Every manager needs to know two things about a culture of leadership: (1) It makes all the difference to your company performance and (2) It starts at the top.
Benefits of a culture of leadership
More than any other single factor, a culture of leadership serves as your company's psychological immune system. It may not prevent every catastrophe (clearly), but it can help you stay strong. On a good day, it can help your company thrive.
A culture of leadership can also transform employee engagement
Employee engagement happens when employees go from mere compliance to true commitment. Strong, compassionate leadership makes this possible. It ensures employees have what they need (tools, time, motivation, inspiration) to do their best work. This in turn allows your company to set ambitious goals and achieve them—without burning out the team.
Yet the opposite is also true. A culture without strong leadership causes high performers to leave—or simply disengage. By cultivating these seven leadership traits, you can inspire your high performers not only to stay, but to keep on giving their best.
7 leadership traits every manager must model and teach
How would your team rate your leadership, based on the following seven qualities? How would you rate yourself?
“Creating a culture of integrity and accountability not only improves effectiveness, it also generates a respectful, enjoyable and life-giving setting in which to work.” — Tom Hanson
- Can you be counted on to do the right thing, even when no one else is looking?
- Do you make decisions based not on what’s popular but on what’s best for the organization?
- When you make a mistake, how quick are you to own it and fix it?
- How readily do you offer an apology when it's warranted?
“I’ve reached the age where competence is a turn-on.” — Billy Joel
- When you don’t know something, how willing are you to ask questions and listen? To learn new skills?
- Are your competence and confidence aligned? Or does one outpace the other?
- What is your strategy to continue learning and growing?
“If you want something and you’ve never had it before, you’re going to have to do something you’ve never done before in order to get it.” — Tiffany Dufu
- Are you willing to confront and be confronted?
- To lead by word and example, so your entire team can thrive?
- To admit when you were wrong and make restitution?
“To anyone that ever told you you’re no good … They’re no better.” — Hayley Williams
- Does your confidence inspire confidence? Or does it come at someone else's expense? Put another way, does your confidence draw others to you?
- To what extent would your team say you show confidence in them?
- Are you willing to set the bar high for your team, both in performance and conduct, and support them in achieving the standards you've set?
“Don't tell me the moon is shining; show me the glint of light on broken glass.” — Anton Chekhov
- How well does your team understand and embrace the vision you have set for them? Do they know what it is? Can they articulate it? Does it inspire passion, or at least a sense of purpose?
- Are you appropriately forthright with your team?
- Does your communication style leave others feeling more willing to engage at work? Take risks?
- Does your team feel heard? Respected?
- Does your team feel appreciated by you? How much? Most leaders underestimate the need for communication and especially appreciation.
“Dressing well is a form of good manners.” — Tom Ford
- Are senior managers and janitors equally comfortable in your presence?
- Do you go out of your way to help others feel included, valued, heard and respected?
- When someone else is telling a story, do you let them have the limelight?
- How readily do you share credit for your team's accomplishments?
“He who does not trust enough, will not be trusted.” – Lao Tzu
If you master the first six Cs, your credibility is all but guaranteed. In fact, it will come through crystal clear in everything you do.
7 tips for how to become a better leader
- Make small leadership improvements every day; you will be amazed at how they add up
- Make small improvements daily in how you take care of yourself; these too will accumulate
- Learn from every setback; consider keeping a list on your phone of leadership lessons
- Find one or more leadership podcasts you enjoy, and tune in regularly. Here are 10 Best Podcasts on Leadership for CEOs.
- Take one of the above 7 leadership traits that would make a positive difference and start to improve it; for example, write down as many responses as you can to the sentence stem, "If I were 5% stronger in this area of leadership ..." Your answers will supply you with plenty of homework
- Teach others what you need most to learn; there's often no better way to learn
- Consider hiring a coach to help you become a better leader more rapidly, with more ease and less friction.
Becoming a better leader is hard work—yet it's the part we get paid for. Cultivating the above 7 leadership traits can take a lifetime—and not all embrace the opportunity. But when you do, you discover a joy in what you have chosen to become. You discover a joy that nothing and no one can take from you.
More importantly, you create a culture of leadership your entire team and their families can be proud of. You are no longer just a leader—you are a heroic leader. What could be more inspiring than that?