My Top 10 Leadership Insights For 2016

A look back at my Top 10 leadership insights from 2016 and the common themes they reveal about how leaders can be successful in 2017.

There’s no question that the start of a new year brings to mind notions of new beginnings and a chance for a fresh start. Of course, as much as we might be eager to set our sights ahead into 2017 and envision all the possibilities and goals we might achieve, it’s worth taking the time to look back on the year that was and what we learned along the way.

It’s from that vantage point that I sat down to put together my Top 10 leadership insights for 2016 as determined by you, the readers of my leadership blog. In putting this list together, it’s always interesting to see which of my pieces were the most popular with my readers, and where I might differ in terms of which articles I’d put in a list of my Top 10 favourite leadership articles for 2016

For example, as a Star Trek fan, I’d definitely include my piece “4 Important Leadership Lessons From The Final Frontier” that celebrated Star Trek’s 50th anniversary in 2016, a piece which came close, but didn’t quite make the Top 10 list of my readers’ most favourite pieces.

What’s also interesting about this process is how certain threads or themes begin to emerge that serve to shine a light on what issues or challenges today’s leaders are most interested in learning more about. Looking at the list of 10 leadership insights found below, it’s clear that many leaders are interested in learning how to develop stronger relationships with those under their care; that their focus is increasing on how to empower their employees to bring their full selves to the work they do.

It’s an encouraging sign, and certainly a great way to begin a new year.

And so with that, here now are my Top 10 leadership insights as selected by the readers of my award-winning leadership blog:

Leadership Insight #10 – Empathy allows us to bridge the gap between how we see things and how others experience them. [Share on Twitter]

“Through our empathy, we’re able to move beyond the binary attitude of “I’m right/you’re wrong” which can impede any initiative from moving forward, to one that’s driven by the desire to discover that common ground we share with one another so that we can promote collaboration and foster sustainable growth.

It’s a truth that becomes all the more obvious when we remember that the key to your organization’s success and future prosperity is no longer based solely on the processes and technologies found within your company’s walls, but within the talents, insights, and experiences of those you lead. Something that one can tap into only if we create conditions where people feel connected to what they do and to those around them, as well as being a part of the shared purpose that defines your collective efforts.

But how do we know if we’re truly being empathetic in our leadership? How can we tell if we’re creating conditions that allow all of our employees to succeed and thrive, as opposed to a select few like our ‘star players’ or those we personally relate to?”

Read more on this leadership insight here: A Timely Reminder Of The Power Of Empathy In Leadership


Leadership Insight #9 – When we lead only by authority, our focus is only on ourselves and not on how to empower others. [Share on Twitter]

“Now I’ve written before about the importance of building relationships with those we lead and one of the key reasons for that is to help us better understand our employees’ needs, and of what will best motivate them to bring their best efforts to the table. It’s through such efforts that we’re able to influence others because we’re able to connect our vision or ideas to things that our employees would care about as well.

Again, as leaders, your employees do have to follow your lead and that alone is a sign of your authority. But getting people to believe in your vision, in the goals you want to achieve requires influence, something we don’t have a right to simply because of our title or role. Rather, it’s something we have to earn by gaining the trust and respect of those we have the responsibility to guide and support so that they can succeed in their collective efforts.”

Read more on this leadership insight here: Is Your Leadership Based On Influence Or Authority?


Leadership Insight #8 – The power of relationships is that it allows us the freedom of knowing we don’t have to go it alone. [Share on Twitter]

“One of the truisms of modern-day leadership is that as leaders, we can’t expect to have all the answers. Of course, the corollary to that axiom is that leaders shouldn’t be afraid to ask or accept a helping hand from those they lead. After all, how can we help those we lead to grow if we don’t value their ability to offer a helping hand?

How can we encourage our employees to challenge their perceptions of what they can do, of how they can contribute, if we don’t recognize their ability to help us beyond the tasks and responsibilities assigned to them?

That’s where the dynamics of relationship-building comes into play as it ensures that our interactions are not simply transactional, but are mutually beneficial over time. Where those efforts we make to help others succeed comes back into play when they lend us a hand when we need someone to lean on or garner support so that we can carry on and move forward.”

Read more on this leadership insight here: One Question Every Leader Should Inspire In Those They Lead


Leadership Insight #7 – Whether we win or lose, there is always an opportunity to learn how we can be better going forward. [Share on Twitter]

“How do these athletes continue to fuel their drive to keeping pushing ahead; to finish the race even after their chance to win a medal is long gone?

Obviously, what most people focus on is the mental toughness of the athletes, which undoubtedly plays a critical role in their ability to bounce back from a disappointing performance.

But what’s more critical to their ability to keep pressing ahead is how their focus is on looking for what they can learn from that experience – of what that competition helped them to learn about what they need to work on going forward, and what their competitors did to move past them.

As spectators, when the competition is over and the medals are handed out, the event is for all intents and purposes done and we move on to the next competition. But for these athletes, this is merely the start of the next leg in their process of discovering how they can become a better competitor and hopefully win the next competition.”

Read more on this leadership insight here: 4 Leadership Lessons We Can Learn From The Olympics


Leadership Insight #6 – Feedback shouldn’t be limited to what employees do wrong; it should also tell them how to do better. [Share on Twitter]

“It should be treated as an opportunity to remind our employees of the potential we see in them, of what we believe them capable of, and to inspire them to challenge their assumptions of what they can achieve.

I’ve written before about the importance of creating an environment where employees feel safe to fail because they know they’re expected to learn from it. But how can failure be a learning experience if the feedback they get from us focuses only on what they did wrong instead of also helping them to understand how they can do better going forward?

