Leadership....What does it take?
Updated: Jan 9, 2019
After almost 9 years of consulting, I have worked with a number of different businesses, different industries, and different types of ownership and leadership structures. One of the most enjoyable things about being a consultant is the variety of work and the number of different personalities and leadership styles that I encounter. However, it never ceases to amaze me that some basic characteristics that great leaders have, are not present in many organizations.
In fact, I would suggest that we tend to over complicate leadership and the definition of a great leader. Dictionary.com defines leadership as follows:
"1. the position or function of a leader, a person who guides or directs a group
2. ability to lead"
Some of the key synonyms for leadership are stewardship, management, and control. Whereas, some of the key synonyms for "ability to lead" are influence, effectiveness, authoritativeness.
How many of us feel that we are, or have worked for a great leader? I've said in past newsletters that I haven't necessarily worked for great leaders, but I have learned what a bad leader is, and to do the opposite. A perfect example of testing your leadership, is never clearer than leading (parenting) our children. If our 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:
1. Positivity - How many of you dread coming into work in the morning because you're afraid of what side of the bed your boss got up on? Is this a good day or bad day? Will he/she be positive, or be on a rampage that sends everyone running? None of us want to engage with people that aren't positive. Positivity is contagious, just as negativity, but being positive is a lot more fun!
2. 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.
3. 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.
4. Development - Great leaders develop those around them. Making an investment in someone else not only improves your overall team, it will increase morale and create loyalty and respect.
5. 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.
6. Communication - We all want to be informed. We all want to understand. 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.
7. 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. Your employees are looking to you on how to behave. If you remain calm in a time of crisis, so will they.
8. Intuition - Trust your intuition. 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.
9. 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.
10. 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 then never followed-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."
We are always 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 1 every 30 days, within one year, would you be a better leader?
With the increasing challenges of hiring and retaining talent, what would improving your leadership skills do for you? For your organization?
Jayne McQuillan, CPA, MBA, CEPA is a strategic management consultant, and the owner of Journey Consulting, LLC, in Green Bay