We all know what good leadership looks like. From empathy, collaboration, vision, supportive, and a myriad of other adjectives, we know what we like and what we want in our leaders. We emulate these examples. But how do we know the difference between a good leader and a fantastic, blow your socks off, you would follow them to the end of the world better leader. Here are some clues:
- Vested Interest: Good leaders are vested in the team and process. They drive success with compassion and ensure that their teams are performing optimally, sometimes saying “team first” individuals second. But better leaders put their people first, ahead of any results or even the team. A team is only as strong as its weakest link. Better leaders understand that results come from every single person. Great results happen when each individual is engaged which requires a leader to pay attention to more than the whole. Each person in a team is key.
- Focus on potential not likeability: Yes I am going to talk a little about unconscious bias. We all have it and its part of human nature. We all know we need to be more self aware, etc, etc. Good leaders tend to spend time with those who are delivering results and sometimes (and lets tell the truth) begrudgingly, with those not performing as well. I would propose to you that a better leader is spending time on each individual’s potential versus the current results. This is a very different process. It takes equal time to develop high and low performers. It takes equal time to engage them in challenging assignments that stretch them to maximum potential. This also eliminates the “likeability” factor: I like you better or I like your results better. Focusing on potential elevates everyone in the team, showing you are a better leader and have a deep vested interest in everyone.
- Genuinely transparent versus segmented transparency: I know really good leaders that are very open and transparent about the work that directly affect their teams, peers and those they influence. They think that they are fostering genuine relationships without necessarily showing vulnerability or a deeper view of themselves as a person. Better leaders are genuinely transparent. They show they are human and do not try to hide emotions simply because its work. I am not saying to now go out and let your emotions run rampant. But really, showing you are human to your team and those around you puts you in a position where you gain trust from those people well beyond a work relationship. I do understand that some may view this as their private life vs their work life but if you are reading this blog you will get the sense that here I am proposing that you don’t have either, you have your life and it doesn’t stop when you walk into work and when you leave the office or turn off the computer, so why be something less than everything you are, emotions and all.
- Focus on overall development versus development only in their area: We all sit in large initiative discussions and as good leaders and team players we tend to think “how does this affect my business group.” A better leader also thinks “who am I mentoring/developing that can participate in this that is NOT going to focus on my business.” This is hard. We always focus on what we need in that moment. It’s human nature. But if you have an employee, mentee or know someone outside of your business group that needs that exposure, stretch on a non-core business activity, you (we) have a responsibility to that person to sponsor them for that opportunity. Yes, that will put them in a place where they may be asked to apply for a different role. Yes, they may leave your team if its one of your team members. Consider this- your greatest success is never about your deliverables but instead its about the people you influence, provide opportunities for and succeed with your support.
What are some of the non-traditional qualities you see that separate good leaders vs better leaders?