Many of us have come across great managers in our career, and we sometimes marvel at what makes them so good at leading others. Management is a tough job, so how is it that some people make it all seem so effortless?
The truth is that no-one is born a truly great leader. The skills and attributes of fine leadership are learnt over the course of our careers, and it’s never too late to start!
Traits of the best leaders
1. You treat others how they want to be treated. See what I did there? Common wisdom says that we should treat others how we want to be treated, but what does that have to do with making the other person happy?What if their goals, aspirations and values are nothing like ours? Think about it: does the painfully shy person want a big office party where everyone sings happy birthday to them and bang on the table chanting ‘speech speech speech?’ Does that person appreciate public praise?
What about the office extrovert? They’ll probably enjoy both of those things! Being a good manager requires that you modify your management style to each individual in order to get the best out of them. This is also very helpful when working across various cultures and generations in the work place, who often view work and success in different ways.
2. You treat everyone equally, and are never nasty or dismissive to those who are lower than you in the organisations hierarchy. This is vital, as a team will lose trust in a manager who has favourites, and if you speak down to the building receptionist or the girl who delivers the sandwiches, you are revealing that one day, you might speak to one of your team like that. Not a good way to build trusting relationships.
3. You show interest in people. Don’t get stuck on small talk, it is a time filler that serves nobody. Sure, it’s fine to talk about the weather now and then, but no real rapport will be forged if you only have shallow, forced conversations. Ask genuine, natural questions that show you’re interested. Become curious about how your team members and colleagues go about their job. What makes them think and act in the way they do? When they experience you doing this consistently a bond will be formed.
Avoid bragging about your competence and past achievements. It’s really important that the team knows that you are competent to lead them, but they’ve probably already checked out your LinkedIn profile, and your introductory chat with each of them can point to your qualifications or results. There’s no need to labour the point of your greatness, in fact it can make you appear insecure.
4. You’re authentic and honest. You don’t mind letting a bit of yourself show, whether that’s talking about your kids, pets, holidays or a tacky show you like on TV. Because you’re authentic, the team gets the message that they can be their real selves in return. You also tell the truth, rather than trying to evade it with platitudes, empty praise or excuses.
5. You are ok admitting when you don’t know something or have made an error. Because you’re not trying to hide anything, you’ve sent the message that it’s ok to make mistakes or not know something, which makes the whole team more creative, helpful to each other, and trusting. This ‘vulnerability’ is where the real management magic happens.
6. You’re not always putting yourself in the picture, and hand out genuine praise with pleasure. You want to see others succeed, and will work hard to bring out the best in everyone you manage.
7. You always listen to ideas and thank people for their contribution, even if you don’t put the idea into practice. This gives the employee a sense that they’re being heard and valued.
8. Your body language and facial expressions are sending a message of being responsive and friendly. Whether it’s an encouraging smile to a new person about to do a presentation or making sure you aren’t towering over someone when giving feedback, a magnetic manager understands the power of non-verbal communication.
9. You’re positive. You don’t harp on about the negatives or past failures; you look positively to the future. You’re open to new ideas and appreciate that while you see things one way, others see it differently, and might have an even better idea! You don’t complain about the company to the team as you realise it will ultimately de-motivate them.
10. You’re resilient and brave in the face of conflict. You tell people hard truths when necessary, and you don’t avoid conflict as it starts to bubble away. You understand the power of developmental feedback when delivered well.
11. You don’t take yourself too seriously. While you stop short of putting yourself down, you are comfortable laughing at yourself now and then.
How many of these do you think you’ve mastered? And how many more do you think you could master by the end of 2016? Why not start today. Leadership is a learning process, not a fixed talent at birth.
At Excel Communications we have delivered Leadership and Management training over 30 years on most continents and in multiple languages. You can view the results we get for clients here. Alternatively call us on ++44 (0) 1628 488 854