If I asked 100 top leaders to define leadership I would most likely get 100 different answers. If I asked them to share their leadership formula for success there would probably be an even larger discrepancy in the responses. If you googled books on leadership you would find there are almost 500,000 to choose from, all with differing opinions and no right or wrong answers.
So how then does one, with a desire to enhance their leadership skills, sort out all this “stuff” into something that makes sense, is practical, and even more than that, is executable? I am stepping out on a limb here, but going to make an attempt to share what I believe to be valuable leadership qualities and traits, hitting upon a list, that if mastered, creates a strong foundation for building additional leadership skills. But of course, like all the other books and articles out there, this is also opinion.
Start out by being authentic and transparent. No one gains anything from a phony; not respect, not knowledge, and certainly not trust. Be straight with your managers, supervisors, and employees by practicing what you preach. Be open with communications, and tell the truth, even when it is bad news. Clearly share your visions and goals, encourage individuals and groups, praise when praise is due, and take the time for one-on-one meetings. Allow others to participate, be approachable, listen to their ideas; if they are good act on them. It is critical to be open and honest when you have made a mistake and own up to it. The worst thing you can do is attempt to cover it up. I know you can think of several political figures that have ended their own careers by doing just that.
Learn the meaning of emotional Intelligence. It’s the ability to identify, assess, and control the emotions of oneself, of others, and of groups. The five components of emotional intelligence, as defined by psychologist Daniel Goleman, are self-awareness, self-regulation, motivation, social skills, and empathy. These qualities are the equivalent of being “street smart” and learning to apply them will enable you to navigate through business and emerge in all parts of your life as a much stronger leader.
Make things happen. Be a facilitator and motivator. Have the vision to break out of the mold and aim for greater things, then have the wherewithal to set out the path to get there. When you see what can be, and manage the goals to get there, you can effectively bring about change that otherwise would have seemed impossible. Have the conviction to see goals through to the end. Believe in the mission and others will follow. Delegate tasks for implementation of your ideas. Assign accountability to those tasks. Just putting a name and date beside an action point doesn't guarantee it will get done, particularly if there is no consequence to non-implementation.
The exceptional leader is always proactive versus reactive. Thinking ahead and anticipating problems before they arise allows you to master your own environment, enabling you to control it and not permitting it to control you. The result for your employees is a work environment where they consistently move forward as opposed to spending their time stomping out fires on a regular basis. Being proactive will also give your organization a competitive advantage as focus can be placed on improving customer service, efficiency, procedures, and productivity.
Possess humility; that quiet confidence that says you are sure of yourself with humble intentions. A boastful attitude will do nothing to draw your followers to you; but there is enormous power in the state of not thinking you are better than others. Leaders who are truly servant-hearted and able to put others and the organization first will earn not only respect but also experience the loyalty of others, as they will feel valued and significant in the organization. This is key in maintaining a positive culture in an organization.
Decision-making is an essential leadership skill so be a decision maker. After you have made the decisions hold yourself accountable for the result. Learn to optimize your resources and recognize individual talents, matching them to the roles they can fill most successfully. Often this will mean looking closely at the subject at hand while not losing sight of the big picture. Once you make the decision don’t be wishy-washy or unsure of yourself. If you are questioning your decision, so will others, and they will lose confidence in your ability to lead, and not be committed to the direction you have chosen.
Promote teamwork. Great teams need a great leader; however, no person is an island and you as the leader need your employees as much as they need you. Instead of leaders establishing relationships with their employees that are adult-child like, good leaders have adult-adult relationships that foster team cohesiveness. A shared agenda philosophy makes for a high performance team, as the goals of the leader merge with the individual goals of the team members. Individuals need to feel they have something significant to contribute. Recognize individual skills and talents, and reward their contribution to the team.
If you don’t possess charisma create it. Charismatic leaders arouse emotion in their followers. They make use of metaphors, similes, and analogies. Charismatic leaders tell stories and use anecdotes. They ask rhetorical questions. They reflect on the group’s sentiments. Much of their strength and power is gained through their facial expressions, and gestures, which combined with articulate communication evokes emotion in their followers. Think about charismatic politicians as an example. Many times all who follow them do not agree with the politician on their political issues, but they like them enough to follow.
How will I know when I have become a stronger leader?
At this point you may be asking yourself how will I know when I have become a stronger leader? You will know by the behavior of your followers or employees. They will want to be in your presence, but more than that they will want to serve. Sharing in your vision and making it happen will bring them joy and an esprit de cours spirit will be prevalent in your organization. They will take pride in performing at their best and settle for nothing less. Motivation will come from the relationship bond that exists and not from fear. All will benefit positively. Efficiency will increase, productivity will increase, your competition will notice you are different, moral will be uplifted, and your bottom line profitability will be a larger number.
It is not hard, but it is a commitment that takes focus and consistency. Believe you can master leadership and you will.
Deborah Ann Cavalcante leads Diversified Aviation Consulting (DAC) and along with her associates has firsthand experience in air
carrier operations, private charter aircraft, general aviation operations, military/civilian interface, FBO management, maintenance repair station training, safety training, human factors training, and customer service training. For more information on DAC visit www.dac.aero.