Recently, I was looking to help one of our clients bring aboard a leader who could assert themselves in the organization right away – which is easier said than done. In doing so, I was reminded of the skills that are demonstrated on a daily basis that make people true leaders and great managers.
- An outstanding feel for the culture Connecting with the culture you’re coming into is so important – and often so underrated by new managers. The great ones understand that if they want to achieve certain initiatives early on and get some coveted “buy-in,” they’ll need to know what the environment encompasses. What do employees appreciate most about the culture? How do they talk about it? What kind of people seem to be the most admired and which individuals might be your strongest advocates (or potentially your biggest opponents)? Leaders typically have greater success when they know the lay of the land from a cultural perspective rather than trying to steamroll through respected people and processes in order to get things done their way.
- An instant likability It doesn’t matter how high up in the organization they are – some of the best leaders have a warm personality that invites people in right away. This “likability” factor makes them a pleasure to be around because they exude a certain authenticity and care behind every word and action. It’s not just about running a company to them. It’s about building a special place that makes a difference in the lives of others, which very much includes the lives of those within the company walls. They have a sense of humor about things and aren’t afraid to display it. Now, some may believe that a leader who lets their guard down a bit risks losing respect but it’s actually just the opposite – respect out of genuine admiration will almost always propel a leader farther than respect out of fear. When you’re truly likable, the troops will follow you into battle practically anytime, anywhere.
- Demonstrates the desired behavior regularly Great leaders do more than just give people marching orders – they get in the trenches and literally show everyone how they want things done. You won’t hear this kind of person saying, “Do as I say, not as I do.” For example, let’s say an organization hires a new manager who is tasked with ramping up new business development activities. Sure, that manager could do a lot of talking about quotas and the desired target customer. But instead, he’s going to demonstrate the style of behavior necessary for effective cold calling and making appointments. Later on, he’s going to train other staff members on how to manage a new database. Tomorrow, he’s going to be heavily involved in changing processes, like making workflow improvements. We’re talking about an individual who performs actions, not just words.
- Mentor and manager in one Whenever I hear a candidate talk about some of the best managers they’ve ever had, I often hear them mention how that manager was such an outstanding mentor. These types of teachers don’t merely see a company mission that has to be achieved. Again, they have the personality that genuinely cares about lifting the rest of the team up, including understanding what makes each person tick. They want to get a keen sense of every employee’s passions and goals, both professionally and personally. Such a leader is thinking, “Utilizing the experience and insight I’ve gained from my career, how can I help this person get to where they want to go?” So they give to others selflessly, with the full knowledge that someday, the very person they’re mentoring may leave, taking those newfound skills with them. However, the manager never lets this thought hold them back from imparting the necessary wisdom. They know people may eventually leave the company for various reasons. But by being a strong mentor now, they’ll have a much better chance of retaining those valuable employees longer.
- A knack for making work fun Let’s say a new manager with an innate likability wants to elevate everyone’s performance. How does she do it? She thinks about how to institute fun challenges that help keep everyone’s eyes on the prize, whatever that goal for the company may be. Some of the best leaders can balance seriousness with fun, as well as some accountability and metrics. The “reward” for achieving the corporate objective should be some sort of fun team building activity outside of the office. Emphasis on
- Amplifies productivity in a big way We’ve mentioned likability and fun, but make no mistake – a solid leader knows that they’ve also been brought in to raise the bar of expectations on performance and productivity. If they don’t, they won’t move the company forward. There are variety of methods they may use to help move the needle in a positive direction, but no matter what, these methods always have two ingredients: Structure and accountability. For example, they may say that by the end of each workday, employees have to complete a report that summarizes their activity. They may institute a weekly team meeting on Friday that reviews the group’s activity of the past week and sets an agenda for what needs to be accomplished in the week to come. By the way, they aren’t “meeting fanatics” in the sense that they want to meet for every little reason. But they do recognize how essential it is for the team to have consistent communication, clarity and focus on the goals ahead.
Is a company’s next great leader obvious? I wish it was always that easy but the truth is, it frequently takes time through a gradual process to know that you’ve identified someone who can deliver exactly what they say they can. What we can say is that at GForce, we’re looking for many of the qualities just like the ones mentioned above. If we know that a candidate for management has a track record of success, appears to be a good fit for the culture and sound motivation for making a change at this point in their career, that’s a healthy foundation to begin with.
Think about the best leaders and managers you’ve ever had in your career. What kind of qualities did they put on constant display to make them special? What invaluable lessons did you learn from them that you’ll never forget? We’d love to hear your stories.