By Tiffany Koettel, Business Development Manager, Caraustar
Imagine your all-time favorite boss. Did she or he micromanage you or inspire you to grow? For me it’s the latter. I’m guessing it’s the same for you, too. That’s the difference between managers and leaders—and it’s a tangible one that has a real impact on organizations.
I presented on the topic of leadership during PPC’s last New Generation Leaders meeting, and between preparation and post-presentation conversation, I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about the aspects of great leadership. They’re very different than the manager’s tasks of time prioritization and project completion. Managers maintain operations while leaders move organizations forward.
The qualities of leadership are not tied to position or authority. Anyone can become a leader. Here are six elements of leadership we all can (and should) work on each day.
Authentic and Purposeful
Leadership begins with a clear understanding of the self. The best leaders I know live authentically. They know who they are and who they’re not, and they realize their values every day. From authenticity stems purpose. Leaders have an understanding of their own “why.” Some people find it helpful to formalize their purpose in a personal mission statement. For example, here’s Oprah Winfrey's:
To be a teacher. And to be known for inspiring my students to be more than they thought they could be.
Pithy and motivational, leaders’ missions can remain fairly stable or evolve over time. Although personal purpose is usually synergistic with company purpose, it’s always an independent attribute of the leaders themselves.
Great leaders can paint a picture of the future. They visualize a path forward and communicate that vision—be it for themselves or their companies. An organizational vision is usually an engaging and positive image of what the world looks like when the organization fulfills its mission. It’s crucial for leaders to be able to enlist others in their organization’s vision. By doing so, their teammates understand their reason for coming to work each day, and why it really matters.
Visioning not only clarifies a team’s purpose, it also motivates that team to perform. Leaders are the fuel that keep teams moving. Here you can see several leadership qualities converging: mission informs vision, and both allow leaders to motivate and mobilize others. This motivational function of leadership is very important during times of stress and challenge. Leaders know that there will be bumps in the road, and they are prepared to help their team navigate through them.
Leaders don’t squash people down; they empower others to succeed. Taking personal responsibility for the growth of their teammates, leaders coach in ways that foster self-discovery. They don’t micromanage. In fact, the best leaders even encourage failure, helping others to admit mistakes and move on from setbacks in a productive way. (Angela Duckworth calls this quality “grit” in her excellent TED Talk.)
Leaders empower others to lead, too. After all, part of the leader’s job is to hire and nurture people who might one day replace them. Excellent leaders coach, mentor, and develop the next generation of leaders, passing the torch to those who will keep the organization’s mission and vision alive into the future.
No one will enlist in your vision you if they don’t trust you. Leadership requires the highest level of integrity. Leaders keep to their word and communicate transparently at all levels. They also lead by example. One of the world’s most well-known leaders, Mahatma Gandhi, said, “Be the change you want to see.” So, leaders demonstrate rather than tell people what to do. They role model and, most importantly, they show their own vulnerability. They work on weaknesses, seeking out personal and professional development—and they encourage others to do the same.
This means truly listening to others, not just waiting to respond or to state your own ideas. Leadership is all about relationships. Relationships require dialogue. Dialogue requires listening. It’s simple. Some of the best leaders I know adhere to the 70/30 rule: they listen 70% of the time and speak only 30% of the time. At the end of the day, it comes down to empathy. Leaders strive to understand others, meet them where they are, and help them to grow and succeed in their careers and in broader life.
Are you ready to grow as a leader? I hope this post offered you some ideas for strengthening or deepening your leadership practices. What else makes a great leader? Share in the comments!
9 Differences Between Being a Leader and a Manager
What is the Difference Between Management and Leadership?
The Dream Manager, Matthew Kelly
Extreme Ownership: How U.S. Navy SEALs Lead and Win, Jocko Willink and Leif Babin
Jack: Straight from the Gut, Jack Welch
The One Thing, Gary Keller and Jay Pappasan
The Key to Success? Grit by Angela Duckworth