Leadership 101

“If…you can’t be a good example, then you’ll just have to be a horrible warning.” Catherine Aird

Do people willingly want to follow you? The real test of leadership is influence. Would your subordinates describe you as an effective manager, supervisor or team leader? Be honest with yourself. Put yourself in their shoes. Would you want to work for YOU?! If your employees’ pay, perks and benefits were not dependent on doing what you ask, would they still want to follow you? If the answer is yes, you are truly a role model of leadership.

In conducting leadership training around the world for over a decade, here are the key traits I hear over and over that employees want to see in their leaders. And most of these employees are managers themselves.These traits will sound familiar to you. Yet, we need to be reminded of them. Many managers confide to me that they’re so overloaded they forget about practicing many of these qualities on a regular basis.

1) Supportive/Good listener: It’s been said the average person listens to what you have to say only 25% of the time. Yes, that’s right. Much of the time we’re caught up in our own “stuff” and we’re not always listening. Listen. Think before you speak. Some people just need to be allowed to vent. Vent within reason of course. Then, they’ll be more likely to listen to you.

2) Open-minded. It’s hard to listen without an open mind. At least acknowledge what your employees have to say. It doesn’t mean you necessarily have to agree. In order to gain respect and get your team members to follow you, sometimes you first have to show respect.

3) Honest. Do you possess personal integrity? Your team members will look to see if you do what you say you are going to do. This sounds like common-sense and it is. Yet, many in a leadership position forget this important trait. The minute you can’t deliver on your promises you lose all credibility. It will be the one thing your employees will always remember. As the saying goes, “They remember your last act.” Under promise and over deliver. Always do what you say you are going to do.

True Leadership = Inspiration:

4) Inspiring. True leadership = inspiration. Real leaders have a passion for what they do. They are able to transfer that enthusiasm to their employees. People want to follow someone they respect and admire. In my leadership training, a lot of managers tell me they also want a leader “who is balanced in their personal as well as professional life.” They see a balanced leader as someone who walks their talk. Employees want to follow someone who has what they want.

5) Intelligent. I frequently hear the comment, “In our organization, the left hand doesn’t know what the right hand is doing.” Or, “My manager really has no idea what I do for a living. What my job entails, the challenges and the time constraints.” Please educate yourself on each of your team member’s responsibilities. It’s the only way you can speak intelligently to them and gain respect.

6) Future-oriented. Upper management should put their organization’s five year, three year, and one year plan in writing and pass it out to every employee. A lot of employees don’t know their organization’s overall goals and objectives. An integral part of leadership is having vision, and being able to convey that vision in a way that excites and inspires team members. A great way to motivate most of your employees is to show each and every one where they fit in with the organization’s big picture. Most of them want to know their purpose and how they make a difference.

Effective Leadership = Effective Social Skills:

7) Excellent communicator. Many people are promoted to leadership positions based on their “hard skills” or technical skills. Yet, most managers describe true leadership as demonstrating good interpersonal skills. Excellent leaders and managers aren’t just good communicators in terms of what’s expected on the job. They also make it a priority to take a sincere interest in their employees. Little things go a long way. For example, know your employee’s birthdays, whether or not they have children, and acknowledge their length of service on their anniversary.

8) Fair-minded. Employees and managers alike respect leaders in an organization who are fair, objective, and “don’t play favorites.” They want sincere recognition for a job well done. Most employees want to be judged on their performance, not on whether or not they’ve got friends in high places.

9) Flexible with change. An effective leader is open to change, new ideas and taking risks. A leader who is a good role model doesn’t take a “my way or the highway” approach. They’re confident enough in themselves that they can give explanations for WHY a change is being made. Employees always want to know why. Managers and leaders who are secure within themselves don’t need to say, “Because I’m your supervisor and I said so.”

10) Leadership starts with service. Effective leadership involves rolling up your sleeves and helping others. The term “servant leadership” was coined in 1970 by Robert K. Greenleaf, former AT&T executive and founder of The Greenleaf Center for Servant-Leadership. He wrote, “It begins with the natural feeling that one wants to serve, to serve first. Then conscious choice brings one to aspire to lead.”

“A good example is the best sermon.” Anon.

Copyright (c) 2006 Colleen Kettenhofen