What’s leadership? Who is an effective leader? The answers to both these questions are relative to every organization out there – whether big or small. The truth is there is no one set of rules that makes for an effective leader and some people have it and some don’t. Leadership encompasses a slew of characteristics and different people embody different sets of traits.
Let’s start from the very top.
Motivation and communication are two traits every leader should have. In fact, I’d go on a limb saying they should be the two most important traits to possess. If you can’t motivate your team or can’t communicate your ideas in a clear, concise manner, then you’re gonna suck as a leader. I mean, you can lead, but who is going to follow?
When I write about social media effectiveness I talk about the four “E’s” (Engage, Educate, Enthusiasm, Evangelism), so now let me give you seven key “P’s” to lead. You don’t have to have all, but it sure helps if you want to be successful leading others.
While leadership isn’t exclusive to extroverts, a leader must have the ability to work the crowd and get some enjoyment out of engaging with a large, and diverse, number of people. A charismatic leader is often thought of as a good, effective leader. I won’t disagree with that, but I’d issue a word of caution: there’s a fine line between being charismatic and being perceived as disingenuous and phony. You have to be careful with that fine line. Develop a bit of an attitude so they know what to expect. It works for Trump. It works for Hillary. Despite whether you vote for them— they have the P!
Another way to show personality is through humor or being self deprecating. More often than not, having a sense of humor, or poking fun at yourself, helps a leader navigate the rough patches of any crisis your company might go through. Keeping a clear and level-headed approach can be an asset during a moment of chaos. One thing I would caution would be that when trying to land a joke, you do so with considerable care. Jokes are all the rave when everyone finds them funny. When the room temperature cools down a few degrees, all your intents to be funny fly out the window. They’ll remember you, just for the wrong reasons. Despite that, do keep your sense your humor.
Trying to persuade a diverse group of people can be a challenging task for any leader. At times, it feels like herding cats. This is where your persuasive communication skills will come in handy. As the leader of a company, you might be asked to deliver a few keynote addresses or type of speeches – internally and externally, and your message needs to get across to all in attendance. Keep in mind that you’ll be addressing people with varying degrees of education and every rung of the ladder – from your fellow c-suite dwellers, to other types of company leaders, to the admin team. In order for the message to reach all, you must communicate in the jargon of the group or organization and your message needs to fit that audience. If not, you won’t be seen as an effective thought leader.
As a regular keynote speaker myself, I have given a number of speeches to a varied number of organizations. Some have been in my wheelhouse of marketing and business. Others, not so much, but the goal is the same — reaching my audience, making an impact and be persuasive enough to make them see where I’m coming from.
The takeaway here is, the old KISS principle – keep it simple, stupid! And always be closing!
Patience and Perception
Patience and persistence are essential twins needed to get things done. We live in an age of instant gratification, where everything has to happen now. Despite that, patience is a virtue and every leader needs to have a healthy dose of patience. If you’re reading this thinking, ‘sure, it’s easier said that done,’ I will have to agree with you. Patience isn’t something that comes easy to me and sometimes, I even have to keep myself in check. Self-discipline is a trait every leader should have. Going against the grain isn’t easy, but it must be done if you’re to succeed in business. Rome wasn’t build in a day, neither will your business.
Perception is a bit tricky, because everyone perceives things differently. If you’ve seen Akira Kurosawa’s acclaimed film, “Rashomon,” you will know what I’m talking about. For those unaware of the film, it is about an incident that it witnessed by multiple people, yet all perceive the incident in very different ways.
Keep this in mind when you interact with your audience, whoever they may be. Why? Because, for the most part, there’s no clear cut right and wrong here. Regardless of whether you agree with someone’s perception or not, you still need to remain engaged. Perception is only one part of the equation.
This is essential and I can’t stress that enough! Honesty and trustworthiness are the pillars of any good leader. If your employees and colleagues can’t (or don’t) trust you, you have a huge problem to overcome. Not to mention, no one wants to do business with you. People will follow those who they trust, and they’ll appreciate your candor and openness.
Honesty is often a trait that is most admired, but sometimes it’s not practiced as often as it should be. This, to me, raises an interesting question – if people want honesty, do they want the same measure of candor? I’m going to say yes! I don’t believe in being two different people, one at home and one at work. I’m the same person whether I am in New York City or at home in South Dakota. It’s exhausting being two people, so I don’t even bother. I’m honest to a fault and if other people can’t handle that level of honesty, don’t ask me to tell you what I think. I’d rather ruffle a few feathers and be honest, than tell you what you want to hear. Who does that benefit? No one!
Everyone likes praise – especially if it’s earned. You don’t have to have a parade for every accomplishment someone makes, but a few kind words of encouragement can go a long way to foster good will and letting your team know they are appreciated. A leader who gives credit to his/her team will definitely attract more followers and loyalty than a leader who is constantly bragging about “their” accomplishments.
While it’s always important to praise those who’ve worked hard to earn it, don’t point to a colleague or employee to say it was all their fault. Good, effective leaders don’t use their influence to throw someone else under the bus. On the contrary, they take the situation and make it a teachable moment for that employee. I can guarantee they’ll remember how you treated them and will never make the same mistake again.
Leadership should be something that is of, by and for the people – kind of like our elected officials. The main reason for leadership should be for the benefit of the people. And much like our Congress, many so-called leaders are distrusted because they are seen as self-serving and primarily interested in their own benefits. A leader who forgets his/her purpose won’t be a leader for much longer. A leader who is secure in their own abilities shares the company’s success with all those who toil day-to-day. Be that leader!
A good leader will realize they can’t please everyone all the time. Some will be pleased with his/her decisions, others won’t. That’s just how life works. However, leadership means being practical in making decisions that cater to the majority of the group, perceptive enough to realize when the majority is right and strong enough to take action without the support of said majority when that majority is wrong. At the same time, a good leader stays strong to their convictions and accepts criticism – whether valid or invalid. Accepting it doesn’t mean you have to agree with everything, but learning to discern what’s valid from what’s bogus. What type of leader are you?
© Jeffrey Hayzlett. All rights reserved