What I'm Looking For In A Leader
Everywhere you look nowadays you can find experts on leadership. Books, podcasts, VHS tapes, blog posts, and speakers. (Okay, maybe not as many VHS tapes anymore...)
If you're like me, I can feel inundated and overwhelmed with leadership lessons and jargon. And the most frustrating piece for me? For all this information out there both off and online, we still have alot of subpar leaders. It seems a little paradoxical doesn't it?
At the risk of adding to that noise, I want to share with you 4 elements to leadership which I believe are pivotal for leaders to have in their lives in today's world.
If you are in leadership, take a few minutes to assess yourself and see if these elements are displayed in your life (or, if you are courageous enough, ask someone else - who will shoot straight with you - for their opinion). And if you are not yet in a place of leadership in your organization, seek out leaders who exemplify these traits, as well as develop them yourself to prepare you for when you do step into leadership.
Here are the 4 traits I believe are essential for every leader:
- Transparency: One of the most frustrating things for employees in organizations is when they feel that leadership is keeping them in the dark on something. Granted, one of the heaviest responsibilities of leadership is bearing the weight of decisions and knowledge that can not be publicly shared. But when secrecy becomes the status quo amongst leadership, it breeds an organizational culture of distrust, skepticism, and gossip. If you are a positional leader, remember this: people know more than you think they do, and they will inevitably fill in the gaps of information if you don't. When there is not a culture of transparency, it makes it hard for employees to believe that any of the information you give them is actually the whole story. In short, a lack of transparency will always undermine leadership. People will get their information from somewhere. Make sure that it comes from you as often as possible.
- Trust: This second point ties in with the first, because as a leader - you need people to trust you. You can build up trust through transparency as well as consistency and going to bat for your employees when necessary. When your team trusts you, they will also go to bat for you and will work "above and beyond" for the success of the organization. Trust cannot be microwaved, but it can be steadily grown over time.
- Permission to Fail: You need to nurture an environment where your team/employees feel a freedom to fail. If any and all failures are punished, the culture of your organization will evolve into one where no one dreams big, takes big risks, or attempts to go "above and beyond." Freedom to fail empowers employees to aim for new levels of success because they do not have to constantly fear the loss of employment. And again, this ties in with the previous points: people won't feel freedom to fail if they do not trust you or if you don't do an effective job explaining to them when they do and do NOT have permission to fail. In summary, in order to nurture effective and exciting improvements and change within your organization, people need permission to fail.
- Crying: I'll keep this one simple: your employees need to know that you are human. Show emotions and your humanity when appropriate. We all know that no one is perfect, and if you try to act like you are, you will: 1) undermine trust and 2) communicate a lack of transparency. So, when you can, show them the pains (and victories) in your life - professionally and personally. Be real with your team and you will further earn their trust and respect.
From personal experience and research over the years, I have found these four traits to be pivotal in effective leadership. Can you lead without some of them? Yes.
But if you are seeking to lead the emerging generations (16-30 years old), your effectiveness as a leader - and the success of your organization - will depend heavily on your ability to incorporate these habits and traits into your life.
This is my brief list of essential leadership traits. What am I missing? What other traits do you think are necessary for leading in the 21st century? Comment below with your thoughts!