By Barry Banther
Leadership isn’t just something you do, it’s someone you become. But that requires a personal transformation, not just a personal agenda. Roger hadn’t learned that lesson. During an interview for a new leadership position, the hiring manager asked why he switched jobs, and sometimes companies, every three to five years.
Roger blamed the employees who stopped growing or doubted ownership’s commitment to the goal they asked him to reach. In other words, it had to be the environment because Roger was a “good” manager. Roger was half right – it was the environment. But what he failed to recognize is that he was responsible for creating that situation.
Lasting leaders, those who can weather economic downturns and even seismic market shifts in their employees or customers, are the ones who know how to assemble a diverse team and bring out their very best. If you’re not building relationships that will last with your associates, even your financial success will be short-lived.
If we want to understand what really defines leaders then we have to start by looking at their followers. The old motivational tricks no longer work — employees have become jaded from broken promises and failed dreams.
Today, followers are drawn to leaders who show openness, invest time, listen, encourage and show appreciation for the strengths their employees bring to work. These are qualities that are developed intentionally over time, but they pay dividends in both financial and personal performance for a lifetime.
Leaders who are held in the highest esteem for their success on both the bottom line and with the people they lead epitomize these five qualities. From their followers you will hear phrases like: “He was always there for me,” “I felt like she really listened” or, “He valued my opinion.” The result is employee engagement at the highest level. These qualities are gifts that lasting leaders are willing to give freely to the people they lead.
1. Being Open to Others Every leader claims to have an open-door policy. But it’s not a leader’s door that needs to be open — it’s an open mind that matters. Openness encourages employee engagement, and that is fundamental to business success. The Gallup Organization’s study of employee engagement in 7,939 business units in 36 companies found that “employee engagement was positively associated with performance…”
2. Investing Time in Others Leaders are usually not solo inventors or lonely creative thinkers. They are called to assemble a team of people and enable them to be more productive together than any of them could be alone. Leaders can’t create time, but when they invest their time to build profitable relationships with their employees they are multiplying the results they can achieve. Choosing to spend time with their employees daily is a leader’s best return on time.
3. Listening to Others Trust between leaders and their associates is built upon a transparency that reflects a freedom to speak and be heard. Bad culture, where listening isn’t valued, impacts business every day across America. Some estimate that as much as 55% of a leader’s work time is spent listening. But most leaders don’t know how to do that — they confuse listening with hearing. When we are open to an employee’s ideas and we invest the time to hear them, then we are more apt to understand what they are saying and — sometimes more importantly — what they are not saying.
4. Offering Encouragement to Others Employees can work for hours without food or water. But they can’t do quality work for more than a few minutes without hope — the hope that their work matters, the hope that they can get the job done and the hope that their effort will be appreciated by their boss. Surprising your employees with words that show you believe they have what it takes to get the job done despite their current challenges is one of the most important ways you, as a leader, can show respect for them.
5. Expressing Appreciation for Others’ Abilities When a leader gives away genuine appreciation, it is mirrored back in improved attitudes, stronger commitment and better performance. Study after study documents that employees do not feel appreciated. The gift of appreciation is not about altering your associates’ opinion of you as a leader; it’s about changing their opinion of themselves. When a leader helps employees believe in their unique strengths, they build a work environment that – works! Lasting leaders know how to bring out the best in others.
You can be appointed someone’s boss, but not their leader. Your followers ultimately determine your leadership. Had Roger developed these five gifts, he might still have moved jobs every three to five years, but it wouldn’t have been because he could no longer get results — it would be because he had developed a reputation for building a high performance team who followed his leadership even under tough conditions. That kind of leader is always in high demand.