A great leader needs many positive traits. Common traits that are mentioned include assertiveness, high energy, sociability, openness to new experiences, self-confidence, and self-discipline. I can’t disagree with any of those. I suggest these three, though, because, in my experience, they’re as rare as hen’s teeth. Finding someone who has all three (along with a healthy portion of the others mentioned above) would produce someone I’d want to work for.
- Compassion– Leaders need to care about the people they’re trying to lead. We lead very complex lives and have multiple demands on our time and resources, so an effective leader needs to both realize that each team member is unique and may be facing challenges and react appropriately. I’ve worked for several managers who loved to talk about what a “family” we were. Unfortunately, it was mostly talk, because when things got difficult some member of the “family” was going to get asked to move out. People know real compassion when they experience it; it’s not easy to do, but if you’re a caring leader, people will follow you anywhere.
- Trust – Leaders need to trust their team members. Especially if you were the person who interviewed and selected a team member, you should have enough trust to let them do their job without micromanaging their every move. This can be a challenge if you’ve inherited staff from a previous supervisor, but even then it’s better to be trusting – at least at first – to see how the team member responds. If they are unable to handle that level of responsibility, perhaps it’s best to help them to move on.
- Courage – Anyone can manage from a textbook. It’s not terribly effective, but most of us have worked for someone who’s gone through leadership training but didn’t take it seriously (see yesterday’s post) or only learned the buzzwords or skimmed the surface and failed to internalize the potentially useful content contained in it. Effective leadership requires the ability to make difficult decisions and then have the courage to actually implement them and see them through. A good leader realizes that not every idea will work the way they’d hoped, but is also brave enough to live with the consequences and hopefully learn something from the mistakes.