cognitive diversity, Collaboration, communication, courage, creative sparks, creativeness, creativity, disruption, disruptive innovation, empathetic, great leader, improve, Innovation, insight, Lead, leadership, leading, leading by example, listening, respect, role model, sharing, strategy, successful, successful leader, type a
Type A individuals
What does it take to be a successful leader eh? Is it being:
- never listening to anyone but yourself or
- looking down your nose and patronizing everyone else
The answer as you might well know – is none of the above.
Being a successful leader encapsulates many, many things, too many to enumerate here. I am only including some of the more well-known and best indicators, in my eyes that is, from years of watching and observing other successful leaders.
Many people have written books on this topic and I only wanted to jot down brief notes on this. I do know there is far more that could have been included here.
Successful leaders need strategies to remain such a person for years to come. The best strategy is to listen to those around you, which is the very reason why you hired others.
- Listening is the best medicine (strategy) but you could possibly adapt but you have to do it judiciously and with an open mind. You should listen, intently, to what others have to say but you must take everything with a grain of salt and judge whether what you heard makes any kind of sense and is potentially useful. You do not just dismiss everything others tell you. Listen to your junior staff members as well as your more experienced members – they just might surprise you with a relatively new or unique way of solving a problem or improving a product line.
- Collaboration (a very favorite theme of mine) – a lot of folks talk a good game about this and working together with others but don’t wholeheartedly and actually follow through in the mistaken belief that they do not need anyone else to be successful, as if they always know the answers and solutions to problems/issues. Surprise, you do not, no one knows all the answers and here is where I say again, go back to the first bullet in this section – listen to others. But when you do collaborate, share the credit, better yet, parse out that credit to all the other members, let them have the lime light for the success and on the flip side, take the fall for failures – shield your team, your company from the bad spotlight, protect them.
- Learning from failure – this one goes without saying or it should. We do not just become successful by being lucky, we also become successful when we fail and learn from that failure. As a leader, you have to let people fail and hope they ‘do’ learn from that failure rather than failing time after time and not learn anything, causing a serious loss of operating expenses… People sometimes need to fail and you, the leader, may have to bite your tongue and let it happen
- Stop being reactive and try very, very hard to be proactive in all matters. Getting ahead of the curve, in as many areas as possible, is the best scenario to undertake.
- Being innovative in as many ways as possible to boost your firms bottom line will show significant dividends in ways you may not have forecasted. Yes, you may have to spend more money upfront but – do you want to ‘not’ spend money upfront and waste your staff members’ productivity? If you provide for more ergonomic chairs, keyboards, more powerful PCs, better networking infrastructure (100Gbps links, better WAN optimization, document de-duplication [instead of everyone sending and resending the same doc to each other wasting bandwidth and server space], better lighting [full-spectrum instead of the mind and soul sapping depressing yellowish florescent and dull white] – I can just keep going on this one. Being innovative also means, for the brave, being disruptive to gain that edge – not reckless disruption but disruptive innovation that brings good, solid exponential growth
- Being innovative might even mean, treating your staffs to surprise breakfast pastries now and then to perks such as training classes [the good classes and not just the plain vanilla boring CBTs they already know and not helpful to their careers]
- Being empathetic to others who work for and with you is another perfect strategy – and not being standoffish, aloof or whatever else you may believe yourself to be
- Look for creative sparks in others – in addition to when you are attempting to ignite creative juices of your own. Many believe they not do have that potentiality of being creative at times but they do, they all do. They, or you, just do not know what that moment of creativity will occur. You have to go with the flow and let serendipity take its course and encourage creativity
Light up your creative juices and bring along all of the cognitive diversity skills that you can bring along. I mention this in the preceding section; get the creative juices flowing in your teams. Try to get them (and you too!) to be thinkers as well as doers in solving problems.
If you see people at their desks with their eyes closed, please don’t automatically assume they are sleeping… They might be trying to get to a sweet spot of thinking and creativity for whatever they are working on.
As it is, many, if not most, firms do not have quiet rooms or nap rooms where employees can take a break to get rejuvenated, away from hectic and chaotic environments.
Leading is about listeningand being in charge, smartly. It is about communication, insight, respect, integrity and ethics.
Leading is also about courage and by this I mean a leader must be willing to learn from others around him/her (I’ll just be using ‘his/he’ after this point). It is about being the ‘buck actually does stop here’ when things go wrong. Then too, it is about sharing the credit when things go right! Leading is about setting the right example! If you do a good job, those around you may like it and will attempt to emulate the examples you are setting. Trust me on this count, it does work – just do a good job. Don’t tell people to do what you do, just do a good job and others will likely follow your example(s).
Yes, you are the leader but, if you as a leader cannot learn from those around you, believing that you know all the answers – you have already failed. No one knows all the answers and you should not be afraid to listen and learn from those around you. This is your team. They are your backstops, just as you are theirs. You must also not blow smoke, beat around the bush, mislead or lie about things going on that affect your team, your customers. I am not saying your team is always right, of course not but, they may have an aspect that you could use. They, or you, may have an insight that could be useful for that project, that task or some effort down the road.
