One day I had a friendly discussion with a dear colleague of mine, where I was explaining- from my point of view- how great leaders should act. After some minutes of discussion, he proposed that maybe I can use the basis of the discussion that we had together, as a topic for one of my next articles. So I decided to ‘’take’’ his opinion and to write about leadership, but I will address this topic from a different perspective.
For the past years, I read a lot of articles and books about how leaders should act, what leaders should do, or how they should behave…etc. The comic thing that I discovered is that the number of books, articles, and seminars about Leadership increased a lot through the past years while the number of people who truly act as leaders is always declining.
So I decided today in this article, to tackle this topic from a different angle. I simply closed my eyes and daydreamed for some minutes, and thought about only one thing: ‘’If I want to reach my peak performance as an employee and my career goals, which kind of ideal Leader do I want to work with, and who at the same time can get the best out of me?’’.
And who knows, maybe if I tackled this topic from this perspective, I can make it more easy and simple to the reader and to ‘’be the change that I would like to see in the world’’ as Gandhi said before.
I found that I would like to work with a leader who is:
1-Visionary: I want him to have an inspiring vision and to show me how to reach this vision together (this is simply what complicated people call ‘’strategy’’).
2-Trustworthy: Trust is a two-way street. If my manager is trustworthy, and he is trusting and empowering me to do great things, then definitely he will get the same from my side, and he will earn my trust.
I always used to say that if you have a vision that the people believe in, and if they trust you and your skills and knowledge, then you can achieve anything.
Imagine it this way and ask yourself: ‘’would I be less resistive to accept ideas and tasks from a person that I trust and believe in, or from a person that I do not believe in his knowledge and whom I do not trust?’’
3-Fair: In some simple words, he can give me what I deserve neglecting other surrounding or limiting factors which can stop him from doing so.
4-Listening with focus: I want him to listen to me with focus. In the end, what is the benefit if I am dealing with a manager or a leader who is not listening to me or if he is pretending to be listening but without focus? Great leaders listen carefully with the intention to understand, not to judge. This is not easy because it means that the leader should move from the ‘’Inactive Listening’’ or ‘’Selective Listening’’ modes to the ‘’Active Listening’’ and ‘’reflective listening’’ states.
5-Possessing the art of constructive evaluation: How to evaluate someone constructively is a piece of art which unfortunately a lot of leaders does not possess. Evaluation is not only about sitting with your direct reports at the end of year reviews to tell them if they reached their targets or not. Evaluation is about unleashing the dormant power within every employee by making the unobvious obvious to this employee. But the most important factor in constructive evaluation is how you communicate it. As always, it’s not what you say; it’s how you say it is what matters.
6-Appreciating my effort and continuously guiding me by giving feedback: When I perform a task in a good way, I want him to appreciate my effort and recognize it. And to make me feel that someone out there is following and feeling my progress. Even more, he can give me more tips on how to make it even better and faster.
If I did not find appreciation or If I felt that nobody is feeling my progress, this can eventually lead to ‘’uncertainty’’ about my future. And uncertainty can lead to de-motivation at work, or in the worst case to changing the company that I work for.
7-Knows me as well as other team members, so that he can get the best out of us: If my boss does not know enough information about me such as my hobbies, talents, personal vision, my career progress plan..etc. And if he did not invest enough time observing me as well as other team members, then maybe a huge part of our talents will be wasted by assigning us to the wrong assignments or not fully using our hidden potential or skills. Albert Einstein once said: ‘’Everybody is a genius. But if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life believing that it’s stupid’’.
8-Backing me up and supporting me when the going gets tough: sometimes problems occur between teams and departments within the same company (which is normal). What I expect from my boss is to back me up when conflicts occur and not only care about being ‘’political’’ to satisfy someone or a specific department. After the situation is over, and when we are sitting together behind the closed doors, then he can highlight to me how to deal with such conflicts in the future as well as tell me if what I did was wrong or not and how to improve.
Imagine it in this way: ‘’If you are in a big meeting where a conflict between you and another person from another department occurred, do you prefer that your boss is sitting in this meeting: a) taking the side of the powerful person, team department and playing it politically b) or Keeping silent and playing no role? C) or supporting you in this meeting without considering external factors such as office politics, rankings…etc. And then later discussing with you in details and behind the closed doors how to avoid this conflict in the future?’’. Do you prefer ‘’a’’, ‘’b’’ or ‘’c’’?
