The working world is full of managers of every rank and title. You can be a manager even if you’re not terribly great at (or even interested in) managing people. As an executive coach, my goal is to reduce the number of managers in this world and instead create leaders. Effective leaders have a number of different styles but all great leaders share some common traits.
Leaders & Managers
Managers are essentially supervisors of the work and projects required to be completed by a particular department or functional area in a company. Managers provide oversight and input to make sure that the work and specific tasks done by subordinates are sufficient for the organization’s needs. Not terribly inspiring, right?
Leaders take a different role, one where there is a focus on the mission of the company and their group. A mission inspires others. It has a starting point, a middle and an end point, no matter what the mission of the group is. A leader’s shared mission can ignite energy and creativity in their team. Some of the accomplishments of the leader’s team will be highly tangible projects and tasks needed for the business to function, while others demonstrate the team’s long-term value to the organization since they focus on the future too. Leaders aim to inspire their direct reports and allow people to design their own jobs as much as possible, putting their own stamp on their work. True leaders make everyone around them more creative, dynamic, excited and connected.
Leaders have high emotional intelligence
Since the 1990s, we’ve talked about emotional intelligence (EQ) as being an important trait of leaders. The most effective leaders I’ve known have a high degree of EQ, plus the IQ and technical skills to handle the responsibilities of leading. In his 1998 article “What Makes a Leader” in the Harvard Business Review, Rutgers University psychologist Daniel Goleman introduced five components or traits of emotional intelligence that allow us to recognize, connect with, and learn from our own and others’ mental states. This makes sense for the workplace too:
- Self-awareness (or being aware your strengths and weaknesses can net you the trust of others and increase your credibility, both of which will increase your leadership effectiveness).
- Self-regulation (or managing your emotions to make choices in how you respond to any situation).
- Motivation (often defined as “a passion for one’s work that goes beyond money and status”).
- Empathy, not just sympathy for others.
- Social skills, including how to manage relationships and build networks in work and life.
According to Professor Goleman, a person can have the best training in the world, an analytical mind, and an endless supply of smart ideas, but they still will not make an effective or great leader without these facets of emotional intelligence. I coach leaders in this very area.
Leaders make people feel valued
Leaders put high trust in their people and regularly seek to make each member of their organization feel valued. In the list of the “100 Best Companies to Work For” from Fortune magazine, all are uniformly characterized by high levels of trust and transparency.
Great leaders do several things well that make their people feel valued. In that same Forbes list, these were the key ways that leaders build trust and helped others feel valued:
- Keeping the lines of communication open.
- Sharing their vision for the future with employees.
- Taking the pulse of the organization by constantly listening and responding to what they hear so they can serve the needs of their people. Whether it is sharing quarterly financials or making strategic decisions, they make sure to listen.
- Offering employees ample opportunities for training and development.
Leaders treat everyone in the organization with respect and dignity, which inspires their employees to do the same, increasing collaboration and feelings of self worth.
They find out what motivates their people by getting to know what will drive each team member. We call this “emotional engagement.”
- Knowing what makes each one of them get up in the morning can help you develop tasks and provide incentives they will actually care about.
- When possible, play to the individual’s’ strengths to keep them engaged and learning on the job.
Leaders are excellent communicators
Rarely have I seen someone become a great leader without first becoming a great communicator. Leaders have learned how to connect with people on an emotional level and use words inspire others. The results are gains in achievement for the individuals and the team as a whole. Leaders tell their people what is important for them to know, even if it’s bad news. Most importantly, leaders actively think about how they communicate and invest in building communication skills.
Leaders take responsibility for failure
The leaders I work with have learned to admit when they are wrong. One sign of a great leader is that when they make a mistake, they are accountable, admit it and provide solutions to fix it.
This is probably the least fun part of being a leader, but it’s one of the most important.
So go out there and lead! Your employees will appreciate it and you will blaze a long, rewarding career path. If you’d like individual executive coaching on leadership, I can help.