Throughout your life, you’ll meet people you wouldn’t dare follow to the water cooler and others you would follow to hell and back. What is it that makes the difference? What does it take to be a great leader?
- Have the ability to articulate a clear and compelling vision. Leaders need to lead their people into the future. It is difficult to follow a leader without understanding where they are going and how they’re getting there. Great leaders know how to communicate their vision in a way that compels people to follow.
- Demonstrate genuine care and concern for one’s employees. Great leaders care about what is happening in their employee’s lives and what is important to them. Through this kind of understanding, leaders can align their supervision style with the needs and preferences of their employees. They are fair and equitable, engendering trust.
- Communicate openly and honestly, being transparent with their intentions and motives. Great leaders do not keep secrets from their employees. Great leaders understand full disclosure is necessary for their employees to do their jobs to the best of their ability. Whenever secrets are kept in the workplace, rumors start and trust diminishes. The atmosphere becomes adversarial between those who have the information and those who don’t.
- Show people, rather than tell them, what needs to be done. Great leaders can do the jobs of the people they supervise. Instead of just telling them, they can show workers how to do what they want. Great leaders model what is expected. They talk the talk and walk the walk.
- Listen to suggestions made by their people. Great leaders understand that those in the trenches doing the work have a better handle on the day-to-day things. Their thoughts and opinions matter and are often spot on. Great leaders implement suggestions of their people whenever possible. When it’s not possible, they provide a reasonable explanation as to why that is.
- Recognize and appreciate quality work. Great leaders are always on the look out for employees who go above and beyond expectations. They provide their people with opportunities for success. They notice and take the time to appreciate team members who are doing excellent work.
- Possess an ability to empower workers to unleash their creativity. Nothing kills creativity more than micromanaging. A great leader understands workers need to feel safe, trust their leader, and freely engage in their creativity. When workers are happy, know they are appreciated, and feel connected to their work, their co-workers, and the mission and vision of the company, they will produce quality work.
- Foster teamwork, cooperation, and collegiality among their people. Great leaders know how to set clear expectations and boundaries and then allow workers the freedom to do their work. They will sense tension and difficulties between employees and works to facilitate negotiation and cooperation. They discourage gossip and forbid any type of discrimination and/or oppression in the environment.
- Confront problems head on. There will be difficulties with employees that will need to be dealt with. Great leaders do not shy away from conflict; they understand effective problem resolution strengthens the team.
- Seek to alter the system rather than blaming individuals when there are problems. When one or two people in the organization have difficulties with something, it is likely an individual issue. However, when the majority of your people have the same issue, it is time to stop looking at individuals and start examining the system to find the flaws that are creating the problem. Team up with your employees against the problem—don’t try to make each other the problem. It isn’t true and it won’t work.
What kind of leader are you? Where are your strengths? What can you improve? Where do you want to start?