Even without an official title, and irrespective of your position in the organisational hierarchy , you can be a ‘leader’ in your own right through your action and attitude. True. But the story is vastly different when you are a “leader” by title, i.e when you are ‘assigned’ a leadership position by your organization, and are expected to lead a group of people assigned to you to a certain goal. In this case, you are officially responsible for the outcome, not only of your own productivity, but more significantly for the outcome of your people’s productive behavior as well. You have to effectively convert a bunch of people to an effective and successful team, that owns a shared goal and achieves it together, following you as the leader.
Today’s workplace scenario – especially with knowledge workers and service sectors - clearly calls for a set of leadership skills, that is more people-centric and less authority–centric. Positional authority no longer guarantees that you will be accepted as the leader by your people merely by virtue of your designation and will be able to ensure the deliverables through them by using command and control strategies. In fact, as gleaned from history, this had never really worked and people who delivered great sustainable results were inspiring leaders with some other key human traits that do not flow from one’s designation – a fact which is now being acknowledged more openly, as compared to in the past. With concepts like “Emotional Intelligence”, “People skills”, ‘social skills’ etc. gaining ground and almost becoming much-hackneyed terms, there is no need to elaborate on why positional authority alone cannot guarantee successful teams.
So, the next point is: how do you know whether you are the kind of leader that the modern workplace needs? A leader today has to steer their people through ambiguities, uncertainties and challenges and make them want to give their best. Goes without saying, when people want to give their best, that is evidence enough that they own the project and also that they are on auto-pilot to ensure the best results.
Ask yourself 3 key questions !
And honestly answer to those. You will be pretty clear on whether you already are a leader capable of leading your people to success, or whether you are currently lacking and where exactly you need to work on yourself.
Question 1 : Do your people trust you?
Question 2 : Do you treat your team members as human beings, and not just as employees?
Question 3: Do you take active interest in the growth of your people?
Remember, you are being watched constantly by your co-workers/team mates/employees, even if you are not always told about it on your face.
Co-workers would trust you only when they see fairness and consistency in your action and intent through various situations. In addition, if they accept that you would always, and without hesitation, stand up for them whenever the situation warrants, they will trust you completely, and will be inspired by your integrity and credibility. Only this kind of complete trust in the leader brings out the best in each employee – courage to innovate, take risks and stretch out-of-box to reach the best results.
Leaders, I mean true leaders, demonstrate a very high degree of credibility and that makes it easy for them to carry their people along without the need to “drag them along’ where they need 100% of their team to be on the new destination! So, be trust-worthy!!
No employee is your employee only-they are also human beings having highs and lows in their important personal spheres, at times may be just around the same time that the ‘employee’ in them is called to contribute. Do you, as the leader, see the worry on their face when they are going through a personal crisis; or just miss out on it , lost in tasking your employees to meet your official deadlines?
Showing empathy, sharing the personal joys and concerns of your employees, till recently, was not seen with favour in the context of tough, decisive leadership! But go through history and look around. You will be amazed to see just how many of the super- achiever leaders actually displayed this one quality, that made all the difference!! No wonder, with time and greater research into leadership, the concept of “ Emotional Intelligence” has come up since quite sometime now and this quality – i.e empathy for your people- has now been acknowledged as a key leadership quality- ranking on the top slot of the skills set!
Yes, when people know that their superior cares for them as human beings, they too reciprocate in terms of higher engagement and productivity in the job. So, the golden rule is: respect your employees as human beings first; most of the rest will fall in line.
The third crucial area that you, as the leader, have to take responsibility for is: growth of your people! It is easier to make people do things when you can make them see what is in it that is for them, not for you! In a workplace situation, no employee can stay engaged and charged without growth – in terms of growth in personal knowledge-skill-competence matrix, career progression, and both in combination. A superior who keeps this in sight in respect of each of the team mates usually demonstrates genuine interest in the growth of all the employees, without favour or unjust discrimination, through a holistic approach of training-assigning responsibilities-mentoring-sponsoring for higher jobs. Such a superior not only properly assesses each employee to harness their potential, but also invests in growth of each, and makes it visible to the team asto what growth prospects are there for each of them when the shared goal is achieved! Undoubtedly, such a superior would automatically inspire employees to give their best to whatever organizational goals they are pursuing, not only because they themselves stand to gain from it, but also for the fact that, their own superior becomes the face of the organization for them and they would walk any length of extra miles for such a leader!!
The above three are perhaps the most important human traits that tell a leader, whom people would gladly follow, from the rest.