Five things even the best leaders can do more of


I’m so fortunate. I get to work with the best leaders around. But it’s difficult sometimes when they are expecting to magically discover what they need to get better at, even as they’ve had stellar 360 results and are respected and valued within their organizations.

Sometimes their blind spots take over, and they can’t quite grasp their development opportunities. I relax and ask a lot of questions while brainstorming with them about feedback they’ve received or performance evaluations that point out their strengths and their gaps.

There is always something that they can improve. Trust me (I say), we’ll figure it out.

And we do, without fail. I have found through years of this lovely work with great leaders that there are some things that crop up for the best leaders that can almost universally be improved. They’re more about being than they are about doing, and they will make an impact on them and their organization.

So if you’re struggling to figure out your next development opportunity (and one that can move you – by leaps and bounds – into great leadership), consider taking on the following goals:

Listen more: Perhaps distractions keep you from listening better or the chatter in your head pulls you away from truly listening to others at the deepest level. There is so much noise going on around you and inside you that you lose focus on the very people who have the ideas and passion to move your organization forward. You can learn to listen better.

Ask deeper questions: Learn to ask the kind of questions that make people think; the kind that you don’t know the answer to. These questions begin with the word “what”: “What possibilities haven’t we thought of yet?” and “What will our organization be like five years from now?”. Asking these deeper questions will give you new insight and help others to move toward a positive future.

Connect more with the disconnected: You should always tune in to those who are quiet (because they may have a lot to offer), those who disagree you (because they might have a point) and those who you know you must collaborate with (because a relationship with them needs to begin now). Reach out to those you are disconnected from and begin a dialog.

Make more time to think: Your day is a whirlwind of activity, and you need to protect the time you’ve set aside to vision, to assess your impact or to create new strategies. Instead of allowing that time to erode away with the urgent, block out time to think through what’s most important. Learn to reflect in this way on a regular basis.

Express more sincere gratitude to others: A quick “thanks” or “good job” isn’t always enough. When I ask employees what their manager/leader could do more of, I often hear that they don’t know when they’ve done something well. Learn to express gratitude well.

Choose one of these five things to work on. Practice diligently, and I guarantee your organization will see improved results and you’ll be an even better leader (and human being)!


I am a former executive in a Fortune 100 company. I have owned and operated an executive coaching firm since 2003 called Aspire Collaborative Services LLC. We partner with great leaders to help them become even greater at developing, improving, and sustaining relationships with the people who are essential to their success. This blog is for leaders and those who help them to be more intentional about relationships at work. My top personal values include respect for others, kindness, compassion, collaboration and gratitude. I work very hard at practicing my values daily and when I don’t succeed, I practice some more. I am married with two wonderful daughters and two spoiled pugs.

5 comments on “Five things even the best leaders can do more of

  1. Great list Mary. One thing I noticed about it, all but one had an outward focus on others. And that’s the key to leadership. Focusing on others and what they need more than focusing on ourselves.

  2. A good manager needs to make sure everyone on the team is not only pulling their weight, but also knows what weight they are supposed to pulling! If you are managing a remote office staying connected can be even harder because you can’t physically check-up on people.

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