I was recently asked to write a leadership article piece for my department. I decided to focus on key attributes that I found admirable in supervisors I have worked with throughout the years. Below is the copy of the article which I wrote. Interestingly I got quite a couple of of positive responses from my colleagues.
During my time in consulting, I have learnt many things both from a professional and personal point of view. All these experiences have played a part in my growth and development, and this includes leadership.
I have observed leadership from both an internal perspective (local leadership team, project managers and supervisors) and also from an external perspective (dealing with client leadership team of all levels) and I think that these leaders share a common trait which makes them great. These leaders practice what Daniel Goleman calls Resonance leadership – they do more than just get the results ; these leaders are able to get results while maintaining high team morale as they are able to bring out the best out of their team.
I would like to share a couple of traits that these exemplary leaders (that I have personally observed over the years)often share:
Lead by Example
These leaders often lead by example, be it whether it is with a client engagement or whether it is during a team meeting. They practice what they preach and they do it with such remarkable dedication that it inspires their team members to also give their best. They’re the first to roll their sleeves and help you out no matter what the situation is. They basically “walk the talk”.
Empathetic and Approachable
The second trait is that they are empathetic toward their subordinates. They take time to go beyond just addressing short term concerns; they genuinely seek to get to know their subordinates and this allows them to be approachable. What inspires me is that how these leaders use their genuineness and their approachability to steer the subordinates to achieve the common goal. As a result these leaders are able to get a highly motivated team who is willing to go the extra mile for the project.
Respect for the Individual
They show respect to all individuals regardless of the position the individual holds. I have seen this especially true among my senior leadership clients, where one of them actually took the time to get to know the project team (including our analyst!) on a personal level. This sense of “boundaryless-ness” that this senior client showed to the project team allowed us to work more effectively with her and as a result, we were able to mitigate risks more effectively and promptly – because we knew there was mutual respect and a sense of camaraderie in the client relationship.
Different approach for different working styles
They know how to work with different individuals and tailor their approach effectively. While typical leaders or supervisors tend to use a cookie-cutter approach to manage their team, I have found that great leaders often do quite the opposite – they are able to uniquely work with each individual and over a relatively short period of time (within 4-6 weeks) bring out the best out of them. Taking the time to understand their subordinates’ strengths and weaknesses, and appropriately work with them based on their talents allow these leaders to deliver results while growing and developing their subordinates at the same time.
Setting the pace*
The final trait is their ability to pace themselves. To set the pace, these leaders often plan properly and thoroughly. They also set and manage their client expectations and they often have contingencies in place should any unforeseen circumstances arise in the project. By doing the above, these leaders are then able to set the pace for themselves – they work hard, but they also know the importance of rest and when it is time to close the laptop. As a result, this “personal pace” that is set by the leaders soon begins to transcend to the project team members and eventually everyone starts working on the same pace as the leader.
I would like to recommend a book I read a couple months back on Leadership. In the book**, it says that “gifted leadership occurs where heart and head – feeling and thought – meet. These are the two wings that allow a leader to soar…” Now there’s some food for thought…
*Jim Collins in his book, Great by Choice does a fine job of explaining successful leaders who set the pace in the chapter entitled “20 Mile-March”
**The book in which I got the quote is taken from The New Leaders: Transforming the Art of Leadership into the Science of Results by Daniel Goleman, Richard Boyatzis and Annie McKee