What’s Leadership?

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 What’s Leadership? “If you want to make people happy, don’t be a leader, sell ice cream” This quote was attributed to Steve Jobs.

There is a reason I love this quote. Too many people think that they should be liked as a leader. It may stem from having had an unreasonable leader and as a result they think leaders should be liked or if they ever become a leader it really becomes important.

There are so many ways to define a leader: good people skills, leads by example, a visionary, innovative a delegator, a great motivator, honest, passionate, and creative. What’s Leadership? All together they can make for a good leader. If we take these on their own, not so much. Then there is “my way or the highway”, a “take charge” person, a “no-nonsense person”, “someone who knows how to give orders” etc.

Would you go through a wall for someone like that? Likely not. That is why their results are usually poorer than those exhibiting the cornerstones below. As you can see there are many opinions about what a leader is. I prefer a visionary that gets thing done. You need to have vision in order to know where you want to go. There is no point in climbing into your car, not knowing where you want to go and ending in Montreal.

There are three cornerstones of leadership:

Driving Customer Value:

  • Demonstrates a competitive, profit and market driven orientation
  • An ability to read the internal and external environment and foresees issues
  • Demonstrates both business acumen and job competence
  • Continually challenges the status quo
  • Is a change leader and has an ability to conform quickly to new changes
  • Conducts risk analysis; if benefits outweigh the risks, then takes calculated risks
  • Looks for opportunities to learn and grow
  • Develops through continuous learning and takes ownership of their and the their team’s performance
  • Acts quickly and decisively using solid judgement
  • Responds to customers problems with urgency
  • Takes customer feedback seriously and takes quick, appropriate action.

Teamwork, (Collaborates for Shared Success)

  • Cooperates and supports their functions
  • Cooperates and supports the company
  • Looks to form alliances and relationships that support the organization
  • Willingly provides assistance to coworkers
  • Regularly consults across other functions
  • Recognizes the need for complimentary and diverse skills to achieve team results
  • Celebrates shared team accomplishments
  • Openly states their views and fully supports organizational and team goals once a decision has been reached.
  • Helps team see the bigger picture

People Management (Leveraging Ability and Potential)

  • Ethical and principled when dealing with others.
  • Establishes and communicates a customer-focused vision for the team
  • Is accessible and approachable
  • Encourage open communication with business associates
  • Works with their team to build commitment to the vision
  • Share information about the business in a timely manner
  • Provide timely and constructive feedback as needed
  • Hold others accountable for their performance
  • Provide continuous learning opportunities through resources, individual and team learning opportunities and support.
  • Demonstrate a genuine belief in people’s sense of responsibility and commitment to doing a good job.
  • Act decisively, consistently and fairly on employee problems
  • Establish an environment for their team based on calculate risk taking and sound business practises.

Some may have been around for some time and don’t believe in some of what I have just outlined. They have been very successful in running things by fear. How long does that last? When people are in fear, they don’t own up to mistakes for fear of retribution. Included in that is an inability to fix things as few may volunteer that something needs to be fixed. Authoritarian leaders will be resented and the staff will undermine them at every turn to make sure they fail.

As leaders if we are unable to communicate what’s needed, or explain things in such a way that people understand what you need, poor performance will ensure. Being able to be effective cannot happen without good communication, that’s why it is not written as a requirement — it goes without saying.

Being a people person is another one of those attributes that will get results. There must be able a willingness to engage people. Take an interest in their lives, and not to the extend where inappropriate questions are asked. When pat questions or responses are used, those are not being engaged. There is a need to be genuinely present in order to have engagement. That means being yourself and being at ease.

A supervisor once had an employee that was a very good worker, but was not very communicative. Each morning the supervisor would say good morning John and John would have nothing to say. What’s Leadership? Not a wave or acknowledgement that he heard him or that the supervisor was even there. This went on for a couple of months. Some people would have stopped long ago and dismissed him as rude, stuck up or other excuses to discontinue engagement.

One day John stopped the supervisor and asked him if he could talk to him. “Of course,”, he said. The supervisor didn’t dismiss John because he never talked to him. He listened and John proceeded to tell his supervisor some very personal issues he was going through.  John didn’t work any harder as a result of that interaction with his supervisor, but that was not the point of engagement.

It was simply being with an employee when that employee had information to impart of a personal nature. In this case, it was not about achieving a result or motivation, but simply to provide the space for continued motivation by the employee. Had the supervisor told John to get lost, most likely John would not have taken the chance to talk to any member of management for some time. Perhaps that had already happened previously and thus he was reluctant to talk to any member of management.

You will note that I talked about providing “space” for motivation. You may have heard that someone is a great motivator. Really? How does that happen? How do we motivate someone that is not motivated? I lean towards impossible. That’s not to say that they won’t do as they are told; they just won’t do it on their own. What’s Leadership? They will go through the motions. What can be done is to create the space in which people can display their motivation.

There have been some extremely engaged employees, and not because someone motivated them. What they did do was provide the space to be motivated. People are motivated by a myriad of things. Some claim to be motivated by money, so, they continue chasing money, yet are never satisfied. Some say you are motivated by the people around them, but that is not self-motivation. For, once those people leave, they are no longer motivated. No, motivation comes from within. As per the Pike’s Market Fish Video, you choose your attitude every day.

“Take responsibility for how you respond to what life throws at you. Your choice affects others. Ask yourself: “Is my attitude helping my team or my customers? Is it helping me to be the person I want to be?” Yes, you are your own motivator.  The only thing a leader assists with, is not to dampen that motivation.

Leading by example means that leaders too, have to be inspired. If managers are not enthusiastic about jumping out of bed each morning, looking forward to work and see what the day has to offer, then they are probably in the wrong profession. What’s Leadership? Everyone has down days from time to time. However, those days don’t have to run your life. Choose to be excited and upbeat and your employees will be too.

When leaders are being innovative, it doesn’t just mean innovative in a physical sense, like inventing something new. It really means that they problem-solve are innovative or a decision they made was innovative.

Flexibility, and adjusting to change are also key components of leadership. If one is stuck in the past, or stuck loving the job they do, it is next to impossible progress.

Until I learned that I didn’t have to be the smartest person in the room and I didn’t have to hang on to my job in order to demonstrate how smart I was, I was stuck. When I cane out of school, I realized I was far more educated than those around me. What’s Leadership? I spent the first year trying to show how smart I was instead of realizing that the management at this place had far more life experience and that they could also teach me a few things.

I needed to adjust my thinking. Within seven years, I became a General Manager of a shoe manufacturing company. I became that because I learned to listen and adjust to new ways of thinking. All these years later, I am still learning and adjusting to technology and management style.

If you are stuck on some aspect of leadership or you are not getting the results you desire, why not contact us at Career1 and we can assist if you are stuck. There is a reason why we are called Career1. We do more than staffing we can map out a career plan for you as well.

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