How to Suck Less as a Leader

Most leaders need this post.

How to Suck Less as a Leader - Todd Liles

Step one to suck less as a leader: Repeat after me, I suck as a leader.
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This is one of those posts that would have been a lot of fun to write…but I didn’t.

My friend Todd Liles is a true leader. I’ve gotten to know him a little and he is the real deal.

Professionally, he trains on Leadership, Management, Service, and Sales at Service Excellence Training. Todd helps people live the life they deserve. He writes on the Big 4: God, family, health, and career at his blog.  Connect with him on Twitter and Facebook..

So with that in mind, here is Todd’s advice for how not to suck as a leader.

Step One:  Admit You Suck

I’m past the point of thinking to myself, “Why is my team not doing better?”  I know the answer to that question is “Because I suck as a leader.” I admitted that I sucked.

I used to say that a lot!  I have made some big time mistakes.  Thankfully, I’m on the downside of that slope.  Now I say, “Today I sucked as a leader.”  I still have those days, but they are fewer and farther between.

Step Two:  Suck less by Communicating More:  The Hi’s and Lo’s Report

I’m sucking significantly less as a leader because I’ve learned to pay attention to my team members.  As a team, we have implemented the Hi’s and Lo’s report that Chris LoCurto discusses in EntreLeadership.  Chris said we should make it our own, and let the team put together the report in their way.  That was huge!  Let your team speak in their voice.  You will see the creativity of the person, the love, the drive, what’s important, what’s scary, what thrills them, and what disappoints them.  This is cool stuff!

Check out reports from my 2 of my team members on the left.  Can you hear their voices?

Can you see the heart that beats in our company?  I love our heart.

Step Three:  Stick Legs on the Voice.

In this company, your legs are goals.  Goals, like legs, make you move. And those legs have a goal to run to.  I make sure that I stick legs onto their voice so we are moving!

Here are the legs I put on Stacy’s voice in an email:


It was great to hear and to read about your week.  Thank you for sharing.

I think that the value of the girls losing this week will hold more weight and meaning in their spiritual development because of what they learned from your leadership.  Keep it up.  Don’t quit. . . Tell your girls, you don’t quit.  And you suffer through the pain until you surrender your strength to God and the team.

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I’m very excited about you creating a WOW effect in the program.  This is going to be cool!  Now, I won’t you to have some extra money opps this week, so here is a challenge:


1. Next week:  Work on the WOW factor for our class in Chicago$25 Bonus if list is finished by end of Monday.

a. Write down the complete list of WOW items we talked about.  This will help me be sure I shared everything with you.

2. Complete menus and authorization with Hilton in Chicago.  $50 Bonus if this can be done by the end of Tuesday!

I heard her voice, knew her heart, and gave legs to her goals.  Though you don’t see it here, this email was much longer.

Step Four:  Suck Less

You’ve got to commit to steps one through three. They are not painless (especially step one) but once done repeatedly, you will suck less as a leader.

Question: Question: What are your tips for sucking less as a leader? You can leave a comment by clicking here.

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  • The more I read and listen to other leaders, the more I realize how much I suck. But I’m a whole lot less sucky than I was when I thought I was knew everything.

    I have to work with other leaders who think they are above learning. Their egos wont allow them to admit that they suck and reading blogs like this one threatens them.

    Nice post.

    • Haha, i feel ya Jim! The more we learn, the more we realize how much we really don’t know!

      • And when we go to heaven, God gives a glorious reveal to how truly silly we have been in life. “Oh . . . love was the most important thing I could have been doing, along with have hope and faith? My bad!”

    • Thanks Jim – It was very liberating when I realized that a certain amount of crappy leadership was needed to become a great leader.

  • I agree – it comes down to humility and being able to recognize that we don’t know everything…or at least I don’t. I make mistakes every day…this is a good reminder to use them as an opportunity to get better.

  • lulu

    I’m not sure about putting monetary values on the work step by step. Yes – we all want to be recognized for our efforts – but this “nickle and diming” can actually devalue the work. Wouldn’t a bonus for a completed job be better than constantly dangling carrots for each baby step? Or a annual performance review with reward? Most likely the people you work with or have work for you are there for a reason – hired to do a job. It read like getting an allowance for yard work. I was waiting for, “And that’s not all, if you do it by noon we have a set of steak knives”. Taking an interest in their project, identifying their abilities, offer encouragement – isnt’ that enough? Besides, just managing each person with their bonus here and bonus there would eat up a lot of management time in accounting, which could be better spent coming along side. Damage would be done if you failed to meet one of your promises. Just some thoughts.

    • I can see that. And generally I would agree. Not everything can become a contest :)

      However, occasionally, it’s of good use. I’ve had it done to me before with great effect.

      One year it was clear I was going to fall just short of my big bonus goal. With about a month left in the year, I was offered a smaller bonus for reaching a still difficult, but more attainable goal. I push so hard to hit that…and almost hit the big bonus.

      I went from hopeless to hopeful…and it worked.

      • lulu

        Good on ya! We often need incentives, especially near the goal line.
        I’m probably over sensitive in the “money carrot” and monetary rewards due to working in a place where such rewards were not available for all workers. Ex: hard working secretaries verses hard working sales people. It created some “bad vibes” as these incentives were not across the board.
        A bonus at the end of a project, for all involved – or an annual bonus just seems more fair.

    • Lulu, I can see your point of view. I think it is all about motivating by the individual. My team gets tons of kudos as a standard practice, and they have big bonuses they play for. The small bonuses is a way to mix in some fun. For our team, it works. We are all money motivated. I would love to hear your thoughts on my answer.

      • Lulu

        Of course every situation is different – but I do cringe at the “We are all money motivated” statement. I like to think there is more going on to motivate folks than “just” money. There was chatter about a caring environment and a thankful team leader of late. The dividens that come from those efforts goes deeper than money. Remember the love of money is the root of all evil – and I like to think that I don’t need to be rewarded for everything I do. It is good to have goals – but to me a bonus is an extra for a job well done.

        • Lulu – As a team, our first mission is to bring Glory to God.  Followed by supporting our family,  and then serving our clients.
          I would cringe too if it was money first.

          We use the money as a tool.  And, in my humble opinion,  it is okay to want more of it.  We can do more with more.
          I do agree witn you.  If money was first in our PUP, we would be in trouble
          ——– Original message ——–

  • Listen. As leaders, we have to keep our ears to the railroad tracks, so we can hear the pulse of our team.