Great Leadership...What Does it Take?
In 16 years of consulting, I have worked with many different businesses, industries, and types of ownership and leadership structures. One of the most enjoyable things about being a consultant is the variety of work and the different personalities and leadership styles that I encounter. However, it never ceases to amaze me that some fundamental characteristics required of great leaders are missing in many organizations.
How many of us feel that we are, or have worked for, a great leader? Unfortunately, I haven’t necessarily worked for what I would define as great leaders. But, through those experiences, I have learned what a bad leader is and how to do the opposite.
That’s not to say I’m perfect, and I will confess that nothing tests the ability to lead well like parenting! If our leadership flaws are going to come out…trust me, your children will find every one of them and exploit them to their own benefit!
This can be analogous to your employees and co-workers. As human beings, we evaluate situations, people, and interactions for our own self-preservation and to achieve our own goals and objectives. But more importantly, we want some very basic needs to be filled by the leaders we work for:
Positivity – Have you ever had a job where you dreaded going to work in the morning because you were afraid of what side of the bed your boss got up on? Will they be in a good mood or on a rampage that sends everyone running? Now that you’re the leader, remember…positivity and negativity are both contagious, but being positive is a lot more fun!
Overcoming Setbacks – We as human beings aren’t perfect. There will be failures that occur, regardless of intentions. That’s okay; we just need to know how to deal with them. Use your resources, engage others, and work through it. Don’t panic or fall apart, as your team is looking to you to help them through, and it sets the tone for how you expect them to handle setbacks as an organization.
Take Responsibility – Similar to #2, you’re human. You will make mistakes. However, taking responsibility and working to figure out how to fix the problem is what your employees are looking for from their leader. If you want your employees to take ownership, you must first do it yourself. This instills trust and integrity.
Development – Great leaders develop those around them. Making an investment in someone else not only improves your overall team but also increases morale and creates loyalty and respect.
Delegate – As your organization grows, you need to delegate to those you are developing. You can’t do it all. Expanding their skills and abilities, and trusting them, continues to build positive morale through appreciation and respect.
Communication – We all want to be informed. We want to understand the “why” not just the “what.” Being able to articulate what’s going through your head, how you came to a decision, and more importantly how to listen and understand where other people are coming from, is one of the most critical skills a great leader can demonstrate.
Confidence – I don’t know about you, but I don’t want to work for someone who is unsure of themselves or lacks self-esteem. Now, that doesn’t mean I want to work for an arrogant jerk, but I do want to work for someone that exhibits an air of success and courage. Your employees are looking to you for cues on how to behave. If you remain calm in a time of crisis, so will they.
Intuition – Trust yourself. You will be presented with situations that you haven’t experienced before. However, you’ve had past experiences that can help guide you. Trust enough in your own intuition to help lead/guide your team.
Have a Sense of Humor – It always surprises me that some organizations strongly discourage any personal interaction/conversation/humor among employees. Now granted, there is a balance. But being able to laugh and share stories provides long-lasting benefits to employee morale and productivity.
Commitment – Lead by example and stick to your commitments and promises. Nothing was more irritating to me in my past roles than when a leader made a commitment and didn’t follow up on it. Even after a few reminders, they never seemed to get it done. “Do what you say, say what you do, and follow-through.”
Is this list all-inclusive? Not at all. Integrity, vision, empathy, humility…the list could go on and on. The key is to always continue learning and growing in our skills and abilities.
So, let me give you a challenge: pick just one of the 10 characteristics above and focus on it every day for 30 days. Although statistics say that it takes 21 days to form a new habit, I want to give you a little extra time! If you were to focus on one every 30 days, within one year, would you be a better leader?
With the challenges of hiring and retaining talent, what would improving your leadership skills do for you? For your organization?
Jayne McQuillan, CPA, MBA, Certified Exit Planning Advisor (CEPA) is the owner of Journey Consulting, LLC and author of the bestseller, "The Value Journey: How to Drive Profits, Build Wealth, and Exit Your Business on Your Own Terms."
Our firm is focused on providing business owners and their businesses with strategic planning, exit planning, financial expertise, and organizational improvement. We use a holistic approach within all of our services by aligning leadership with business strategy and outcomes.
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