26 September 2023

The leading obvious: Seven secrets of great leadership

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Travis Bradberry* says great leadership is dynamic, melding a variety of unique skills into an integrated whole for the benefit of the organisation and employees.

Great bosses change us for the better.

They see more in us than we see in ourselves, and they help us learn to see it too.

They dream big and show us all the great things we can accomplish.

Great leadership can be a difficult thing to pin down and understand.

You know a great leader when you’re working for one, but even they can have a hard time explaining the specifics of what they do that makes their leadership so effective.

Great leadership is dynamic; it melds a variety of unique skills into an integrated whole.

It’s through a leader’s actions — and ultimately her beliefs — that the essence of great leadership becomes apparent.

Many leaders say that integrity is important to them, but only those leaders who truly believe it walk their talk by demonstrating integrity every day.

Harping on to people all day long about the behaviour you want to see has only a tiny fraction of the impact you achieve by believing so deeply in the behaviour that you demonstrate it yourself.

Great bosses believe in their people, and this belief drives them to create an environment where people thrive.

Let’s explore seven of the driving beliefs that set great bosses apart from the rest of the pack.

Growth should be encouraged, not feared:

Average bosses fear their smartest, hardest-working employees, believing these individuals will surpass them.

They hesitate to share information or to enable authority.

Exceptional bosses, on the other hand, love to see their employees grow.

They are always grooming their replacements and doing whatever they can to create leaders.

Research shows that the first thing job seekers look for in a position is growth opportunity and that 80 per cent of all job growth occurs informally, such as in conversations with managers.

Exceptional bosses want their best employees to maximise their potential, and they know that good feedback and guidance are invaluable.

Employees are individuals, not clones:

Average bosses lump people together, trying to motivate, reward, and teach everyone in the same way.

Exceptional bosses treat people as individuals, respecting the fact that everyone has their own motivation and style of learning.

Something different makes each employee tick, and the best bosses will stop at nothing to figure out what that is.

Employees are equals, not subordinates:

Ordinary bosses treat their employees like children; they believe they need constant oversight.

These bosses think their role is to enforce rules, make sure things run their way, and watch over people’s shoulders for mistakes.

Exceptional bosses see employees as peers who are perfectly capable of making decisions for themselves.

Rather than constantly stepping in, exceptional bosses make it clear that they value and trust their employees’ work and only intervene when it’s absolutely necessary.

Work can and should be enjoyable:

Ordinary bosses see work as something that everyone has to do, whether they want to or not.

They believe their role is to make sure that their employees don’t slack off or grow lazy.

They say things like: “If it weren’t for me, nothing would ever get done around here.”

Exceptional bosses love their jobs and believe that everyone else can too.

They give people assignments that align with their strengths, passions, and talents.

They celebrate accomplishments and douse people with positive feedback when they do good work.

Diversity, not like-mindedness, bears fruit:

Average bosses want their employees’ ideas to align with their own, and because of this, they try to hire like-minded individuals.

They encourage their employees to think similarly and reward those who “just put their heads down and work”.

Exceptional bosses actively seek out a diverse range of individuals and ideas.

They expose themselves and their organisations to new ways of thinking.

Motivation comes from inspiration, not agony:

Ordinary bosses think that strict rules and rule enforcement drive employees to work effectively.

They believe people need to fear layoffs, explosions of anger, and punishment in order to operate at 100 per cent.

People then find themselves in survival mode, where they don’t care about the organisation or the client experience, but only about keeping their jobs.

Exceptional bosses motivate through inspiration — they know people will respond to their infectious energy, vision, and passion, more than anything else.

Change is an opportunity, not a curse:

Ordinary bosses operate by the motto ‘this is the way we’ve always done it’.

They believe change is unnecessary and that it causes more harm than good.

Exceptional bosses see change as an opportunity for improvement.

They constantly adapt their approach and embrace change to stay ahead of the curve.

If you’re currently a boss, is this how your employees would describe your beliefs?

If not, you’re leaving effort and productivity lying on the table.

You’re also probably losing some good employees, if not to other jobs, then at least to disengagement and lack of interest.

* Travis Bradberry is the co-founder of TalentSmart, a provider of emotional intelligence tests, emotional intelligence training, and emotional intelligence certification. He can be contacted at TalentSmart.com.

This article first appeared on the TalentSmart website

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