We seek great leaders. Citizens demand bold leadership. Many companies track their sales executives on Leader Boards. CEOs impart their wisdom at leadership conferences, which, we can only imagine, means that only the crème de la crème of the company may attend and benefit. Oddly, that seems the antithesis of what great leaders would want for their companies.
Some say convincingly that leaders are born, not made.
At The MBMI Companies, we disagree.
Not only can leaders be made, they must be made.
After over a century of combined years of managing businesses of all sizes, and even a few seasons at quarterback, the MBMI “leadership” has developed our list of qualities that make a noteworthy leader:
People will follow you if they believe that what you say is always the truth as you know the truth to be. Even when the truth is hard or the news is bad. Your honesty and candor will lead to ethical behavior from your team, and that is the most important leadership that you can provide.
When you set a high threshold for ethical and truthful behavior in your workplace, and demonstrate that you hold yourself to that performance, you will enjoy the benefits of a greater team effort, more open communication, and customers who you can trust as much as they can trust you.
You may understand what you want to achieve, but others may find that your message is unclear. Your ability to clearly describe what winning looks like, and how you wish to conduct business during the challenges that you and your team will face along the way, will determine the level of success that you will have as a leader.
Walk around your workplace. Don’t just talk; Listen. Your accessibility is key to establishing the level of trust that leadership requires. When you master this skill, you will be well on your way to the Leadership Hall of Fame.
Your goals may seem uniquely your own, but a leader achieves meaningful results only when his or her goals become one with the team that must provide the support necessary to reaching them.
Great leaders trust their subordinates and delegate important and fulfilling work to those on their teams. As a leader, you must learn to evaluate each team member, to determine strengths and weaknesses. When team members are given tasks that play to their personal strengths, they are much more likely to enjoy those tasks. Tasks that workers enjoy are most often executed in the way that best serves the leaders…and the team’s…goals.
Delegation is not a bad word. It is a strength, providing that you are unafraid and willing to monitor the progress of an assigned task, without reserving the right to tell the person assigned how to do their job. The road to success may take different turns for one person than another. You must be open to many approaches that may be successful in outcome, even if they are different than they way you might have imagined them.
Spectacularly, the ancillary benefit to you as a leader when you trust but verify is that you will have more time to clarify your vision, set new goals, and accomplish more for your group as a whole.
Never ask anyone to do anything that you would not do yourself. Leaders prove they have earned their stripes by leading by example and by following through on their promises. This is the primary key to driving quality output. When you demonstrate that you work as hard as anyone on the team, even harder, you will gain the admiration of your workgroup. If you schedule an 8 AM meeting and promise to bring donuts and coffee, both edibles need to be in the conference area when your participants arrive. If they aren’t, how can your team believe your statements in the meeting, when they couldn’t trust you to stop at Dunkin’ Donuts down the street? Your word is your bond.
Something is going to go wrong on every project. Universally, Murphy’s Law applies. So when the penguins escape their refrigerated enclosure and line up in the break room to get some ice, your job is to treat this problem as nothing more than a change of routine. Don’t panic. When you show employees steady leadership in crisis, morale goes up. Morale is an undeniable contributing factor to productivity levels. Employees look to real leaders to keep a sense of calm, good humor, and productive environment, regardless of the challenge.
Viewers of the ‘Star Trek’ original series will recall that a young Captain Kirk, as a cadet in a simulation, was assigned to manage a set of tasks governed by rules that made it impossible for Kirk to achieve the desired outcome. No cadet had ever passed this test. So Kirk got creative. He changed the rules. By changing the rules of the simulation, he overcame his challenge and succeeded, thus making a mark for the young officer.
There will be times when your plan does not work out as you had expected. That is when your team needs you most to be a leader. Examine your options as carefully as Kirk examined his. Involve your team. Ask for input. Get as many facts as possible, and then make a decision. Even in the face of insurmountable odds, keeping a cool head, considering all options, and making an informed decision is still the best plan to win the day and come out on the other side as a creative and resourceful leader. Satlho’. Go ahead. Look it up.
Employees will follow any leader who knows where to get answers and finds a way to achieve a goal, regardless of obstacles. Be that guy.
Uncertainty is part of leadership. The difference between successful and unsuccessful leaders is whether they allow that uncertainty to gnaw away at them, or whether they deal with it. We all know that uncertainty climbs in unison with risk and pressure. When those elements enter the discussion, rise above them. Objectively intervene on your own behalf, allowing your brain to overrule your emotions, so that you can effectively use your intuition to make good guesses in the absence of all the information. When you are decisive, your team will stand behind you, even if your guess may take you off course. Your job as a leader is to recognize good guesses from bad, correct the latter, and move on with your challenges.
Regardless of the size of your undertaking, your team must participate in the success of the unit as a whole. This participation engages and aligns your team for the next round of challenges and positively conditions your employees to follow you as a manager, to receive the rewards to which they are entitled after their hard work on a project. By showing that you noticed, appreciated, and rewarded their work, you will achieve a well deserved reputation as a great leader.