Everyone has had some amazing experiences working with some great leaders in the course of their careers at some point. Some leaders standout in their awesomeness from the rest and these are leaders that are remembered by their teams forever and are usually considered role models. We talk about them even after they leave the organization/team. These need not be people whom you worked for, it can also be folks who worked for you. Some of my biggest leadership lessons have been from my team members who were people managers.
From my experience, I’ve tried consolidating the 7 seven signs that the most respected leaders possess.
The 7 signs are:
1. Genuinely puts customers first instead of metrics:
This role model leader believes in metrics but knows when to go beyond the metrics and care for the customers. Ana was one of my team members a few years back and she was a rock star in performance. Her part of the business always exceeded in customer satisfaction goals by at least 6-7%. But, every time I spoke to her, her focus was more around those fewer dissatisfied customers whom her team did not provide the best of the support. True leaders go beyond what just shows up on their scorecards, bonus and promotion metrics. Ana was the best performing manager, she met all of metric requirements but her focus was to genuinely care for each customer of the product rather than just meeting metrics.
2. Puts people development first instead of empire building:
I remember being part of a team where the only thing you would hear from any member in the organziation was about headcount and growing their respective parts of businesses over development of the existing workforce. True, genuine leaders grow their empire by developing people to do greater things and by delivering bigger impact and not by adding more and more headcount under their name. I love the way Amazon articulates this in one of their leadership principles which reads, “There are no extra points for growing headcount, budget size or fixed expense”.
3. Gets excited when people leave their teams to go do bigger things:
It’s never easy when you lose one of your high performing star employees and the short term potential impact it can cause to your organziation. But, isn’t that the ultimate joy for a people manager? True leaders get excited when their team members leave them to go do bigger things. Having your teams leave you to be leaders inside and outside your organization is one of the greatest evidences of your leadership effectiveness.
4. Tries to “SOLVE” problems, than a band-aid approach:
My personal favorite. It’s easy to put a band aid and temporarily fix the problem, meet your quarterly goals and move on. But real leaders focus on solving the problem in hand and try to avoid the problem from occurring in the future. Every time a problem arises, true leaders ask the question of, “Why did this occur and what can we do to ensure that this never occurs again?”. Their focus is beyond just putting a temporary patch on the problem irrespective of whether they are going to be around if the problem were to come back again in the future.
5. Constantly looks for the next big thing rather than running a stable boring shop: One of the leaders at a supplier site once told me that his objective was to run “the most boring shop ever”, with his team meeting all the metrics on a monthly basis, a green scorecard and very predictable operations. It’s great that he wanted to run a consistent performing organziation but true leaders want to go beyond and not just run a shop that meets metrics. They are on a constant quest to explore the next big thing out there. One of my favorite Larry Page quotes is, “Always work hard on something uncomfortably exciting.”
6. Stands up for what is right for the organization, no matter what:
Everyone at all levels talks about whats not working well in the organization, why things are going bad for the company, how red tape is infecting the organization, issues that are impacting the brand on etc. There is so much of, “do you know…”type conversations. But when it comes to taking it up with their leadership or stakeholders and doing something about it, there is usually a notion of “Why do I have to worry about it?”. True leaders take courageous actions, even of its not part of their team ‘targets’. COURAGE is such an important trait for a true leader.
7. Smiles often:
The simplest one of all. SMILE. I bumped in to one of the colleagues from the early days of my career during a recent trip to Dublin. He was known for his sense of humor and his pleasant personality when I used to work with him. He is currently a senior executive for one of the leading shipping organizations. I met him at a restaurant where he was wrapping up a quick conversation with his team members. Oh, boy! what a difference, in the entire 10 mins I watched him talk to his team, he didn’t smile at all and it wasn’t even a serious conversation. They were talking about some travel plans. Of course, I asked him about this huge change after the others left. Guess what he said?. “I have to be serious as a senior leader, Bala, else people take me for granted”. Are you kidding me? The most successful leaders smile and they smile often. I have seen quite a few leaders walk around with serious faces. A simple smile from the leaders makes a huge difference to the teams.
Leadership is so vast and its hard to confine within a checklist. Obviously, these 7 signs are what I have found to be the most effective leadership qualities of some of my most respected leaders and team members that I have worked with and learnt. Your list might vary.
At the end of the day, a true leader is genuine. Genuine because they want to do it and not because its part of their job.
About the Author: For more information, contact Balakarthik Venkataramanan at firstname.lastname@example.org. LinkedIn Profile: https://www.linkedin.com/in/balakarthikv