How do we recognize good leaders in our company?
Before you read this article further I want to ask you to do the next exercise.
Think of three leaders who have had a big positive impact on your life and well for good. Consider how you feel about each leader’s impact on you and why.
Did you come up with 3 names? Excellent, you’re lucky. Because a fact is that today, we have only a few great leaders, some pretty good leaders and lots of people in positions who are mediocre, incompetent, or worse at leadership. If you doubt on this fact think about the lack of leadership, mismanagement, corruption, suffering and financial disasters that failed leadership has caused the last years. Examples? Lehman Brothers, British Petroleum, Nokia, Enron, J.P Morgan and I can continue referring to every country with some examples.
Would you let a surgeon operate you without proving the necessary skills to take care of your life? We know also that a leader has a significant impact on people’s lives and well-being, but they are allowed to operate in the area of influence without having to prove that they have the skill set or the integrity to lead anyone anywhere.
If you’re not convinced, then I have some statistics. A large 2012 manpower survey shows that 65% of employees are dissatisfied at work. In June 2013 Gallup published a report called State of the Global Workplace that showed that 13% of employees across 142 countries worldwide are engaged in their jobs - that is, they are emotionally invested in and focused on creating value for their organizations. 63% of the employees are present, but not engaged. 24% are actively disengaged or worse, what leads to a loss in productivity of $550 billion.
So I think reason enough to emphasize on leadership in the coming period. Because good leadership will create value for the organization. Another fact is that people can learn and change, and therefor also have the ability to become a leader. But before that we can also question ourselves: How can I recognize a (potential) leader? And that is actually more easy then you think. It’s not so much what leadership is that matters; it’s what leaders do that matters and that you can see by the leader’s behavior and actions. And when you look carefully you can also see the same behavior and actions by potential leaders, the ones who are not leading yet. So, where to look too?
First of all, a leader has to like to work with people. It must be joyful for the leader. Don’t try to lead people when you don’t have a passion for it. You only make yourself and others sick. Look then for another job. Leaders have to realize that people are unpredictable. Each person is unique and theirs and our lives are full of good times and tragedies. We can’t predict surprises. We have all emotions and also show these emotions in work. People can have a conflict with each other, gossip, cry. A leader has to deal with personalities, motivations and styles every day, every time. And you can’t exclude emotions on a workplace. A leader who can deal with this will find his job one of the most rewarding. So then it’s also logical that a leader needs to have Emotional Intelligence. A lot of smart people fail at leadership because they score high in IQ (Intelligence Quotient or knowledge) but low on Emotional Intelligence (EI). IQ is not a differentiator for success. EI is four times as important in terms of overall success. EI is the differentiating factor. 90% of the difference between outstanding and average leaders is linked to EI. But how can you see that a person has a high EI. Actually quite simple because it is about: Self-awareness, self-management, social awareness and relationship management. Emotional self-awareness means that you can recognize your emotions and how they affect your performance. That performance has also a significant impact on those around the leader. If someone is balanced in work, shows emotions but doesn’t exaggerate like shouting, looking for conflicts, crying etc., reflects on him-/herself then you can say that he/she has self-awareness. If the leader also is able to adapt to change, sets challenging goals, takes calculated risks and look for ways to do things better you can count on it that he has also a good self-management.
The other two competences within EI are related to the leader and others. Leading is all about relationships. The question is not if we have relationships on work, the question is what the quality of those relationships will be. And the role of the leader is to set norms, culture and environment for everyone in the team. A leader must build a team, facilitate progress and manage conflicts. He is doing that by a high social awareness. If the leader is empathic, so he/she is sensing others’ feelings and perspective and takes an active interest in their concerns, and has an organizational awareness, what means that he/she is focusing on the dynamics among people, we can say that he has a good social awareness. The last what makes the difference in leadership is relation management. We can look to a leader in how he is resolving conflicts or able to negotiate. Good leaders bring disagreements into an open communication and are able to find solutions in which everyone can endorse. They don’t postpone taking up the issue if a conflict occurs and they absolutely don’t accept a dysfunctional environment. Good leaders are also a mentor and coach. They help people with giving feedback, support and assignments that will help the people to grow. Good leaders use their influence to have a positive impact on others. They are able to persuade or convince people without using power. They are able to get other people on board with changes, ideas or actions. Good leaders inspire others. They bring people together on the vision of the leader. They bring out the best in others, and people like to follow the leaders. And last but not least. Leaders emphasize on teamwork. The leader takes care that the team has shared goals and that team members are enthusiastic about those goals. A good leader shows clearly that it is not about him but about the team.
Coming back to my exercise in the beginning of this article. Are the leaders that you had in mind the behavior and attitude what I described in this article? I think your answer will be yes, maybe not on all points but still on the majority. So it is clear that you can recognize leadership. And it is also clear that you see the difference between a poor leader and a good or outstanding leader. And when we also acknowledge that leadership is a big differentiator in the results of a business, it is time that we start to work on real leadership in companies. And the good news is: you can learn to be a leader!!
In the press September 22, 2016