What is a leader and what does it truly take to lead? The Oxford Dictionary defines it as “a person who leads or commands a group…”
However, we know that true leadership is more than simply possessing authority. It’s about providing a guiding light to help others progress on their journey.
To fulfill such an ambitious role, there’s little wonder why managers need to be in tune with their Emotional Intelligences. Yet, it takes a little more than self-awareness to truly lead.
So, what are some of the “key ingredients” that leaders should cultivate? How do these come into effect when working in a multicultural and diverse workplace? Let’s take a look at some of the important aspects involved in great leadership.
Every leader has their own weaknesses – but the ability to recognise these shortcomings is the key to constant personal development. A great leader never stops learning. Not only does this constantly optimise management skills, but also demonstrates that learning & development is practiced across all levels of the organisation. Which brings us to our next point…
A Growth Mindset
Put simply, Carol Dweck’s concept of the growth mindset refers to the belief that intelligence is not something set at a “fixed” level. People with a growth mindset believe that, with hard work and perseverance, their level of intelligence can actually improve. This mindset is beneficial as it frames challenges as opportunities to learn, rather than something intimidating. The growth mindset is not only something for leaders to implement themselves, but also something to encourage team-wide.
According to author and leadership consultant Simon Sinek, leaders typically guide others by defining a goal and explaining the methodologies to achieve it. Only then do they talk about the purpose behind the action. By contrast, Sinek says that great leaders reverse this procedure by orientating the process around “why“. Only then do the goals and methodologies come in.
Inspiring employees with this sense of purpose is what drives motivation in the long-term. Whether it be promoting the company values, or endorsing a new set of tasks, a good sense of “why” will help the team see why their work matters.
A great way to implement this in your workplace is by implementing OKRs – Objective & Key Results. OKRs at a company level clearly show where the organisation is looking to go and how each team member contributes. By showing each piece of the puzzle, OKRs clearly communicate a team members’ purpose among the organisation by showing them and their peers how they make a difference to the company as a whole.
A transparent culture is the foundation of trust. A manager who is upfront about all aspects of the job (the requirements, the expectations and the challenges) is much more likely to win a team member’s trust through such transparency. Trust breeds trust, so managers should grant employees the autonomy to make their own decisions. Rather than leading to exploitation of this good faith, trusting employees to make higher-level decisions actually increases loyalty.
It’s obvious that good managers are highly in-tune with their team members – there’s nothing worse than a manager who is out of touch. A great leader is always familiar with each employee’s useful skills, where they would appreciate more training as well as what their key motivators are. When an employee feels their manager understands them, they also feel assured that their skills are known and put to use.
Even with an effective “open door policy”, a manager cannot expect all issues to be flagged and brought to their attention. As such, good leaders will adopt a proactive approach to identifying any issues. Performance appraisals help in this area, but there is nothing more effective than having a manager-to-employee chat to check-in with each team member. When any issues do arise, adopting a prompt and effective response (plus following up) also strengthens the employee’s trust in the company’s proactive leadership.
Asking employees to complete an anonymous “job and company management review” bears many benefits. Firstly, it lessens the distance between management and the rest of the team. Secondly, it gives management the opportunity to discover issues which may not be obvious (or that employees will only discuss when anonymous). From here, it is absolutely crucial management implements a plan to address the issues and follow up with their effectiveness. There’s nothing worse than a leader who is aware of problems, yet chooses to ignore them.
Empathy & Open-Mindedness
When explaining the importance of empathy, Simon Sinek raised the point that “people will not rush to the aid of a leader if they’ve never felt that he or she had put their interests first.” Behaviour has strong repercussions, which can be felt throughout a business’ culture. As such, leaders who show empathy towards their team build considerate workplaces. What’s more, empathetic leaders build trust, and strengthen relationships. According to Sinek, “empathy—the ability to recognise and share other people’s feelings—is the most important instrument in a leader’s toolbox“.
Overall, great leadership is highly dependent on soft-skills; however without these kinds of emotionally intelligent abilities, even the most knowledgeable leaders are headed for disappointing results from the team at large. When we pause to ask ourselves, “what do employees need to succeed?”, or “what helpful resources and support can I provide my team with?”, the path to great leadership becomes obvious.