Leadership at Work
Leadership is not about your title; it’s about how effectively you can influence others
By David Cox, SPHR, SHRM-SCP | February 2, 2017
An effective leader doesn’t have to be gregarious or have the loudest voice in the room. People with quiet, low-key personalities can also be outstanding leaders. True leadership is not about making yourself the center of attention. It is the ability to get others to buy-in to you mission, to trust you, to respect you, and to feel that your vision and strategies are in everyone’s best interests.
Over the last 40 years, I’ve been fortunate to become acquainted with many truly effective leaders and observe their leadership styles. I’ve observed five characteristics that I believe every leader needs to be effective, whether you’re in charge of a small business or a multinational organization.
Integrity – Make sure you do the right thing for the right reasons. In any leadership role, you will be called on to make difficult decisions. If you conduct yourself with integrity, your people will respect you. Some may disagree with your decisions, but if they know you act with integrity, they will accept your direction.
Courage – As a leader, you will need courage. Whether it’s the courage to ask why, challenge the status quo, or take a calculated risk.
Years ago, when a bottle of Tylenol was found to have been tampered with, the CEO of Johnson & Johnson, the company that produced Tylenol, immediately directed that all bottles of the pain reliever be removed from every shelf in every store. He vowed that Tylenol wouldn’t be back on store shelves until the company knew that every bottle was safe. It was a bold move with a large negative impact on the company’s short-term sales, but when Tylenol did return to store shelves, so did their customers.
Lead by Example – Don’t ask anyone to do something you wouldn’t do yourself. If you ask others to stay late, you should too. To lead by example means that you play by the same rules as everyone else. I a rule or policy is adopted; the rule applies to leader and employees alike. You can’t act one way and expect others to act differently. As a leader, you must be a role model.
Listen – You can’t understand what’s going on around you unless you listen to others. Listening is how you learn. It’s how you gain perspective. Listening is how you understand what’s important and what’s not. Throughout my career, the best ideas have come from people directly involved in the operations we were striving to improve. You can’t find those answers unless you ask a lot of questions from the key employees and then listen carefully to the answers.
Communicate – To succeed as a communicator, you must motivate, educate, and inspire others. Your words should motivate your listener to the actions you desire. You must educate them as to why you are asking them to do something. It’s tough for employees to be enthusiastic if they don’t understand why they’re being asked to do something. To inspire means the ability to touch someone in a positive way with your words. If you can do this, you will encourage your employees to do something they otherwise might not have done.
In today’s workplace, there are leadership opportunities for people at every level. If you master the leadership characteristics I’ve described, you will enrich your work experience and create more opportunities for others.
By treating employees respectfully, leaders can become role models for their people and increase job satisfaction throughout the organization. Moreover, the respect you show your employees may be the best strategy for improving your work environment and retaining your most talented employees.