the power to make decisions regarding their professional growth and work conditions. Focusing solely on being liked would set you up for difficulties.

Poor decision-making is often a consequence of attempting to maintain friendships, and this case is exemplified by Yahoo’s cofounder, Jerry Yang. His reluctance to face the important question of Yahoo’s identity – whether to remain a media company or become a tech company – was due to his desire to keep everyone happy. As a result, an undefined strategy led to limited success and diminished Yahoo’s value.

Moreover, if you emphasize being liked, your leadership could foster a dysfunctional work culture. When popularity is held above all else, you may end up avoiding crucial tasks like providing constructive feedback or resolving conflicts among team members. These unresolved issues create stress and tension, contributing to a toxic environment that drives talent away.

To overcome the need for being liked, replace it with an aspiration to lead effectively. Leaders who put their values first, such as Gandhi and Martin Luther King, may not have been unanimously liked – yet their unwavering commitment to their values inspired respect.

Make a conscious effort to reflect on your leadership values and use them as a benchmark for your actions. By leading with values rather than seeking popularity, you might not be everyone’s friend, but you will eventually gain respect and, ultimately, be a more effective and successful leader.

Lead with Love, Not Fear

Shifting from a Machiavellian fear-based leadership style to a loving, caring one can create a more productive work culture that encourages innovation, enhances employee satisfaction, and boosts organizational overall success. Connecting with team members on a human level, acknowledging their personal lives, and fostering their professional growth demonstrates genuine leadership and care.

In The Prince, Italian diplomat Niccolò Machiavelli audaciously suggested that rulers should be feared over being loved. Despite the centuries since its writing, some contemporary leaders still employ this fear-based approach, mistakenly believing it drives productivity. However, it hinders creativity, stifles innovation, and hampers open communication. Moreover, a fear-based work environment leads to increased stress and employee turnover.

Contrastingly, ancient Chinese philosopher Lao Tzu believed that effective leadership lies in nurturing teams and developing their autonomy. By managing people rather than tasks, successful leaders prioritize caring for their employees. Embracing this view leads to a more loving and effective workplace.

Leading with love might sound daunting, but it simply entails genuinely caring for your team members. Research supports this philosophy – a Gallup survey of 25 million employees revealed that when workers feel cared for, turnover is lower, and productivity increases.

To convey your care, start by regularly greeting employees and making eye contact. A study by executive coach Paul Marciano revealed that a simple “Good morning” can make a significant difference in how your team perceives your attitude toward them. Furthermore, maintaining eye contact during conversations helps employees feel acknowledged, fostering stronger connections among team members.

To deepen these connections, show genuine interest in your team’s personal lives. Learn about their partners, children, and important events like birthdays. Engage in casual conversations regarding their weekend plans and follow up on them later. Acknowledging these aspects of their lives demonstrates attentiveness and care.

Apart from fostering strong personal connections, it is essential to prioritize employees’ career growth. Schedule one-on-one meetings every six months to discuss their career aspirations and potential development paths. By doing so, you increase employee engagement and loyalty, as they will likely remain dedicated to an organization that is invested in their growth.

In conclusion, rejecting the fear-based approach to leadership in favor of a caring, people-centered style will yield extraordinary benefits. By developing personal connections with employees and supporting their career growth, leaders can create productive and loving workplaces that inspire innovation and lasting success.

Master Time with Time Blocking

Discover the powerful technique of time blocking to increase productivity and reduce stress. Prioritize tasks based on values, optimize peak performance hours, and eliminate time-wasting distractions. It’s time to ditch the to-do list in favor of intentional scheduling.

Many of us are taught to use to-do lists in our quest for productivity, but our reliance on them can be counterproductive. A staggering 41 percent of tasks on a typical list are never completed, leaving a constant reminder of unfulfilled work and causing heightened stress levels. To reach peak effectiveness, it’s essential to focus on how we spend every minute of the day.

Obsessing over time is a commonality among high achievers, who leverage the technique of time blocking. Through scheduling specific dates and times for each task, we prioritize what truly matters and avoid the anxiety induced by incomplete to-do lists. Assign tasks according to your values, such as professional and personal priorities like employee coaching, health, and family time.

To make the best use of your scheduled tasks, consider your peak performance time, which generally occurs one to two hours after waking up. During these optimal hours, our creativity and decision-making abilities are at their apex, so prioritize critical work accordingly. Less demanding tasks can be tackled once this window of excellence has passed.

Another opportunity for time optimization is to think about time in smaller increments. Standard scheduling in 30 or 60-minute intervals leaves potential productivity unclaimed. Instead, consider allocating time in 15-minute segments to create opportunities for additional tasks.

Lastly, recognize the time drain of work meetings. With a University of California study revealing that Microsoft employees spent 31 unproductive hours per month in meetings, it’s vital to be vigilant about their effectiveness. Encourage clear meeting agendas and thoughtful invite lists to ensure every participant’s time is well spent.

By shifting our focus from to-do lists to carefully scheduled time blocking, we can optimize our days, allocate our time efficiently, and ultimately lead more fulfilling and successful lives.

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