Being a good to great leader means being a thought leader too. You are what you present to the company, to your teams and to the public. It is in your demeanor, your character – the way you hold your head up when you walk and look others in the eye. And being loud, brash and outspoken is not always the best way of leading – many successful leaders are quiet and understated…
Being a successful leader means that you are not afraid to listen to those who may be smarter than you, in multiple areas, yet you still listen to their input. And it should not matter who these folks are, whether they: have a different sexual preference than you do, are older/younger, nerds, of a different race or male or female. They all have a voice and a voice that might mean the difference to success for the organization.
Being a leader means that your handshake and word is your bond – at least that is what it means to others I have encountered over the years and for myself. It is too bad that so many people around the world have sullied that aspect, reducing it to lip service, rendering it meaningless in lots of circles.
By this I mean those folks who say they have an MBA to gain a leadership role in some firm when they do not, they only lied about it and were eventually found out later. Or those who state they have a Masters’ or even a Doctorate when they only made it up and printed out the certificates at home. These individuals make promises that they have no intention of keeping or knowing full well that they cannot come close to some successful agreement. These people are simply braggarts.
You may have read or heard me talk about integrity and ethics before (many times) but I cannot emphasize these enough. These two are corner stones of what makes an individual and leaders specifically must have these two aspects. To me, they are not only corner stones but are the foundational bedrock of a person.
For the time being, as we all observe daily, we still have ethics issues around the country… In all levels of life!
Type A individuals – we don’t always need or want an individual who will drive themselves into the ground, or worse, drive those around them into the ground needlessly (or worse still – intentionally). Sure, some of them end up being very successful, while many do not. And look at the cost of these folks.
Many of us have seen and worked for this type of person. We have far too many Type A’s ruining the lives of others or causing those team members to leave that company for what is hopefully a better workplace elsewhere. These Type A’s are individuals who think they know all the answers while no one else does. Or that no one else really matters. To these Type A’s, the end goal is everything – no matter what transpires in getting to the goal.
As a result, the staff working for that leader may end up providing answers the leader wants to hear and not the answers that should have been provided. Just to keep the leader happy.
Why can’t we have more Type A leaders who actively use moderation? We need leaders who are willing to critically listen to feedback and possible answers and use that information, not just toss it out when that team member leaves the room. We need leaders that can recognize when they are stressing out their team and others around them. We need leaders that can recognize when to slow activities down and when there is the need to move things along a bit faster.
All good leaders have got to learn or know how to communicate, whether it is speaking or writing – a good leader has “got” to know how to communicate to the team; subordinate, equals and that person’s own leadership.
Good communication means that that leader conveys valuable, timely and effective information to all who needs it by ensuring that:
a) The communication has “got” to include enough nuances to ensure the message is coming across as intended.
b) That leader knows his audience and is aware of how he crafts his message(s) to ensure it is received as intended (see below).
c) That leader needs to determine how best to craft and send his message because some people in the audience prefer written information, while others prefer getting that same info verbally – or even visually.
Sometimes, saying more is too much. Sometimes, saying too little is bad. The point is, one has to be aware when one is talking too much as well as being aware when the message is not coming across to the various levels of the audience.
By that last statement, I mean that, as much as is possible, one has to know who they are addressing;
1) Educational levels of the audience,
2) Cultural backgrounds,
3) Age ranges,
4) Economic levels,
Sometimes, delivering bad news info requires that a leader will also need to know how to do that eloquently, elegantly, respectfully and with dignity…
Then we come to Respect.
Respect is a two way street but it has to be earned. I personally am happy with everyone using first names, regardless of titles, as long as everyone respects the position they are in and that others hold. Respect should be earned and not used without any forethought.
I ‘do’ realize these are my own observations and desires but they are ideas and ideals I prefer. As a result, I continually try to get those around me to try to follow these principles:
a) Show respect to each other, and yourself, as much and as often as possible – do not take others for granted,
b) Listen, constantly and consciously, not as an afterthought,
c) Show courage, especially when you have failed in some task or endeavor – you only learn from your mistakes, you ‘must’ learn from your mistakes to grow
d) Provide insight, useful insight, whenever possible to ongoing tasks – use some of that cognitive diversity that each of us has (we all have different learning’s, different backgrounds and different experiences) that can prove beneficial and most of all
e) Leaders encourage others to speak up, especially the shy team members, the non-confident team members so their voices too can be heard.
Leaders also know right from wrong – or they should, even though we continue to see so many leaders in the news around the world with their hands in the cookie jar or doing something so egregiously wrong.
We probably need more ethics classes, not just in college but in high school, junior high and likely, even grade school. It should be a mandatory class/course – and repeated a couple of times along the educational track, using real world examples. And yes, I need to say it, we need to expand ethics classes/courses in the workplace – private companies, city, state and federal organizations too, that is, those not currently doing so.
Successful leaders are not made up of liars and those who do not give 100% of themselves. These successful leaders engage and share and collaborate (yep, I used it again) and they look to the future and not just the right here and right now…
GREAT leaders have ethics and character and useful charisma, the type that encourages others from all walks of life to follow them without asking them to. Not the fake charisma where the individual in question is only looking out after their fortunes and not helping others.
GREAT leaders tell you the truth, even when it is bad news. GREAT leaders make time to talk to the mail room clerks, the front desk receptionist and even have good words with the cleaning staff.
GREAT leaders treat all those around them with dignity and respect because others are people too, people who like being respected and listened to.
GREAT leaders help others become successful.