I have always seen leadership as 'consistently achieving results beyond expectations by creating an environment in which others can shine brightly' To do this, in my experience, a leader must embrace the 5 most important qualities: Build Trust, Demonstrate Courage, Positively Challenge, Provide Focus and Communicate Effectively. These might go against what some leadership guru's think, so let me explain....
1. To ‘build trust' your behaviour must be underpinned by values, not just 'nice to haves' but the things that you passionately believe are the right things to do. Recognise the uniqueness and individuality of all team members. Be fair and consistent. Use emotional intelligence!
Extend trust – Trust is reciprocal. One person gives it, another receives it and gives it back in turn. Since someone has to make the first move, why not you? It’s hard for people to trust you if you aren’t willing to trust them. Trust involves risk, and if you wait for a time when there’s no risk in a relationship, you’ll never trust. Be smart about who you extend trust to and how much you give, but don’t be afraid to make the first move.
Listen without judgement – Think of the people you’ve trusted most in your life. There’s a good chance that most, if not all of them, were people who listened to you when you were frustrated, angry, upset, or just needed someone to talk to. They didn’t condemn you for the way you were feeling but listened to your concerns and offered appropriate and timely counsel, without judgement or blame. Listening shows you care for people and is a critical component of building trust.
Show compassion, care and concern – As mentioned above with listening, demonstrating compassion, care and concern in relationships is critical to building trust. You can trust people you don’t know based on their expertise, but trust really accelerates when a genuine personal relationship is established. Take the time to truly build a personal relationship with others and you’ll see trust skyrocket.
DWYSYWD – Do What You Say You Will Do. Consistent, reliable, and dependable behaviour is at the core of building trust. Follow through on commitments. Keep your promises. Be on time. Meet deadlines. It sounds simple enough, but unfortunately these common-sense basics are often the very behaviours we neglect the most. DWYSYWD and trust will blossom.
Admit your mistakes – Combined with DWYSYWD, admitting your mistakes is one of the most high-powered, trust-building behaviours you can use. Why is that? It shows your sense of humility and authenticity when you own up to your mistakes. It demonstrates to people that you are secure in yourself and you respect others enough to be up front and honest. Showing a humility and humanity goes a long way in building trust.
2. To ‘demonstrate courage’ we often need to take unpopular decisions, to bring calm and logical thinking when all around may be chaotic, to consider at all times the needs of others above those of ourselves, to remain positive when all around is negative, to be a beacon of hope when for many hope is lost, and above all to love unconditionally. Leaders who demonstrate courage tackle poor performance without humiliating someone, they recognise their own weaknesses but overcome them by valuing the skills in others which they do not have.
3. To ‘positively challenge’ a leader stretches the team, enabling them to reach their fullest potential, a leader increases the confidence of others and improves their performance through careful nurturing and mentoring. At times, the behaviours of others need to be challenged as inappropriate or just plain wrong. Yes it is possible to be wrong, nobody is perfect and we do just get things wrong sometimes and it needs a wise leader to keep us on track.
4. To ‘provide focus’ a leader presents a vision of what can be, they have insight and wisdom that transcends the ‘here and now’, they encourage the team to share a common purpose, to work as one and to always aspire to do their best. Yes, a leader maintains enthusiasm, motivates, encourages proactive thinking, accentuates the positive (as the old song goes) and keeps people on track and essentially builds resilience, to enable the team to better withstand and recover from whatever difficulties or hardships they might encounter.
5. To ‘communicate effectively’ should begin with the ability to actively listen, to assimilate information and to re-present it with understanding. A leader gives good feedback on both work and actions to increase confidence and enhance learning. When the feedback is about improvement, this too should be done to increase confidence and enhance learning.
A leader communicates with passion, with integrity, their words liberate, inspire, enthuse, encourage and support. They have the ability to make their words relevant to any audience, speaking with clarity and honesty…. Always.