Great Leaders All Bring These Qualities to the Table
If you want to measure the success of any company, and the organizations and teams that make up that company, you can look at no less than hundreds of metrics and performance results, as there is never a shortage of analytics that will try to tell the story. But you can look simply at two areas, which if they are strong, you can bet the bottom line is more than healthy.
These areas are:
– Customer Experience & Employee Experience
When your clients love your company, its products and services, they will not only stay with you, but over time their value will increase due to their willingness and trust to buy more from you. To friends and family, they are sure to share the satisfaction and faith they have in your company, and how despite the competition, your company proven to be the right one. We all have heard through the years, ‘Word of Mouth’ is the most powerful advertising for any company, and it is true. It may seem like free advertising, but there is of course a cost to drive such customer behavior, but it is a cost worth paying.
How and where to allocate that budget is a critical decision, but one that another old business cliché is the right one as you consider how to approach it: “It starts at the top”. Thus, it will be your Leadership Hiring that will drive everything your company delivers, including every success and every failure. Great Leaders don’t come cheap, and they should not. Paying more for the kind of leaders who can carry you a business mission simply by having the vision and associated targets is priceless when they are able to execute while driving the best-in-class Client and Employee Experience. What is the makeup of a Great Leader? Much like the suite of metrics and business targets every company looks at to determine success, there are a nearly limitless number of characteristics that great leaders possess. But here are the most critical attributes that, when your leaders have this, you are either a top competitor in your space today, or you are no doubt on your way to getting there.
– Humility: Good leaders know they’re good. That is usually the reason they were promoted from being an individual contributor into a leadership role. Humility is a quality the good leader no doubt demonstrated prior to becoming a leader, and no doubt was among the more endearing and confidence-building attributes that caught the eyes of the right people to move them to the next level. Once there, the need for the rising leader to continue being humble, sharing praise and recognition with those who helped them get there will equally be noticed and valued. Some take the other path, and become a bit less humble, and more over-confident, which if the leaders does not course correct, will likely see them stay at their new level a long time, if they even maintain the leadership role they landed. With each level, greater demonstration of the qualities that got you there is paramount to the success and continued rise of the great leader.
– Vision: Every leader has a sense of what they want to do, and where they believe they can take a team, and what they feel they can achieve overall. The great leader makes it a tangible goal – a Vision that they make clear to those on their team, laying out the path to get there, and what the impact will be once the vision is achieved. The leader that cannot state and make clear their vision will be perceived as little more than the messenger for the company, in place to pass along updates, changes, and new initiatives verbatim – they lose their power playing such a role. The great leader understands what the company needs, as well as the makeup of the team, to put it all together to create his or her own vision that is unique, specific, and represents a clear, powerful plan to take the team to the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow.
– Influence: Organizations and companies in recent years have seen the value of building strong leadership training programs that ensure employees are not only being overseen, but are getting the engagement and development that drives strong employee satisfaction and high employee retention. Organizations without strong leadership training, coaching and oversight, often fall victim to two kinds of leaders – ‘The Influencer’ and ‘The Boss’. Just the name tells what each brings to the table. The Influencer leads by actions, transparency, trust and relationship building, and always by example. Those led by the influencer want to follow. They are excited to be part of the team, positioned for success by seeing the leader’s vision through to the end. The Boss has the title, and believes if he or she says what needs to be done, it should be done – simple as that. We have all seen both types of leaders achieve success from time to time, but the more consistent, successful, high-achieving teams are led by the influencer, while the boss is on borrowed time, as the inevitable day that people leave, or their leader-boss is moved along, is surely just over the horizon.
– Positivity: Leaders are people too, and when tough times hit an organization, such that people are on edge, concerned about the market, or job security, it is most often leadership that is first to go before the teams they lead. Yet, the great leader knows that it is not about them. Their focus needs to be on the team, and their concerns or anxiety around any challenges a business faces. Remaining positive is critical to maintaining the sense of calm that keeps teams moving, and comfortable that they will get through the toughest of climates. And it is not about ‘putting on a good face’, or being disingenuous about how the leader is really feeling. The great leader knows that they can dig deeply enough to see the positive path for things to turn around, and the lessons that will be learned for the challenging experience to come, and how much stronger the team will be when they get through it successfully as a team. In this way, the leader is able to be authentically positive. And yes, the great leader is entitled to reserve a bit of their emotions for some anxiety as well – they’re only human as well!
