Characteristics of Leaders

In most organizations there are people titled “Manager” but not “Leader”.  As a matter of fact, the term leader is reserved for the high ranking in the C-suite of an organization – (CEO, CFO, COO, etc).  We seldom hear terms like “mid-level leaders” or  “upper-leadership”.  Why is that?!

In my experience, the word leader evokes thoughts of special characteristics and abilities – primarily to positively influence the masses.  In An Integrative Theory of Leadership, leadership is described as the “process of social influence in which one person can enlist the aid and support of others in the accomplishment of a common task”.

The people that I consider great leaders, not only have the characteristics above but also take initiate, are highly productive, are excellent communicators, manage themselves and interactions well, value and deliver quality work products, strive for a true team environment, support themselves and others in their career path advancement, maintain personal balance, set healthy boundaries, and often times have to “manage up”

Leaders understand that they are a role model to others.  They know they are a facilitator of effective communication.  They realize their duty to empower, inspire, and influence others and receive great satisfaction from a win-win relationship.

The phrase “managers manage things and leaders lead people” really hits home for me.  In many of the companies I have worked, people were indeed expected to manage things (projects, products, etc.) and were not empowered to lead effectively.  These managers had achieved excellence in their engineering discipline, had years of successful project management experience and were considered experts in their fields and yet, they were not empowered to lead.

These managers received “leadership training” that addressed how to manage projects, budgets and matrices.  They did not receive guidance on nurturing, influencing and empowering others.  They also were not required to develop the interpersonal and communication skills necessary to be effective leaders.

There are many managers out there that mange projects successfully but are in the unfortunate situation that others are actually expecting them to lead others.  They are being set up to fail and being set up to fail is not good for the individual or the organization.  No way, no how, never!!

For those who are in a managerial role and believe you are also expected to lead, here are a few things to consider.

  1. Focus on people not just projects.
  2. Include “relating, modeling and inspiring” in your job duties.
  3. View your staff as resources contributing to success.
  4. View yourself in a support role to your staff – ultimately their success is yours too.
  5. Strengthen your communication style by being intuitive, persuasive, and by becoming a visionary.
  6. Learn and develop effective coaching skills, process and methods.
  7. Create a win-win environment.

Fortunately I have worked for a handful of managers who were also excellent leaders.  These men and women not only inspired, influenced, empowered and nurtured their staff, they motivated everyone to succeed – and we did!

What leadership traits do you already possess and operate with and what traits need to be developed?

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