Times have changed. And so have some of the attributes that make great leaders to guide us through these challenging times. Now, more than ever, the world at work and everywhere needs and is looking for leaders to show us the way.
So…..WHAT makes great leaders? Do you have to have the title “Manager, Director, VP, President, CEO” attached to your name to be a true leader? HOW is it different now in the “leadership suite” as compared to before?
There are numerous lists, books and articles addressing leadership and the traits or attributes that make a great leader. All are worth reading and taking to heart. Based on my personal experience in over 30 years of business, here’s my Top 10. They consistently show up in my working past. And definitely do so today in the great leaders I’ve had the pleasure of meeting and working with through my own consulting and coaching practice.
Top 10 Leadership Qualities
- Real, genuine, self-aware and “they are who they are”
- Consistent, level-headed, thoughtful, NOT “Dow Jonesers”
- Outwardly focused, not all about themselves and their agendas
- Good to great communicators that know to L-I-S-T-E-N and truly hear the message
- Flexible, able & willing to change
- Calculated risk-takers that learn from their failures, using them to grow & improve
- Big picture thinkers, forward- thinking in their approach to their actions and plans
- Exudes confidence without being perceived as arrogant or self-absorbed
- Live in a place of high integrity, honesty
- Good relationship builders
Great leaders know that you can’t do it alone. The effective ones today have discovered people working together is far more effective than the old school style of strong fisted, fiery, authoritarian leadership. Including others in the work, the project, the conversation is important. Listening, giving others a voice, adapting and changing what you might have thought originally to adopting new ideas is admirable and needed. It helps tremendously in building real, valued and meaningful relationships with others. That can have multiple payoffs for all. And that all helps create something that is key to all of this…TRUST!
HOW is it different in the leadership role today? The successful leaders at the top of organizations are out in front of their people and their customers more. The really good ones manage by wandering around interactively and getting to know their teams, face to face. They go out and meet their customers and build relationships while increasing their understanding of what they need. More open and revealing about themselves, this in turn makes people understand, appreciate and trust them more. They also know the value and power of group communication, frequent contact, visibility and messages to employees and to customers via social media and web conferencing. Town hall style meetings are making a comeback and they should! In other words, they’re not a robot but a real person with family, friends, interests and problems like the rest of us. They “keep it real”!! Modern day leaders are adaptable and know there is more than one way to get the results. One size and one way does not fit all.
And the same holds true in their relationships and direction of others. Great leaders know that taking the time to understand each person’s preferred style of doing things, likes, dislikes, wants, needs are all vital in doing what really works best. They know to manage to the individual in order to get those results we all are expected to hit and exceed. In turn, this makes them more approachable and keeps them more in tune with what is really going on with their team, business, etc. And this allows them to do so without having to dig for the information in a forced way.
Expectations are everything, especially in great leaders. IF we are around leaders that are more consistent in how they present themselves emotionally and in their communication, actions and decision making the better it is for those around them. The feedback I get more than I like to hear in my role as a workplace consultant and development coach is often “I never know what to expect from one day to the next from him or her. I don’t know what’s right or what’s wrong depending on their mood that day. I’m afraid to take the lead or stick my neck out because I never know how that is going to be received”. Sound familiar?? Consistency in how you show up as a leader solves a lot of problems and certainly creates a more positive, workable dynamic around you.
My Favorite Leader
My final thoughts are entirely based on someone I consider to be the best leader I had the pleasure of knowing and working with in my life. He was considered someone to look up to, listen to and admire many years ago and his style would serve others well today without a doubt. His name was Ed.
Ed was my Regional VP when working as an Operations Manager for a company in Denver, CO. He was the third boss I had been assigned to in a little over a year and he lived quite a distance from my hub, in San Francisco. He didn’t hire me, he inherited me. I rarely saw him. He’d visit once a quarter. All 9 managers on his team, along with those in his small regional office, universally looked up to him and learned from him. Why?
Ed treated us all as individuals. He got to know us on a business level and on a personal level, without crossing the line on that. He laughed, shared himself personally and maybe even more than he did professionally. When we had our quarterly management team meetings, we combined work with something fun, every single time. Being a golfer, the one I enjoyed a lot was playing on the coast in California. But the one we all universally loved and learned a lot in doing was one where we went to an old, down-by-the-tracks bowling alley outside San Jose. He paired us off in teams, bought us greasy burgers, fries and a “tasty beverage” ,or two, or three. And he sat back and watched, for the first two games. Then dove in and joined us on the last two. When I asked him why later, he said it was because he wanted to see who dove in, who held back, how we showed our competitive sides and styles and how we showed up when our guard was down doing this fun activity with no thought on our part. From that he knew what he had on his team. And he used it wisely.
The standard line about Ed was that he really didn’t know that much about the technical side of things, but he knew people. He knew how to motivate them, correct them, guide them and support them. And how to hit our goals while also feeling valued as a person, not just a number. He never played favorites. We always said that outside his office walls you never knew who was in the penthouse and who was in the outhouse. Behind closed doors he made it very clear by being totally honest, short, sweet, and without getting emotional and crushing your spirit when we were off track on something. He helped us come up with a plan to correct and get back on the right path. And then, that was over, move on. We were back to being a team and working hard, playing hard and helping each other out. We loved the guy. He had the “it” factor. And he had “it” because of the characteristics listed at the beginning of the article. Ed lived those every day.