This is why we don’t need to use a feedback sandwich because as much as it hurts to be told that you made a mistake or messed up, it’s easier to pick ourselves up and push ourselves to try again when we see that those in charge and those around us believe in our potential to ultimately succeed in our efforts.”

Read more on this leadership insight here: Are You Employing This Key To Giving Effective Feedback?


Leadership Insight #5 – Leadership is not just about getting results, but finding ways to inspire those you lead to be better. [Share on Twitter]

“As someone who writes, speaks and works with leaders to help them better understand what it takes bring out the best in those they lead, it was a genuine privilege to be able to inspire this group of newly minted graduates about what they can achieve going forward.

It was a privilege to deliver this speech because as leaders, we have an obligation to inspire passion and excitement for what the future might hold; for what those we lead can do, for what they can become, and how they can live a life that matters.

Indeed, it was my hope that in sharing this message to this new generation of leaders, inventors, team players, and game-changers that they would appreciate that optimism is not the absence of negativity, but the ability to rise above despite it, a message that unfortunately bears repeating in light of the numerous challenges dogging our world today.”

Read more on this leadership insight here: Inspiring Those We Lead To Build A Better Tomorrow


Leadership Insight #4 – People don’t invest their best simply to get the job done; they invest their best because they care. [Share on Twitter]

“They want to know that they and the work they do matters, and that they’re a part of something bigger than themselves; something that’s worth committing your best efforts in order to make it your collective reality.

What these studies remind us is that it’s easy to ask ourselves the question of whether our leadership supports or enables a toxic workplace environment because this is one of those binary questions we ask ourselves more to assure ourselves about who we are as a leader and as a person.

It’s even lazy or deceitful because the question is one that doesn’t involve genuine introspection, of being honest in looking within ourselves for those hidden gaps in how we lead, and those overlooked impacts we have on those under our care.

Seen from this light, it becomes clear that asking the question ‘are you creating or supporting a toxic workplace environment‘ is only the starting point and not the end to understanding what kind of organizational culture we’re providing for all our employees.”

Read more on this leadership insight here: Does Your Leadership Bring Out The Best In Those You Lead?


Leadership Insight #3 – Inspiring employees to do more requires giving them opportunities to learn what they can achieve. [Share on Twitter]

“A lot has been written about organizational culture and values in terms of how do we define them; of what organizational ingredients we need to list as part of our collective identity in order to inspire people to be engaged in the shared purpose of our organization.

And yet, as many of us have come to recognize from our own experiences, our organizational culture and values are not simply messages you frame on the wall. Rather, they are emblematic of both why we do what we do, and what employees should expect from us in terms of how we will guide and support them to become full contributors to that vision.

Again, go back to what my daughter said about the kind of boss she hopes to work for. She doesn’t want someone whose charismatic, or successful, or a ‘rock star’. Instead, she wants to work for someone who will inspire her; who will challenge her to push herself because they demonstrate that belief in her potential to evolve and grow.”

Read more on this leadership insight here: Understanding The Power Of Expectations


Leadership Insight #2 – The goal of listening in leadership is to help the other person feel heard and understood. [Share on Twitter]

“Today’s world is moving faster each day, but that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t be making time to listen to the concerns and issues our employees face. Making time in your day to ‘walk the floor’ and listen to what your employees have to say will not only keep you in the loop about potential problems that might be on the horizon, but it will also demonstrate to your employees that you care about the conditions they have to deal with.

It’s also worth noting here that the goal here is not to simply act on what others are telling you. Rather, you want to better understand their reality and the challenges they face and how it might impact their ability to succeed in achieving the goals you’ve given them to attain.”

Read more on this leadership insight here: 7 Ways Leaders Can Empower Their Employees To Succeed


And with that, we come to the top leadership insight I shared in 2016 here on my award-winning leadership blog, an insight which interestingly enough was inspired by the Canadian Thanksgiving holiday and the notion of expressing gratitude to those around us; a rather fitting topic for top spot in this theme looking at how we can bring out the best in those we lead:

Leadership Insight #1 – Gratitude allows us to see the best in those around us, and how they help us to do and be better. [Share on Twitter]

“It demonstrates our understanding of how the successes and gains our organization has made were not simply a product of our leadership, but the result of the collective contributions made by our employees.

It also helps our employees to better understand and appreciate how their efforts have impacted their colleagues and their team.

For example, perhaps you have within your organization an employee whose natural exuberance to bring forth new initiatives they’d like to undertake inspires other employees to push forth their own ideas. Or maybe you have an employee whose natural people-skills makes them an invaluable team member in helping to break the ice when meeting with new clients.

Although these behaviours and actions are not a part of their job description, their efforts matter because they help to drive your organization forward.”

Read more on this leadership insight here: Why Expressing Gratitude Through Our Leadership Matters


So there you have it, my Top 10 leadership insights for 2016 as chosen by you, the readers of my leadership blog. It’s been wonderful to look back and see which ideas, stories, and reflections were the most popular with my readers.  I’m looking forward to seeing where this on-going journey of exploring the nature of leadership and how we can do better by those under our care will take us in 2017.

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Tanveer Naseer is an award-winning and internationally-acclaimed leadership writer and keynote speaker. He is also the Principal and Founder of Tanveer Naseer Leadership, a leadership coaching firm that works with executives and managers to help them develop practical leadership and team-building competencies to guide organizational growth and development. Tanveer’s writings and insights on leadership and workplace interactions have been featured in a number of prominent media and organization publications, including Forbes, Fast Company, Inc Magazine, Canada’s national newspaper “The Globe and Mail”, The Economist Executive Education Navigator, and the Ritz-Carlton Leadership Center.

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