by Glenn Llopis
Employees expect a lot from their leaders and when they don’t get what they expect they begin to lose trust and respect for their leader. As the workplace continues to transition from a knowledge to a wisdom-based environment, the requirements for great leadership are changing. For example, leaders must have greater emotional intelligence so they can connect more intuitively with their employees. They must become better listeners, opportunity enablers and exceptional coaches. Because employees are in search for high-trust relationships, leaders must be more instinctually connected with their employees and this requires them to be more self-aware about how their overall behavior and the example they set impacts the performance of others.
It’s easy for leaders to get lost in the spotlight of their leadership roles and lose sight of the increased performance demands and political pressures that go with the responsibility. Leadership is all about people and if leaders begin to lose touch with those they lead – they will become disconnected with the requirements of the business and the marketplace in which they compete. In the process, they begin to lose their leadership momentum and weaken their personal brand identity.
Early in my career, I reported to a newly appointed Vice President. The first 6 months were challenging as he transitioned into his new role. He got lost in his new title and disconnected from his employees and the requirements of the business. He didn’t know how to be a senior leader and attempted to mirror his counterparts rather than create his own identity. As a result, he lost respect and trust from his employees, many of whom were put off by his actions. I told him that he was losing his team and he said, “Glenn, they will learn to adapt or they won’t have a job.” My response: “Perhaps you will be the one that finds yourself out of work.” Though he didn’t like what I had to say, he respected me enough to pause and think about it; then he challenged me to give him three concrete recommendations of what he could do better to engage with the team and what the measureable outcomes would be. He said, “Prove me wrong.” Fortunately for me, I was ready with some recommendations, and they helped him realize that employees want to be heard, understood and given enough attention to feel that their contributions and opinions matter.
Great leadership requires an understanding of oneself before you can effectively comprehend, appreciate and leverage the unique skill-sets and competencies of others. Unfortunately, many people throughout their careers don’t have enough leaders who can best identify and enable their full potential. This is why so many employees feel stuck and experience regret in their careers. They find themselves feeling trapped at work with leaders that only care about themselves – or who have never taken the time to get to know them well enough to guide their career growth and potential.
1. An Identity You Can Count On
Once and for all, leaders must solidify their identity. Many leaders make it difficult for others to follow them because they are so uncertain about how to lead others. They lack the originality, consistency and presence to excite their teams. Leaders without an original identity don’t have enough self-awareness and self-trust and thus lack the required emotional intelligence to connect with their employees in meaningful and purposeful ways.Ask your leader what their personal brand is. If they don’t have an answer, they are still in search of what they stand for and their differentiation factor. Employees gravitate towards leaders that have an identity they can count on – because they know what to expect from them and the performance that is expected of them.
2. Sense of Urgency
The marketplace is changing so fast and your leader can ill afford to grow complacent. Leaders must have a sense of urgency to assure their vision stays ahead of marketplace demands. Don’t confuse having a sense of urgency with the need to keep the team busy. Sense of urgency is about leveraging and activating the full potential of employees to assure that objectives, strategies and tactics are constantly moving forward with steady speed in execution.
3. Increased Collaboration
Leaders must become less isolated and more integrated with their teams and staff members to be optimally effective. Great leaders know that their success is highly dependent upon others. They know they must always improve their ability to mentor, inspire and motivate their direct reports and promote teamwork within their organization.
4. Thought Leadership
A thought leader is a person who identifies trends, common themes and patterns within a particular industry or functional area of expertise to help others in turn identify new opportunities or solutions for growth. Does this sound like your leader?
5. Touch the Business
Leaders regardless of hierarchy or rank must be accountable to touch the business just as much as they lead it. The traditional leader is uncomfortable with getting their hands dirty. They appear to be uninformed about the changing demands and requirements for their organization to be relevant and globally competitive. The traditional leader enjoys roaming the sidelines and observing the performance of others, rather than getting in the game and taking a more active role. Carefully observe the leaders in your workplace. Do they delegate too much? Do they immerse themselves in reports? Do they desire to be recognized – more than respected? Leaders in the 21stcentury must be more entrepreneurial than ever. They need to view their departments and/or functional areas like a small business that is constantly looking for creative, resourceful and cost efficient ways to grow and compete profitably. This requires leaders to touch the business enough to know how to optimally manage their time, their budgets and talent requirements. When they can do this, leaders are better able to anticipate crisis and manage change before circumstances force their hand.