– Empathy: Why do people follow great leaders? As we know, it is never because they have the title. That only ever gets a leader so far(and it’s not that far!). Great Leaders are able to relate to people, to build strong relationships, and to make people feel that there are no levels in an organization. Everyone has their own title, and workload, and responsibilities that are simply different – not better or worse, nor more or less important. Thus, the great leader can relate and empathize with their people in a genuine way, able to understand and connect with people through their issues and concerns, whether work-related or even on a personal level.
– Resilience: Everyone takes their lumps on occasion. Whether it is the byproduct of poor business decisions that most had little to do with, or a simple industry or market fluctuation that has had a significant impact on the business that has impacted everyone at all levels. Time spent dwelling on the issue, or trying to revise history, or point fingers at who or what caused the situation is time wasted. The Great Leader knows what to do, and it begins as always, with a selfless approach that makes it about ‘Team’, not him or herself. By demonstrating the ability to overcome and think strategically instead of indulging self-pity or ‘woe as me’ behavior, a strong leader takes action. He or she will create a plan, even a new or revised vision, that accounts for the recent issue that has impacted the business, and quickly see their people follow suit. ‘If my leader believes we can get through it, we will’.
– Integrity: Great leaders are known for their honesty, transparency, and uncompromising ethics. There is a great line from a classic 90’s movie ‘The Family Man’(Nic Cage, Tea Leoni – check it out if you haven’t seen it!). Cage’s character is considering stepping outside his marriage to Tea Leoni’s character, with a local woman who clearly wants to have an affair with him. He shares this thought with his friend at the local bowling alley. The friend(played by Jeremy Piven), is stunned and chagrinned, quietly flipping out, telling (Cage) that he has the best wife in town, and such a thing would be a huge, unforgivable mistake. But he expresses it this way: “The Fidelity Bank & Trust is a tough creditor…You make a deposit somewhere else, they close your account…Forever!”. Truer words were never spoken, and it applies to leaders as well. If you sacrifice integrity, lose trust with your team, you lose everything, and there is no getting it back. Be honest, and transparent, even when it hurts. Leaders make mistakes like anyone(remember, we said they’re human too!). But Great Leaders don’t hide or cover up their mistakes – they own them, and learn from them. Leading with integrity means you will always face a painful truth, than a comfortable lie.
Do all Great Leaders possess all of these qualities at a high level? Not necessarily, or perhaps not yet. Across every organization, there are leaders at various stages of their leadership career. Newer leaders may be that future great leader, but are learning and developing with a curious mindset that wants and needs to make mistakes to learn from them, gain leadership strength, and achieve their goal of becoming a great leader. Seasoned leaders also should be curious and always be striving to learn and improve. That doesn’t happen overnight, and few are born with it. Great leaders never stop working at their craft. But any leader who is inherently Humble, Positive, and Empathetic to others, while working with Integrity is off to a tremendous start. They may need the experience of tough times to better exhibit Resilience, or have strong role models and coaching to understand how to Influence and/or create a Vision. That is not about limitations or fatal flaws, but most often about newness to leadership, and will be quite temporary knowing how quickly business changes, and presents no shortage of opportunities to develop those, and any qualities that have yet to fully develop. Thankfully, Great Leaders recognize the qualities they need to focus on to achieve greatness, often times even more than they can properly account for their strengths(they’re too humble!).
Any industry-leading business has great leaders, not only at the top, but throughout their organizations. The value of great leadership can never be understated nor taken for granted. Investing in the training and ongoing development of leaders should always be a top priority for a business. While such training and development can seem like an easy ‘cut’ to make during the lean times, it is always a ‘penny wise, pound foolish’ exercise. The short-term savings won’t help the budget nearly as much as will strong leadership getting a company back on track and leading a Great Comeback.