I will put my hand up and admit that it took me a number of years, after I became a manager, to understand the difference between a manager and a leader. I simply did what my own manager was doing and thought that was leadership. How naïve that was! It certainly wasn’t powerful leadership. I was fortunate to be approached to work with another company where my boss was a true mentor. He understood powerful leadership and I learned the simplest of lessons from him – you manage things and you lead people! Simple but so profound, and I have never forgotten it!
Working as a business coach with companies in different industries in different cultures, I am frequently fascinated how leadership is misunderstood, and very often not valued as highly as it should. There is the token “acknowledgement” and “talk” about leadership but it is not truly alive in the culture of the business. Those companies are at risk if they do not change – sustained success is a consequence of powerful leadership.
Management is important
I am not dismissing management as unimportant. Process and systems need to be managed with efficiency and excellence – they are what I call the “hygiene” factor. Leadership is what sets you apart.
I am often dismayed and amazed when I observe that those who are charged with leadership so often struggle to know what it means, and what it takes.
I was asked recently to speak at a business conference where I took the opportunity to talk about powerful leadership traits and I wanted to share them here with you.
6 powerful leadership traits
1. Leaders get results
To have a reputation as a leader you must have a track record of getting results, but getting the results in the right and honorable way. Many are surprised when I put this first as they often equate leadership with “soft” skills and not the hardnosed business results. But it is fundamental to any leader to have a track record of achieving the required results. No avoiding it!
2. Leaders care about their people
Not just in words, but in their behavior. There is an old saying – people will not remember what you say, nor will they remember what you did, but they will remember how you made them feel – and that is so true. The bottom line is that your people know you care about them – for their sake!
3. Leaders share their “why”
We all know that businesses must make a profit – that is a given. But that is not the purpose. When Steve Jobs set up Apple his “why” was not about money, or computers, or mobile phones – it was about giving a “new experience.” True leaders are clear about their purpose and mission and spend time communicating that to their people. They also clearly live it!
4. Leaders deliver on their commitments
Leaders always do what they say they will do. When you say you will do something, your people must have the mindset and trust that it will definitely happen – not that “all things being equal it will happen” mentality. There must be absolute trust in your leadership!
5. Leaders develop talent
Your people are more developed and have acquired more skills as a result of your leadership. If you cannot say that, you have failed. You must motivate and encourage your people to reach levels they thought impossible or unattainable. If you don’t, what benefit have you been?
6. Leaders clearly value people over process
If you clearly do not trump people over process, then the process becomes more highly valued than people, and your people are lost in the milieu of statistics and reports. As a leader, you must demonstrate through your behaviour and decisions that people are above process – all the time.
So, what do you think? What leadership traits do you need to focus on? If you had to pick your 6 traits, what would they include?