What traits make a business leader great? Here are my ten! Each are learned through working at Fluid, other experiences, mistakes, and teachings from others.
1. Listen. If you're a leader, you must LEARN to listen. Too many leaders do all the talking when they should be taking the time to listen instead. Learning how to listen is a learned trait as well, as listening doesn't come easy. Many of the mistakes business leaders make are due to the fact that they didn't take the time they needed to listen well and understand the recommendations of others before they made a decision.
2. See things from both sides. In business there are always going to be two sides of the table, conference room, or conversation. The great leaders are those who understand this before the meeting, conference call, or email. I've seen too many leaders get into a situation without understanding the other side’s experience, circumstance, or situation. Knowing how to understand the other side will help you know exactly what's going to be the best for both sides.
3. Be honest. If you don't have honesty, you’re not going to be a business leader for very long. Lies are always uncovered; it's just a matter of time. Too many people in history thought they were going to be able to get away with something only to later get what was coming to them.
4. Ask questions. The difference between a good leader and a great leader is the ability to ask the right questions. If you can really ask the questions that give you the right answers, it makes making the really tough decisions a lot easier. This is one of the keys when leading in any situation. Whether you’re in the interview, partnership, promoting, or motivation process, you’ll find by asking the right questions youcan get normally make the right call.
5. Be a team player. Leaders have to lead someone. If the people you are leading only see you giving orders and never see you working along side them, you’re in trouble. A team player is with his or her team in the trenches. It's much easier to follow a leader if you know that leader is doing the work with you instead of just directing the work from behind a chair. What would it mean to an employee if his superior were to come and help him with a project instead of just asking when the project is going to be done? Involvement builds team unity and helps people know that you care. A person wants to be treated like a person, not a machine with a productivity level that needs to be maxed out.
6. Trust. Stephen Covey said, "The true transformation starts with building credibility at the personal level. The foundation of trust is your own credibility, and it can be a real differentiator for any leader. A person's reputation is a direct reflection of their credibility, and it precedes them in any interactions or negotiations they might have. When a leader's credibility and reputation are high, it enables them to establish trust fast— speed goes up, cost goes down.”(See http://www.leadershipnow.com/CoveyOnTrust.html and Covey’s book The Speed of Trust.
If employees feel like they have the trust of their leaders, they are then able to increase their speed and cost goes down. If trust goes down, cost goes up. Do you have trust in yourself and your team or do you micromanage them?
7. Motivate. First you must be able to motivate yourself and push yourself when nobody else is. I love sports and know that early on I needed someone to show me how to practice a certain skill and then coaches to help push me to be my best. I then learned how to practice and push myself. The same is true in the workplace. If you don't know how to properly motivate yourself, how can you help motivate others? Second, learning how to motivate is different for each person. I'm a big believer in the Color Code and that people need to be dealt with differently. A great leader gets to know the person they are motivating, instead of trying to motivate with a one-size-fits-all approach.
8. Set the example. A leader is one who walks to a cliff, seeing a big gap and jumps across first, then turns around to reach out and help the next person make the jump. A leader doesn’t push people to the gap from behind.
9. Care. If people don't know how much you care, they won't care how much you know. How to Win Friends and Influence People by Dale Carnegie is a classic book that takes about this and much more. Here some of my favorite parts from the book.
Be a Leader: How to Change People Without Giving Offense or Arousing Resentment
Begin with praise and honest appreciation.
Call attention to people's mistakes indirectly.
Talk about your own mistakes before criticizing the other person.
Ask questions instead of giving direct orders.
Let the other person save face.
Praise every improvement.
Give the other person a fine reputation to live up to.
Use encouragement. Make the fault seem easy to correct.
Make the other person happy about doing what you suggest.
10. Communicate. If you can't communicate the right things at the right times, you can't be a great leader. I really like the following that I found from actioncoach.com.
• The six most important words: "I admit I made a mistake"
• The five most important words: "You did a good job"
• The four most important words: "What is your opinion?"
• The three most important words: "If you please"
• The two most important words: "Thank you"
• The one most important word: "We"
• The least important word: "I"