9-Having a strong connection and behind the scenes communication loop with the majority of other leaders within the organization: with respect to the previous point, If my manager has a strong stance in the organization and has a good connection with other managers and leaders, a conflict between departments can end before even beginning and lots and lots of important work can be finished faster, better and easier without sticking to the status quo.
Furthermore, if a conflict rose up between me and someone else even from another department, he can interfere and solve it by getting in touch with the other person’s manager before this conflict even escalates.
10-Serving instead of Managing: to put it simply, a leader cannot lead until he can serve. It makes a huge difference if my manager is working with me and in his head, he is saying to himself: ‘’I am the boss, and they have to obey me’’, and if he is saying to himself:’’ I am blessed by being a manager. And I am here to serve and help these people instead of managing them. So where can I find a possible opportunity to serve them?’’.
I want my manager to serve me not to manage me.
11-Making me grow instead of limiting me: he gives me the tasks which challenge me and makes me learn something new on the way. And besides this, he understands that learning means making mistakes. So he is giving me the time and space needed to make mistakes and to learn from them because he realizes that if I am not making mistakes, then most probably am not doing anything new.
12-Putting me under the spotlight: a great leader knows how the organization works and who the effective key decision makers are. He is the one who can help me grow by assigning me to tasks which are having great exposure to upper management and which can stretch my limits. He knows that by making me work on this assignment, he is helping me eventually to step forward within the organization and to be under the spotlight for the main decision makers.
13-Having high Emotional Intelligence: I can confidently say: ‘’no leader can be effective without having high emotional intelligence’’. And emotional intelligence constructs are self-awareness, self-regulation, social skill, empathy, and motivation.
A great leader with high Emotional Intelligence can directly feel and read the feelings and concerns of the people around him (even before they speak), and because of this, he is very effective in knowing what to say and when he should say it.
14-Leading from the back: He does not appear in the picture until he needs to. On top of that, he does not micro-manage me and my work. But when he is needed, he can ask crucial questions which can lead to resolving big issues later.
15-Spotting talents within the people around him (like a scout) and using them effectively: a great leader is a talent magnet or scout. He is having a great eye which can spot talents and grow them. On the other hand, because of his leadership skills, he is like a talent magnet because almost everyone likes to work as well as to learn from him.
16-Delegating: he knows which task to delegate, and to whom and when he can delegate it. And against the common understanding, delegation is not about trivial tasks or the tasks which the manager wants to get rid of. If this is the case, me, you or any other team member who takes the task as delegation will know and will lose trust in this manager. Delegation should be about tasks which can grow the person who took this task over.
Are these 16 points that hard so that the majority of the people in the world cannot apply them?
If you ask 100 people around you: ‘’do you know what leadership is?’’ I bet 99 of them will answer: ‘’Yes’’. Then the logic question now is: ‘’Then why you do not apply those simple leadership principles?’’. And why do I feel that all the people show a good understanding of leadership and how a great leader should be, think, act and do until they find themselves in a leadership position then suddenly they forget EVERYTHING?. Sometimes I feel exactly as if the people are saying: ‘’Sorry, we know all of this, but we insist on being bad leaders.’’
The equation is simple. Every one of us, no matter if you are a Manager, Director or a Vice-president in an organization, is having a manager. So ask yourself: ‘’How do I want my manager to deal with me?’’ and then use your answer as a reference and guide to how you should deal with the people that you are managing yourself. When you do this, I guarantee you that you will be at the starting point of being a great leader.
In the end, you do not need a title to be a great leader, but you need to be a great leader so that one day you can earn a title (if you want). So instead of us pointing fingers at each other, I believe it’s time that each one of us slows down a little bit to reflect on the points mentioned above and asks himself: ‘’How can I be a better leader in any field in life?’’
Maybe you are now wondering at the end of the article about the title and what’s the relation between Leadership and Einstein relativity theory?
Well, the answer is: ‘’There is no connection’’.
I just chose this disruptive title to show you that leadership does not need Einstein to be learned or understood.
Found this article useful? Share it with the people who can benefit from it. Imagine how the world we are living in would look like with better leaders. Be the change that you want to see in this world.