This is the second in a series of posts about vitally important “Generic Skills”.
“Three out of every four employees report that their boss is the worst and most stressful part of their job,” was the conclusion of a recent survey. The top five `flaws’ are: fails to inspire; accepts mediocrity; lacks clear vision and direction; unable to collaborate and be a team player; and fails to walk the talk. With years of career and job search coaching, I concur and confirm the prevalence of the following assertion … the `bad boss’ is the number one reason for people voluntarily leaving their positions. The costs and consequences are significant.
Are you a `good boss’? If you’re supervising, it’s highly likely that you rate yourself higher than your subordinates rate you as a leader. Do you have a `good boss’ or have you had one? And, just what is effective, good leadership?
What are the traits and skills of good leader? My military training and experiences laid the foundation to answer this question. I learned that integrity is a critical trait and that leaders must learn and practice the 3 M’s standing for mission, meals, and mail. The premise was that we all have basic needs to: have a mission (purpose, goal, etc); have a need to eat and drink; and, also have a need for communications. Those who `lead’ others must take on the responsibility for helping to assure that these needs are met. If you think of any soldier in combat (or support), it’s pretty easy to think about these basics; and to visualize the consequences of not fulfilling them. Over the years, I’ve summarized these three basics of leadership in broader terms: Challenges, Support, and Respect.
We all need these basics … and leaders must help fulfill the needs and deliver results! Sure there are a variety of approaches and specific skills required for a wide range of responsibilities: hiring, training, communicating, coaching, motivating, seeking and supporting collaborative behaviors and solutions, and influencing performance. One of the greatest business leaders of our time, Jack Welch, called for a focus on Speed, Simplicity, and Self-confidence; others call for a `servant leadership style’ or a `one minute’ framework for goal setting, praising, and reprimanding. Summarizing, here’s the voice of employees that leaders need to hear (and then act upon), “we really don’t care what you know … we want to know that you care!” Thus, another critical trait is one of respect.
Those who consider themselves, `individual contributors’, have opportunities to lead. The starting point is taking responsibility for doing our jobs well. You can also contribute as team players, by making serious and sensible improvement suggestions, producing results, and by continuing to learn and grow in terms of skills and traits.
What can be done to improve leadership? Training … improved selection … more accountability? Yes, and more. A wise leader described the day he learned the advantage of `influence’ over the dangerous concept of `control’. All of us need to look in the mirror and assess what we need to be and do to strengthen and improve. We need to respect others and take responsibility for leading better (and helping others lead better … this includes your boss). Learn to ask better questions and to listen more; share positive experiences; care; and hold the possibility that more is going on … on the other side of the coin and on the edge. As one of my best bosses would sometimes ask us, `is there a difference between being right and dead right’ and `do you really have to be right, all the time?’
Job seekers: You have an opportunity to be a more effective interviewee and leader when you ask better questions and listen more effectively. You also can take responsibility and make improvements by learning new skills such as influencing. Remember the P’s – preparation, positivity, and persistence.
What are some of the other important personality traits of leaders? What are your thoughts about, tips for, and examples of leading effectively? While I’ve my ideas about two more generic skills, what say you? What are they?