1. Empathy: Face it. As a leader you wake up, get dressed, and commute to work with a unique set of important problems revolving around your head. No one else on your team has your identical problems but that doesn’t mean they don’t have their own universe of difficulties and troubles. As a boss it’s hard to be pick up on the problems your staffers are having since your busy and concerned with other things. However, as a leader it’s your lot to try to understand every angle.
In some retail organizations, like J-Crew, corporate managers are forced to work on the sales floor for a week or two before they are allowed to sit behind their new desks. The practice is repeated throughout various organizations because it’s supposed to force managers to be empathetic towards the problems a regular staffer confronts daily. It works.
A leader should know the nuts and bolts of every job that is being performed by her staffers in order to relate to its difficulty or recognize when an employee is incapable of his duties. Empathy can only come from understanding the true nature of the work and the difficulties it creates. Next time you get upset with your employee for taking his time keying in 100 pages of email addresses–ask yourself, “how long would that take me?“
2. Sincerity: Fake greetings, forced smiles, and feigned attention are the tools a poor leader employs daily. It’s easy to be fake–however it’s even easier to notice when someone, smiling at you with set teeth, is pretending. A good leader must always try to be sincere and earnestly believe in what she says and does. Anything less and people will begin to pick up on your lack of respect for the team and the project at hand.
The only way a leader can become sincere, or work towards sincerity, is by speaking the truth and acting in accordance with his true feelings at all times. However, we live in the real world and sometimes people can’t afford, at times, to be completely forthright with their ideas and thoughts. In other words, a leader is forced to be plastic and fake on occasion. Fine. Just make sure you know when your doing it, why your doing it, and know when to turn it off. Faking understanding and listening can be easy but it will only lead to bigger problems down the road. So the next time someone asks you how you’re feeling, don’t be afraid to say, “…like hell.”
3. Loyalty: Leaders aren’t worth anything without their team. For that statement to make sense in reverse, leaders must be loyal to their staff.
Loyalty comes in different sizes and when managers are told to be ‘loyal’ to their staff they aren’t expected to dramatically take bullets for their co-workers. Instead, leaders should protect their team from other departments and companies with vigor. Such loyalty will breed a sense of importance within the staff and compel employees to work harder for a larger good. Loyalty creates a irreplaceable bond that will ensure the reciprocation of loyalty.
Loyalty forces, in a way, a manager to look at his team as a condensed family and the mental analogy works on many levels but it should be used sparingly. Slow team members must be cut and others must be trained rigorously. Don’t force your loyalty unto a team that doesn’t yet deserve it. Loyalty can’t be forced and should only come after time, hard work, and patience.
4. Follow Though: The act of ‘following through’ sounds easier than it really is. Everyone, at one point or another has solid ideas, plans, and goals that they want to implement professionally. The truth is only a handful of people actually follow through on their agendas. The problem, people think, stems from the lack of charisma and lack of support they are able to acquire. The truth is neither are real obstacles towards helping you achieve your professional goals. See my posts on the subject here and here.
A good leader needs the ability to follow through on ideas in order to add value to her organization or team. A leader incapable of following through, continually, won’t be able to enlist support from his team or chase after bigger, more interesting, projects. Follow through is the one ability that makes leaders leaders; it’s a leaders true skill because it requires the organization of many different elements and the ability to get them all on your side in order to complete a goal. A leader who can’t follow through is a like a tennis player without a racket. It’s crucial that you are able to hit an idea home so that everyone on your team can feel a sense of accomplishment and success.
However, these traits are all meaningless if you don’t know your business!!!