3 Wishes Every Great Leader Should Have on Their List

by Alli Polin on March 22, 2013

Great leaders arent in it for the accolades

Rarely do I take sides of right and wrong but here’s one I’m willing to take a stand on:  People that want promotion and titles only for accolades and money are completely off the mark with what it means to be a leader.

Have you ever heard someone you know say some of these ridiculous statements that make you wonder how they ever got their position?

  • I’m in charge now!  It’s about time!
  • Yes! Now people will have to listen to me.
  • Unless you’re a VP, you’re nothing here.
  • I’m totally going to fire (name here) so I don’t have to put up with them any more.
  • Can’t wait for some long leadership team dinners so someone else can pay for my drinks for a change.

“But you’re too blind to notice

The writing on the wall

The higher that you fly

The harder you fall”

~ Book of Love

When you’re a leader, all eyes are on you and if you’re just in it for yourself, you’re going to fail.  It’s as simple as that.  Nobody likes to work for leaders that only care about their own trajectory to the top.   True leaders know that they are only successful when your team is successful.  When the team fails, they’ve failed.

Being a leader is hard work and you’re going to get beat up over your decisions and your convictions (Think: Marissa Mayer, Steve Jobs, Andrew Mason).  Instead of wishing that the world will worship you and pay you the big bucks along the way, here are three wishes every great leader should have on their list (and some tips to make them come true)

WISH #1: I wish my team would share their ideas

There is nothing worse than being in a meeting, asking for input, and being met with silence.  Leaders have one idea but not the only idea.  Ideas are like seeds that need to be watered by a community to truly grow.  Imagine the difference between one flower standing straight and tall and a bush filled with blooms of many colors never seen before.

TIP: If you want your team to share their ideas, use some brainstorming best practices.  Defer judgement during brainstorming to encourage the ideas to flow and try “yes AND” to build on ideas and co-create something together.

WISH #2:  I wish my team would give me some honest feedback

So often leaders ask for feedback and instead of getting the truth, they get a rosy, fear-coated, polite version of the truth.

TIP: The way to increase the likelihood of getting some honest feedback from your team is to be aware of your reactions.  Instead of getting defensive or asking for a million examples to “prove it,” listen.  Listen with an open mind and an open heart and don’t stop listening when they’re done talking but instead continue to reflect, rather than dismiss.  Most importantly, give people a sincere thanks for their time, courage and feedback.

WISH #3:  I wish I knew how to make my people more successful

Too often leaders assume that the same things that motivates them, will motivate all the people on their team and they are confused and frustrated when it doesn’t work.  For example, I prefer to be assigned a task and allowed to run with it but when I’ve tried that with people on my teams, some of them have thrived and some of them have flopped.

TIPInstead of being a mind reader, all you need to do is ask what they want and need.  Ask the team collectively at team meetings, ask individually during one-on-one discussions, and ask even when you think that you know the answer.

Leadership wishes for champagne, caviar and the high-life miss the point of being a leader.  Leaders live their values, go out on a limb, do everything possible to support the success of their team and make a true difference to people, not just the bottom line.

What other wishes do exceptional leaders make come true every day for their teams and their organizations?

(Photo credit)

{ 12 comments… read them below or add one }

Stephen Lahey March 22, 2013 at 9:47 am

“Leaders live their values”.. I agree. I would only add that both good and bad leaders live their values. The good ones have positive, healthy values and it shows in all that they do.


Alli Polin March 22, 2013 at 9:50 am

Thanks, Steve! It’s true that most are living their values… except for those leaders that have completely lost touch with what their values really are a their core. You’ve given me some food for thought and for that I’m grateful!


Blair March 22, 2013 at 11:03 am

Out with the old boys club mentality, in with the new!!! Thanks for being such a wise usher.


Alli Polin March 23, 2013 at 6:39 am

Blair – What a great way to put it! Luckily, BOTH men and women are welcome this time around 😉 but only if they’re willing to pay the fee which is leaving their arrogance and entitlement at the door. Thanks, Blair!


Jon Mertz March 22, 2013 at 11:09 am


A wonderful way to think about things, but I hear in the background an old adage: “Don’t wish your life away!” That is the point here, don’t just wish, ask for it, do it!

One to add would be “I wish my team would be more unafraid to unleash their innovation and creativity.” It is so essential to tap into the creative minds of our teams.




Alli Polin March 23, 2013 at 6:41 am

Jon – Wonderful addition! Helping teams unleash their creativity and creating the culture where innovation is encouraged and can thrive is key to business success. “Because that’s the way we’ve always done it” is the kiss of death and about as “old school” as they come. Many thanks, Jon!


Dan Forbes March 22, 2013 at 5:19 pm

Alli, You wrote, “When you’re a leader, all eyes are on you and if you’re just in it for yourself, you’re going to fail.” Eventually that IS true. It’s too bad that so much damage can be done along the way by this kind of “leader.”

This is an impressive post!


Alli Polin March 23, 2013 at 6:50 am

Dan – You’re right. So much damage is done by leaders that think that the world revolves around them and of course, they’r blinded to it. It’s time for a generation of leaders that have their eyes wide open and see the team as both individuals and a collective and tap into all that they do and create every day. Thanks, Dan!


Johann Gauthier March 22, 2013 at 6:42 pm

Thanks Alli for yet again profound messages !
I am speechless.
Merci / namasté


Alli Polin March 23, 2013 at 6:51 am

Johann – You are sincerely a role model for living leadership. The more I learn from you, the more inspiration I have for my posts, work and life! Thank YOU!


Katy March 23, 2013 at 7:49 am

Hi Alli – I think a lot of people do think that when they become the boss they are going to get to tell people what to do and finally be in control. Unfortunately it’s because that’s what they’ve seen as role models. You are spot on in saying that leadership is about focusing on the success of the team and specifically on the success of each person on the team. It’s a lot harder to do than it sounds and it takes patience and practice and focus. Great post!


Alli Polin March 23, 2013 at 8:57 am

Thanks, Katy! You make an outstanding point – many of the “bad” leaders out there had bad role models. It’s hard to know and do the right things especially when you’ve never really seen them. Thanks so much for raising this important point!


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