4 key traits of beloved leaders
Why it’s easy to feel at home with the best
With Halloween fast approaching, many of us find our thoughts drifting back to the thrill of trick-or-treating when we were kids. One of the many great things about this holiday was that, when you’d gathered all of the candy that your pillowcase or plastic pumpkin could bear, and perhaps after you’d run furtively through the darkened streets of your neighborhood for other playfully nefarious reasons, you could always go home again. And there you likely found your parents — the leaders of the household — waiting to welcome you back to the warm safety of your abode.
So it goes, in a sense, in the working world. During the course of every workday, we all go out “trick or treating,” hoping to find the sweet fulfillment of accomplishments and avoid the terrors of failure or at least the annoying pranks of unanticipated challenges. And who should be there to welcome us home at the end of the day? Leadership.
With the best leaders, we feel very much at home. We feel supported. We feel valued. And we feel we can voice our thoughts when necessary. Does your organization provide leadership like this? To get a better idea of how to answer this question, here are four key traits of beloved leaders to consider.
- They’re accessible
A leader not seen isn’t completely trusted. Remember, today’s employees have grown accustomed to being able to contact virtually anyone at a moment’s notice. They can converse (theoretically, at least) with celebrities on the Internet. They can keep in touch with friends and family members across the globe. And, like most of today’s organizations, yours probably has multiple ways for co-workers to communicate 24-7.
Beloved leaders play right along with the 360 access of today’s tech-crazy world. For example, online career community site Glassdoor.com conducts an annual CEO rating survey. The winner in 2013 was the famous founder of Facebook, Mark Zuckerberg — with a 99% approval rating. And one of his chief positive attributes was, indeed, accessibility. Zuckerberg is known for not even having (or at least using) his office. He works right out among his employees in the company’s “open plan” facility.
Interestingly, Zuckerberg fell to 10th place in the 2014 Glassdoor Highest Rated CEO survey. The winner this year was Jeff Weiner, chief exec at LinkedIn — a social media platform for professionals that’s all about (you guessed it) accessibility.
- They’re articulate
Beloved leaders are a known quantity. They have a vision for their organization and aren’t shy about sharing it. Top-notch leaders don’t just steer the ship; they tell the crew what course the vessel is taking and why it’s so important to get to the destination.
Let’s take another famous tech pioneer — the late Steve Jobs. When many of us envision Jobs, we don’t see a man hunched over his computer in a closed office. We see the guy in the black turtleneck at the Apple events, exciting us all with news of his company’s new products. What was Jobs doing in those events that so many other business leaders have taken to doing as well? He was articulating.
Of course, just because great leaders express their visions doesn’t mean those visions can’t evolve. As new information becomes available and the winds of every market change direction, the message must be revised as well. But that message is still driven by the same core principles and values — and it should never bewilder those hearing it.
- They’re always asking questions
The curiosity of a great leader is never sated. Anyone can storm into a room and ask why something isn’t working. But beloved leaders ask why something is working — and give due recognition to those making it work. Employees notice and appreciate this.
Top-performing managers are always exploring their own industries as well. When a leader can come to his or her employees and speak to the trends affecting the organization, that’s true leadership. The old cliché about it being better to be proactive than reactive is oft-repeated for a reason.
Beloved leaders ask personal questions as well — appropriate ones, of course! That is, they show interest, on a human level, in each of their staff members. This relates back to accessibility, to be sure. An inaccessible leader is never around to ask questions. But it also relates to curiosity. They want to know the backgrounds and motivations of their employees; not only because they genuinely care, but also because you never know when the perfect project or assignment may pop up for a given individual.
- They’re authentic
At the end of the day, why do we all truly like anyone? By and large, it comes down to authenticity. We want to know people who are real, who are true to themselves and their beliefs and, perhaps most of all, who are honest with us.
On the flip side, no one likes a phony. And most people can spot one very quickly. Once a lack of authenticity has been spotted — and particularly when it becomes a running theme in workplace chatter — an organization can suffer greatly. Decisions will be questioned, communication levels will drop, and morale and productivity will more than likely suffer.
That’s not to imply that anyone sets out to be a phony. But some managers may feel they have to present themselves in a certain, predefined way. Yet part of being a great leader, and a beloved one as well, is finding one’s professional identity and then being true to it. Another part of being a great leader is laughing, caring, sweating every detail, admitting when you’re wrong and celebrating when things go right.
Finding your greatness
Do you need a little help finding your greatness? Performance Dimensions Group specializes in management and executive coaching. We can help both current leadership and emerging leaders find their voices, fine tune their professional identities and become the beloved leaders they deserve to be. Please contact us here to get started.