Leaders take many shapes and forms. Leaders can be men or women, young or old, native born or migrants. There is no one role model for what a leader should be. The crucial question is what a leader does. Does a leader ‘manage’ people? I think it’s my job to ‘manage’ me and your job to ‘manage’ you. The role of a leader is to ‘lead’. A leader leads his or her team towards a goal, but a team will only follow a leader if they respect him or her. Today I want to encourage you to think about the traits of leadership. You may lead people at work or in a charity or even as a parent. Think about the qualities you should be demonstrating.
Leaders must listen
The job of a leader is to motivate and inspire team members and help them identify their passions and realise their ambitions. Again, this is only going to happen if you respect your leader. As a motivational speaker, one of the most common problems I hear about is managers who fail to listen to their staff. No one is perfect. We at times are all going to make poor decisions, but the worst leaders are the ones who don’t listen to others’ advice or words of caution and forge ahead … taking everyone with them straight over the cliff! I think a good leader should be big enough to be able to be small – meaning a good leader is prepared to learn from his or her team. They should accept that they don’t have all the answers and do a great deal of research, finding out where everyone stands when planning their next ‘overarching strategy’.
Create a space for honesty
If a good leader is big enough to hear criticism from the team then they have succeeded in creating a workplace culture where honest communication is allowed, even welcomed – space where people will listen and share. To lead you have got to know your core strengths and be able to take it when staff say, “Hey, I think you’ve got this one wrong.” You have to be big enough to ask, “How have I got this wrong?” The Harvard Business Review recently published research that found that leaders who listen are perceived as people leaders, generate more trust, promote job satisfaction, and increase their team’s creativity. Leaders must ask themselves – am l a good listener? Because if you are going to lead, you must listen. A new study published in the Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin showed that organisations either have a growth or fixed mindset. Whichever the leader chooses to practice will flow to the employees, how they see the company and act within.
A leader must serve
I know I often quote the Bible, but again I’m going to remind you that Christ said whoever wants to be first, must be prepared to be last. If you want to lead, you need to be prepared to serve. If you want to be a good leader, you need to care and respect the people you are leading. You need to show empathy and kindness. You need to be optimistic, have a can-do attitude and show real care for your team.
Leading is a never ending journey
So often once people are appointed managers they think they have ‘arrived’, they are at the pinnacle of their career. The truth is that they are only just beginning. Think about parenting, think about how much you got wrong, how much you’d like to do again. It’s the same for managers. They learn as they go. A good manager needs to lead confidently yet also realise they are not infallible. They need to know that every single person on their team has leadership potential and they should encourage everyone to give and be confident. They should never boss or belittle people.
Leaders need to be able to read people
The best leaders will encourage people to do more of what they do well, and to improve in the areas where they are lacking. A good leader will find out what motivates each member of the team – what they are working towards. They will demonstrate emotional intelligence and empathise with and empower their staff. A good leader also loves his or her job. If you are a manager and you are no longer passionate about your role then you are doing your team a disservice. It’s time to leave. If you have a manager who has emotionally ‘checked-out’, I’d suggest you look for a new job, because this person is not going to treat you right.
Leaders need to have done the homework to find out what it means to be a leader. They need to know how to bring out the best in others. Then they become indispensable.
Finally I’m going to finish this blog, with some of my favourite quotes on leadership:
“If you want to build a ship, don’t drum up the men to gather wood, divide the work, and give orders. Instead, teach them to yearn for the vast and endless sea.”
— Antoine de Saint-Exupery, French writer and pioneering aviator.
“A leader is a dealer in hope.”
“I never dreamed about success. I worked for it.”
— Estée Lauder
“Success isn’t about how much money you make; it’s about the difference you make in people’s lives.”
— Michelle Obama,
“The difference between successful people and others is how long they spend feeling sorry for themselves.”
— Barbara Corcoran, businesswoman.
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