My work as a management consultant has provided me the opportunity to meet many leaders. Some very good leaders and some not so good leaders. Here are just four behaviors that I have observed that distinguish the good from the not so good leaders:
- Relinquish control. Give your employees freedom to make decisions. In fact, encourage and empower them to do so. As a leader, you have incredible power in an organization. The power to share or withhold information, the power to approve budgets, and of course, the power to make decisions. Do not limit the ability of your employees to develop by not allowing them to make decisions. Give them freedom to take ownership of their work, which means being accountable for the important decisions that they make. This is a sure way to make employees feel that they are invested in the company and to foster loyalty.
- Develop your people. Make a conscious effort to help your employees develop. Everything starts with a plan. Help identify the strengths and weaknesses of your employees and then put them on a developmental plan. As a leader, schedule time to meet with your employees at least on a quarterly basis to review collaboratively established goals. One thing you can do is provide your employees stretch assignments. Allow your top employees to join cross-functional teams so that they may increase their knowledge and sharpen their skills. Just as you would create a business plan for your division or company, create a plan to develop your people.
- Recognize your employees. As a student of psychology and organizational behavior, I know that humans have an innate need for recognition and for appreciation. Leaders should tap into this need daily. Be sure to say thank you to your employees as often as you can and recognize them for extraordinary performance. Step outside the office and communicate with the people on the floor who are getting the work done. Don’t forget to smile.
- Provide actionable feedback. Employees look to their superiors for guidance when questions arise or confusion abounds. As a leader, always be on the lookout for opportunities to provide actionable feedback to your employees. Keep the feedback simple and use specific examples. Do not personalize the issue and always focus on behaviors. Share with the employee specific behaviors you would like to see addressed in the future and how that would benefit them and the company. Keep communication channels open for constant dialogue.
I wish to see all leaders practice more of these behaviors. There is not one set of characteristics or behaviors that define a great leader, but I think most would agree that the four that I have listed are critical. Take the time to evaluate how often you display these behaviors and how you can display them more often.
In the comments below tell me how you can spot a good leader.
Your Personal Leadership Action Plan:
- Allow your employees to make decisions
- Develop your employees
- Recognize your employees
- Always provide actionable feedback