Throughout my life, I’ve had the opportunity to work with some really great leaders as well as some not so great ones. The best leaders have not only inspired me, but have also inspired many others to succeed in business and in their everyday lives.
A highly effective leader possesses the unique ability to enable you to tap into your inner power and push you to achieve goals way beyond what you think are possible. These attributes apply to anyone in a leadership position whether it’s a CEO or another senior executive, a manager, a coach, or a teacher. While I don’t claim to have perfected all of these qualities, they are certainly ones we should all strive to improve upon:
Cares About and Respects People
A truly effective leader lets you know that they sincerely care about and respect you. They are not focused solely on their own personal interests or gains, but have your best interests at heart. They allow you to make mistakes while providing you a chance to learn from them. A great leader consistently goes to bat for their team, will support and acknowledge success, and takes pride in promoting others. It’s no coincidence that when people feel respected and supported by their leaders, they will always be loyal and highly motivated to excel for them. What amazes me is that some leaders don’t understand or practice this very simple concept. I recently heard a senior executive tell his entire management team “if you want a friend, get a dog.” Rather than inspiring or motivating the team, his comments had the exact opposite effect.
Conveys A Positive Attitude With A Contagious Confidence To Succeed
Motivating people to go the extra mile to succeed, especially in very challenging situations, is no easy task. People that can visualize their own success and truly believe that they are capable of accomplishing their goals, are much more likely to achieve them. Leaders that regularly demonstrate a positive perspective with a laser focus on how to succeed, as opposed to obsessing about all of the obstacles that exist, inspire others to do the same.
The best leaders I know are those that are particularly adept at communicating. They are not only subject matter experts that are confident and credible, but they also have an uncanny ability to clearly articulate the most complex topics in the simplest way possible. They also have strong public speaking skills and are very comfortable in crowds large and small. Those that awkwardly fumble through pre-scripted speeches always leave me wondering if they fully understand the subject matter, or even worse, why they are in a position of power.
Acknowledges And Celebrates The Success Of Others
I’ll never forget the time when I was in a global sales training meeting when a former CEO was asked “to what do you attribute your success?” Without hesitation and without taking any personal credit, he gestured to the entire audience and said “I have the best people.” That simple and sincere statement made everyone feel recognized and appreciated. Success breeds success. When you let others take credit for important accomplishments and share exactly how they achieved them, you not only give them their 15 minutes of fame, you teach and inspire others to do the same. When people have the simple knowledge that their hard work will be personally recognized, they’re much more likely to go above and beyond to succeed. Very simply put, an effective leader gives credit where it’s due and does not steal the thunder of those that actually deserve the recognition.
Patient Willingness To Teach
I recently read about an interaction between a CEO and CFO. The CFO was concerned about the time and money it was taking to continuously train their employees and said “what if we train them and they decide to leave?” The CEO quickly responded “what if we don’t train them and they decide to stay?” Strong leaders recognize that investments in people pay large dividends. They are always willing to share their knowledge, leading by example as a player and a coach. They are not afraid to jump in and get their hands dirty and don’t just bark orders from the corner office.
Promotes A Culture Of Collaboration
The greatest successes are attained through the efforts of many. Teamwork and collaboration are foundational elements of any leader’s success. The most substantial achievements I’ve had in my career were when my executive leadership team stood ready and willing to help in any way possible. Successful leaders foster a culture of true collaboration that does not require their teams to jump through hoops and unnecessary formalities to obtain their participation or assistance. They recognize that everyone has the same goals and objectives and they willingly play whatever part is necessary to help.
The best leaders are the ones that have strong sales skills and are perfectly willing to meet with their customers regularly and without hesitation. They ask pointed questions, listen intently, and clearly and confidently articulate effective solutions. They are quick on their feet and are skilled with providing answers to complex problems in the simplest possible language. These inherent skills enable them to convincingly convey their perspective and ideas to any audience.
Personable And Approachable
I’ve experienced both extremes on these attributes and can undoubtedly confirm that those leaders that promote open access and are responsive to people no matter what level they are at, are much more likely to gain the respect and loyalty of their teams. A strong leader makes people feel unintimidated and comfortable when interacting. A leader that treats everyone equally without creating multiple levels of bureaucratic barriers, creates and fosters a respectful culture of open communication where innovative ideas flow freely.
I recently attended a global sales leadership dinner and was sitting with my colleagues. Our new CEO walked in the dining room and navigated past a half dozen tables without ever making eye contact or stopping to say hello to anyone in the room. He proceeded to his own table and sat down. Wow, what kind of statement was that? Although perhaps unintentional, the failure to even acknowledge the presence of his own sales leadership team left everyone feeling invisible and insignificant. When leaders isolate themselves, they create the perception that they are unwilling, unavailable or simply not interested to help. As a result, people may become reluctant to reach out at all.
Theodore Roosevelt once said “In any moment of decision, the best thing you can do is the right thing, the next best thing is the wrong thing, and the worst thing you can do is nothing.” Strong leaders make informed decisions after weighing the facts and soliciting input from others and are not paralyzed by the fear of making the wrong choice. Once a decision is made, they don’t second guess themselves and execute their plan with full confidence and commitment. Since their decisions are backed by facts with their reasons clearly articulated, decisions that require changes are typically embraced by others who are inspired to follow along.
Although one of the most important core values, a leader’s integrity should never need to be questioned. They will always do the right thing whether or not it’s the most popular decision. They consistently act ethically, can be trusted, and are always true to their word. They always set a positive example and insist that everyone on their team acts with the highest level of integrity at all times.
Leadership is at a premium these days. Effective leaders inspire and motivate people to do their very best and maximize their individual skills to obtain the highest performance possible. An effective leader can be the difference between a company or team’s success or failure. Each of us is a leader to someone either in our personal or professional lives and should aspire to utilize these core values to positively impact those we lead.
By Paul M. Balzano
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