Still, today's volatile business environment demands a definition of the ideal leader. Without at least some idea of good leadership traits, a business won't survive against the competition. Recently, business expert Bill Blades answered the following difficult questions about what makes good leadership.
A study conducted in 2001 looked at over 20,000 exit interviews and found that the number one reason people left a job was poor supervisory behavior, or, in other words, bad bosses. And, one of the biggest factors cited in these interviews was poor communication skills.
With every interaction, employees become either more engaged or less engaged with their work and the organization. If the interactions are more negative than positive, you will produce disengaged individuals who become increasingly disconnected from their work. They then settle in to a routine of apathy, and usually end up costing the employer large sums of money.
Every leader must realize that each employee is part of the company's financial assets. For those assets to perform at maximum levels, the executives must focus on creating and nurturing a great environment within the organization. And a huge part of the well-being of that environment relies on communication.
Everyone knows that to teach dogs certain behaviors, treats and praise work better than whips. I'm not sure why more leaders don't approach people in the same manner. When you verbally abuse someone, they usually withdraw. Being loud, getting red in the face and pounding the desk has gone out of style (if it ever was in style).
Poor leaders are also quick to assign blame and point fingers. They don't understand that they should share the glory and accept the blame. All leaders need to understand that mistakes are part of life. Everyone makes them. But when a leader criticizes someone, the whole organization loses part of its potential. In actuality, bad leaders create zombies by destroying the potential of their employees.
The Glengarry Glen Ross style of management, which fosters competition rather than teamwork, is dead. The Equation Research Survey revealed that 96% of 377 executives interviewed believe that yelling can never be an effective management tool. The message is that many leaders need makeovers. Not in the form of adding new methods, but identifying what methods need to be modified or taken away.
Another effective approach that good leaders often take is servancy leadership. This means they lead by asking what their followers need in order to be successful. Essentially, this approach treats every employee almost like a client. Good leaders must figure out what each of their employees needs, what makes them tick and what they ultimately want to achieve. This approach leaves employees feeling empowered, respected and important. And it makes them want to work harder toward the goals of the organization.
Good leaders also have vision. They maintain a steady focus on a long-term approach to a successful business that can weather the evolutionary nature of the economy. By combining that focus with great communication skills, the major battles are won.
Everything, including culture, starts at the top. The top executives and managers are responsible for what happens in an organization, and they are the ones to blame when things go wrong. Therefore, leadership determines the culture and culture determines performance. So, improving the behavior of the leadership should be the initial course of action for a struggling business.
A large part of the culture is dictated by communication. Not just in what the organization itself communicates, but how it communicates it. A leader can chew on people all he or she wants, but all that accomplishes is a short-term drop in morale and a long-term drop in revenues. A constructive culture, on the other hand, will drive people to better performance. Unfortunately, many leaders take a passive approach to the culture of their organizations. And many times the business leaders don't know any better. In these cases, an outside perspective may be extremely beneficial.
Positive leaders aren't concerned with what they can get out of people. Rather, they focus on how to invest in their people and how to help them succeed. They dwell on the positives - not just to be nice, but because it leads to enhanced performance. They consider keeping a positive attitude as setting employees up for greater success.
Leaders can check themselves for a positive mindset by tracking the number of times in a workday they pay a compliment to one of their employees. A good leader should strive for at least five compliments per day.
A positive attitude can make a great difference in a person's ability, and not just as far as leadership is concerned. For example, when one negative job candidate with more skills and ability goes up against a positive job candidate with a shorter resume, most leaders would choose the positive person without a second thought. That person's positive attitude will carry over into eagerness, creativity, and better communication skills and results.
Most importantly, every new leader needs a mentor. Either before they move into the leadership position or just after they've taken on the new responsibility, someone needs to tell them the truth about what they need to do to be successful. The best mentors usually come from outside the organization, but they are always straightforward and honest.
Good leaders also know that no firm can be instantly successful, and that one or two quarters do not make the success or failure of an organization. Effective leaders know that long-term efforts yield higher returns than cutbacks.
One of these long-term efforts should always be education. Leaders must understand that a huge competitive differential is a well-educated workforce, which takes time and persistence to develop. They also realize that the only thing worse than educating an employee that eventually leaves the organization is not educating someone and having them stay.
Babson College conducted a 12-year study that found that the only thing successful entrepreneurs had in common was a willingness to launch, or to stay out, in faith. One of history's greatest leaders, Frederick the Great, said it best: "Audacity, audacity, always audacity." Whether in robust or recession times, organizations always need visionary leaders who are committed to creating an exciting future for themselves and for others.
Also, managers thrive on catching people making mistakes, where leaders think, "What can I do to make this better?" For example, when a manager catches one of their employees doing something wrong, they might call them into their office and reprimand them. But a leader embraces the philosophy that failures are necessary for finding success. They allow their employees to try new methods, and may actually hold people accountable for doing so. Then if something doesn't go as planned, everyone can examine their actions and learn from the mistakes as a team.
Good leaders also invest considerable amounts of time in coalition building. This process requires listening, support and encouragement so people aspire to greater things. Also, if any of their people try to hurt another person or team, leaders act fast to stop those negative behaviors. The leader wants a unified team - and voice.