“Become the kind of leader that people would follow voluntarily;
 even if you had no title or position.” – Brian TracyThere’s incredible merit and value in having a team that follows when they don’t have to. This is the type of team that will burn the midnight oil, think beyond barriers, and never resort to excuses. So what kind of leader does it take to create a team like this?

It takes a leader who keeps tabs on cross disciplines to gain additional insight where you find it. That can either mean you’re reading the latest issue of Psychology Today for an article on the brain’s interpretation of reward systems, or perhaps it’s the just released issue of Spirituality and Health for an article entitled “Imaginary Being” that gets to the core of imagination and its creative role in building our reality. Then, as a visionary, apply those readings to your business world. This form of leadership requires continuous curiosity and a need to strive for excellence that surpasses your best team member.

For this week, you can take an easier route where I’ve curated key lessons for inspired leadership.

Lesson 1: Managing Creative but Difficult People

At some point in management, you’re going to come across that incredibly talented yet incredibly frustrating employee. For most, it’s their genius IT guy that has all the brains and all the stubbornness to tout. First, recognize that it’s pretty much a really bad idea to hire “yes men” – who do nothing to challenge you or your team. That said, there’s a difference between the belligerent employ and the creative artist. No one wants or needs belligerent, but you do need that creative.

Harvard Business Review had a great article on exactly how to deal with creative but difficult people. The list includes (1) Letting them try and fail within reason, since risk and experimentation are important to your business success; (2) surround with diverse people both like and unlike them so they’re balanced rather than competing with likes or getting utterly bored and misunderstood by those unlike them; (3) only involve them in meaningful work because creatives by nature are passionate (and menial work is sure to drive them away); (4) don’t pressure them (since creatives don’t respond to “structure, order, and predictability”); et. al.

Lesson 2: Taking the Lincoln Leadership Approach

In the film Lincoln, what truly stood out about him was his ability to sit back and observe his team – chiming in only when it was needed. If you watch the film for one reason and one reason only, this should be it. It’s the art of leadership and Lincoln master’s it during a four year national crisis. A recent article in INC touches on this point, noting most leaders can “only operate in one of two modes – in charge or not there.” They go on to add the third approach, which I’m going to call ‘Lincoln Leadership’, and that’s “the ability to sit with their teams without needing to be in charge, using their subject matter knowledge just the same way as anyone else around the table would.”

The post goes on to offer 9 strategies for achieving this, but the most important one worth highlighting is no. 6, “Be comfortable with silence.” Silence is perhaps one of the biggest challenges for leaders today thrust is a loud corporate environment where volume has somehow come to be equated with power. Real power, however, is in selective silence (which adds resounding depth when you do decide to contribute). To further my point here, please watch Lincoln from a boardroom leadership perspective.