I have previously written about various aspects of leadership and the skills needed but I have recently been reflecting on what we mean by leadership. It seems particularly relevant as our news streams are filled with stories about people in leadership positions and how they may or may not be demonstrating true leadership.
Leadership is not conferred by a job title. Just because someone is the ‘boss’ does not necessarily make them a great leader. A leader is someone that people want to follow. What do these people do that means they stand out and people want to follow their lead?
I asked some of my friends and colleagues what are the attributes of the best leaders they have worked for and got some very common themes. The results are not surprising but most expressed that it is rare to get someone who truly lives up to all of them.
Integrity and Consistency
Leaders are open and honest. They are clear in what needs to be done and why, even when it is unpopular. They are consistent in their approach, which means you know what to expect in different situations you have to interact with them. They don’t ask others to do things they wouldn’t want to do themselves. They set high standards and can be very firm on their expectations but provide you with timely feedback and recognise hard work and success. They give you autonomy but with support.
Vision and Energy
Leaders have a clear view of where they want the business or team to head and they are able to communicate it persuasively. They help their teams get onboard and feel involved. You understand where you fit in and importantly what the expectations are of you. They often have a lot of energy and enthusiasm about their job and want to share this and help others. This is infectious and a far more effective motivator than a pay rise. They can make work fun and so you want to work hard towards the vision.
Challenge the status quo
Leaders use their energy and communication skills to drive change. They want to improve things and often want to do things differently. They allow you to challenge them and encourage you to speak up to get the best ideas. They recognise that they don’t know everything and are humble enough to to ask for help. They set the team up for success by ensuring you have the right resources and skills. They support and stand up for their team when things get hard. You trust that they “have your back”.
Authentic and Approachable
Leaders share their human side with their teams. You recognise them as the same person whether in meetings, on stage or in one to ones. They give you their time to provide advice and the benefit of their experiences. They care about their teams, they support you in difficult times and celebrate good times together. They support the development of their teams, taking time to coach you and tailoring their approach to individual needs.
This very unscientific survey suggests that true leaders make a mark on those who work with them and highlights the reasons why people will follow them. It doesn’t necessarily come from hierarchical power and doesn’t mean always being nice to be liked. However, those of us who have worked with great leaders would work for them again in a heartbeat.
If you are aspiring to be a great leader then these are good areas to reflect on, both how you turn up as a leader and how you treat your teams.
If you would be interested in unlocking your unique leadership potential through coaching, please get in touch.