This post was first published on the highly successful blog “About Leaders” and I was honored to be a guest writer – check it out HERE.
I will put my hand up and admit that it took me a number of years, after I became a manager, to understand the difference between a manager and a leader. I simply did what my own manager was doing and thought that would work. How naïve that was!
I was fortunate to be approached to work with another company where my boss was a real mentor. He understood leadership and I learned the simplest of lessons from him – you manage things and you lead people! Simple but so profound! He also taught me that these critical traits of leadership must be learned – over and over!
Working with companies in different industries in different cultures, I am frequently fascinated how leadership is misunderstood, and very often not valued as highly as it should.
There is the token “acknowledgment” and “talk” about leadership but it is not alive in the culture of the business. Those companies are at risk if they do not change – sustained success is a consequence of great leadership.
I am not dismissing management as unimportant. Process and systems need to be managed with efficiency and excellence – they are what I call the “hygiene” factor. Leadership is what sets you apart.
I am often dismayed when I observe that those who are charged with leadership so often struggle to know what it means, and what it takes.
I was asked recently to speak at a business conference where I took the opportunity to talk about leadership traits and I wanted to share them here with you.
So, here are my 6 leadership traits – (there are others, but focus on these first!):
1. Leaders get results.
To have a reputation as a leader you must have a track record of getting results, but getting the results in the right and honorable way. Many are surprised when I put this first as they often equate leadership with “soft” skills and not the hardnosed business results. But it is fundamental to any leader to have a track record of achieving the required results. No avoiding it!
2. Leaders care about their people.
Not just in words, but in their behavior. There is an old saying – people will not remember what you say, nor will they remember what you did, but they will remember how you made them feel – and that is so true. The bottom line is that your people know you care about them – for their sake!
3. Leaders share their “why”
We all know that businesses must make a profit – that is a given. But that is not the purpose. When Steve Jobs set up Apple his “why” was not about money, or computers, or mobile phones – it was about giving a “new experience” True leaders are clear about their purpose and mission and spend time communicating that to their people. They also clearly live it!
4. Leaders deliver on their commitments
Leaders always do what they say they will do. When you say you will do something, your people must have the mindset that it will definitely happen – not that “all things being equal it will happen” mentality. There must be no doubt!
5. Leaders develop talent.
Your people are more developed and have acquired more skills as a result of your leadership. If you cannot say that, you have failed. You must motivate and encourage your people to reach levels they thought impossible or unattainable. If you don’t, what benefit have you been?
6. Leaders clearly value people over process.
If you clearly do not trump people over process, then process becomes more highly valued than people, and your people are lost in the milieu of statistics and reports. As a leader you must demonstrate through your behavior and decisions that people are above process – all the time.
So, what do you think? If you had to pick your 6 traits, what would they include?
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Tom McGrath Sr. says
John………As I read your traits and those offered in addition, one must conclude they are all important. Each contribution may be unique or may enhance one already stated. It is the sum of these traits, and others, and how they are applied that will cause an individual to be an able leader. In a long career in business and public service I would like to have had leaders gifted with all of those attributes. I hope that when I was in that role those I influenced saw most of them in me. The only item I would add would be trust. If you ask someone to follow your lead they must believe that the goal you are seeking is in the right direction.
John Murphy says
Tom, thanks for your comments. Trust is so critical – it reminds of a great book 5 Dysfunctions of a Tea, by Patrick lencioni where he highlights that the basis for all successful teams is trust. Good read to get your hands on. Thanks again
Maeve O'Byrne says
Listening and empathy as mentioned but also vulnerability, good leaders allow their people to see their vulnerabilities. I always believe in investing in your people, which is developing talent. Honesty, giving your people the whole picture, your why.
John Murphy says
Maeve, thanks for this contribution. Your comment about the why is so true – companies focus too much on the what and not enough on the why!
Mark Howard says
“I know 6 characteristics of a leader are: Integrity, Accountability, Responsibility, Resiliency, Compassion, Empathy, Perseverance. These charateristics will insure that you do the right things, the right way, and that you get it done, with the right people.” – Capt. Mark Howard
John Murphy says
Mark, Thanks for your contribution – even if you did give 7! They are all relevant to leadership!
Kuldip Singh says
One of them 6 traits would be listening.
John Murphy says
Hi Kuldip, thank you for your comment. Yes, listening is definitely up there with them!