Keys to Great Leadership

5_Leadership_Strategies_Guaranteed_to_Alienate_Your_Team-min

By Mark A. Leon

Great leaders are not born, nor invented, but are harnessed through experiences, learning, environmental exposure and ideals of excellence.  These men and women that invoke respect and admiration from their colleagues and peers have earned this through success, respect, loyalty and the ability to inspire.

What sets these individuals apart from the rest?  What truly defines a great leader in an age where ethics and values too often get compromised?

These qualities will paint a very visual picture and as the colors blend together, a creation will form laying the masterpiece of the core values of great leadership.

If you can achieve these five core qualities/traits of a great leader, your future will be paved with achievement.

Great Leadership Traits

Be Yourself: Your True Self – Too often, we feel we need to wear two hats, personal and professional.  The perception that the life outside of work must remain isolated from the life inside the office is one that clouds the ability to create loyalty, partnership and trust in an organization.  A truly inspiring leader is a person that lets his people know all he/she is.  From the great to the bad, transparency builds trust.  It is that ability to open yourself up as a human being with emotion, harnessed and raw, that provides others with the feeling of community.  No team will ever succeed without collaboration, innovation and trust.  Being yourself is the first step to an open environment of sharing and teamwork.

Challenge your people – Human behavior is teased with routine and addiction.  We are surrounded by binge TV, apps, games, addictive behavior and the comfort of doing what we know repeatedly.  It is often our downfall.  When a new processes or technology is introduced, getting the masses to take on a new way of thinking can be the most difficult act of a leader, but a necessary one.  A great leader will continuously challenge and promote change.  Change is constant and necessary.  It is the foundation of growth.  Without it, others take over the reign and you soon become a forgotten commodity.

Be open to failure – Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos recently said, “our company is the greatest company in the world at failure”.  A CEO of one of the largest brands on the planet was bragging about failure.  Brilliant leadership.  The ability to fail means you are willing to take risk.  If you focus on the great design and brand heavy companies; Apple, Google, McDonalds, Samsung, IBM and more, you will see a common trend:  failure.  At Google, they may test 1000 products before hitting a home run and they are okay with that.  The ability to accept and “promote” failure is a sign of great leadership, because you are putting the future in the hands of those you trust and are willing to take accountability for their risks.

Solicit Feedback – in one way or another, we all go through performance assessments.  Some formal, some informal.  Some annual, some quarterly.  They are a necessary evil, but do serve value.  A strong leader takes the next step.  He/she will constantly look to those in the heart of a project and learn from them.  Leaders cannot be in every place at every time, so they must rely on honest evaluation from their teams to help understand what changes and adjustments need to be made.

Trust your team – Trust is earned.  Trust is an element of a much greater good.  The greatest leaders will do the follow:

  • Build a team of diverse thoughts and ideas
  • Welcome open and constant feedback
  • Let teams take risks and be open to failure
  • Trust in their skills and abilities
  • Be there for advice and counsel
  • Take pride in their team’s successes
  • Reward and recognize excellence

All these things build trust.  Trust leads to loyalty.  Loyalty leads to strength of team.  A strong team drives results.

 

There you have it, the traits of a great leader.  Where do you stand?

Perpetual motion with broken light bulbs and glowing bulb

Perpetual motion with broken light bulbs and glowing bulb

Is your boss cool or cruel…Let us evaluate the signs

boss3

I am fortunate to have a warm and receptive boss that cares about my future and goes above and beyond to provide me with the tools and resources to gain the necessary skills to grow and work in a very satisfying environment.

With her cheerleader persona, focus on rewards and recognition and balanced workflow, she is a role model for the qualities that we look for in a “cool” boss.  On a daily basis, I witness a leader that:

  • Fosters innovation
  • Promotes strong positive behavior
  • Engages a teaming environment
  • Provides her staff with opportunities to promote leadership through project management initiatives
  • Shares in best practices and process improvement
  • Promotes strong performance through a series of monetary and non-monetary rewards
  • Acknowledges individual and group successes to the team and leadership
  • Has trust to allow the team to work independently and not micro manage responsibility and results
  • A proponent for growth and development
  • Supports your causes if you have researched them and believe in them
  • Provides the tools and resources to succeed
  • Sets measurable and challenging goals
  • Believes in the success of the team each and every day

There you have it, the attributes of a “cool” boss.

boss1

“Cool” bosses win championships, lead successful companies, mentor the future leaders of the world and at the end of the day are incredible mothers, fathers, children, siblings, friends, volunteers and advocates for good.

All to often, at some point in our career we fall under the jurisdiction of the “cruel” boss.  There are many reasons we are supervised by individuals with negative energy that inhibit growth and change.  

First, we should identify the signs of a “cruel” boss:

  • Aggressive and negative in behavior and communications
  • Takes credit for the work of their subordinates
  • Does not promote or reward positive behavior and results
  • Micro manages work flow, output and daily responsibilities
  • Does not provide resources, tools or budget to promote efficient and productive output
  • Focused only on oneself and not the betterment of the team
  • Wedges barriers between team engagement
  • Finger points and pins colleague against colleague
  • Not supportive of the team goals

Many factors go into negative personality attributes affiliated with a “cruel” boss.  Some are affected by their personal life, feelings of rejection being passed up on a promotion, a history of bullying or overbearing behavior or a perception that you need to be hard and aggressive to move up the corporate ladder.

Studies have been done on backgrounds, behaviors, genders and even height on the types of people that are promoted and make the most income.  Some fields of study argue the tough and aggressive approach while others engage the collaborative and supportive approach.

Either way, more people spend time in the office environment than in their home and personal lives.  From the time we are 18-22 until we turn 65 to 70, we will be spending most of our adult lives working.  This is a statement that really needs to sink in.  A negative work environment breeds stress, health issues and an overall negative environment.  It can lead to such unhealthy behaviors as drinking, smoking or violence. This negativity will translate to the family live, personal life and interaction with strangers.

boss2

It is critical that leaders with people management abilities understand their roles and develop an approach that is positive, productive, engaging and fun.  Here is how:

  • Learn about your team.  Understand their strengths and weaknesses and partner up skills.  Understand their personalities and determine how they can co-exist in a cordial manner.
  • Spend time understanding their future goals and aspirations.  Set up measurable projects, action items and training that will get them where they want to go.
  • Promote and reward strong productive performance.  Winners win and others will follow.
  • Be fair but be supportive of their efforts even if there is a risk.
  • Let them be.  These are professionals, no matter what industry and trusting them is a big sign of support.
  • Let them become the professional they want to be.  Guide them, but let them breathe.
  • If comfortable, learn about their lives outside of work.  We are in a social engagement/networking world now.  Personal and professional lives are starting to become one.

There we have it.

There are “cool” bosses and “cruel” bosses.  The entertainment industry has taken a comical look at “cruel” bosses in film with Office Space, Horrible Bosses, Swimming with Sharks, The Devil Wears Prada and Glengarry Glen Ross, but this should not be the stance we take in the work force.

A productive team is always better than a productive person. The collective sharing of ideas, innovations and expertise will lead us forward in the business world. We need leaders that understand, support and foster a positive work environment.

Do you have a “cool” boss or a “cruel” boss?