Employees expect a lot from their leaders and when they don’t get what they expect they begin to lose trust and respect for their leader. As the workplace continues to transition from a knowledge to a wisdom-based environment, the requirements for great leadership are changing. For example, leaders must have greater emotional intelligence so they can connect more intuitively with their employees. They must become better listeners, opportunity enablers and exceptional coaches. Because employees are in search for high-trust relationships, leaders must be more instinctually connected with their employees and this requires them to be more self-aware about how their overall behavior and the example they set impacts the performance of others.
It’s easy for leaders to get lost in the spotlight of their leadership roles and lose sight of the increased performance demands and political pressures that go with the responsibility. Leadership is all about people and if leaders begin to lose touch with those they lead – they will become disconnected with the requirements of the business and the marketplace in which they compete. In the process, they begin to lose their leadership momentum and weaken their personal brand identity.
Early in my career, I reported to a newly appointed Vice President. The first 6 months were challenging as he transitioned into his new role. He got lost in his new title and disconnected from his employees and the requirements of the business. He didn’t know how to be a senior leader and attempted to mirror his counterparts rather than create his own identity. As a result, he lost respect and trust from his employees, many of whom were put off by his actions. I told him that he was losing his team and he said, “Glenn, they will learn to adapt or they won’t have a job.” My response: “Perhaps you will be the one that finds yourself out of work.” Though he didn’t like what I had to say, he respected me enough to pause and think about it; then he challenged me to give him three concrete recommendations of what he could do better to engage with the team and what the measureable outcomes would be. He said, “Prove me wrong.” Fortunately for me, I was ready with some recommendations, and they helped him realize that employees want to be heard, understood and given enough attention to feel that their contributions and opinions matter.
Great leadership requires an understanding of oneself before you can effectively comprehend, appreciate and leverage the unique skill-sets and competencies of others. Unfortunately, many people throughout their careers don’t have enough leaders who can best identify and enable their full potential. This is why so many employees feel stuck and experience regret in their careers. They find themselves feeling trapped at work with leaders that only care about themselves – or who have never taken the time to get to know them well enough to guide their career growth and potential.
Leadership is a serious responsibility and if you don’t have the executive presence and other intangibles to manage the spotlight, or the time to understand the people that you serve and the ability to balance and prioritize multiple agendas, your tenure will be short-lived.
As you head into the new year, you should have great expectations for your workplace leaders and play a more active role in holding them accountable to step-up their game. Don’t wait. Your leaders influence your future more than you may know and you don’t want to be the one that regrets it in the long run. To keep your leaders and yourself in check, here are seven things you should expect from leadership in 2014.
1. An Identity You Can Count On
Once and for all, leaders must solidify their identity. Many leaders make it difficult for others to follow them because they are so uncertain about how to lead others. They lack the originality, consistency and presence to excite their teams. Leaders without an original identity don’t have enough self-awareness and self-trust and thus lack the required emotional intelligence to connect with their employees in meaningful and purposeful ways.
Ask your leader what their personal brand is. If they don’t have an answer, they are still in search of what they stand for and their differentiation factor. Employees gravitate towards leaders that have an identity they can count on – because they know what to expect from them and the performance that is expected of them.
2. Sense of Urgency
The marketplace is changing so fast and your leader can ill afford to grow complacent. Leaders must have a sense of urgency to assure their vision stays ahead of marketplace demands. Don’t confuse having a sense of urgency with the need to keep the team busy. Sense of urgency is about leveraging and activating the full potential of employees to assure that objectives, strategies and tactics are constantly moving forward with steady speed in execution.
Leaders that have a sense of urgency keep people on their toes by putting the emphasis on always anticipating the unexpected. A sense of urgency promotes an environment of continuous learning that demands excellence and that requires employees to embrace an entrepreneurial attitude.
3. Increased Collaboration
Leaders must become less isolated and more integrated with their teams and staff members to be optimally effective. Great leaders know that their success is highly dependent upon others. They know they must always improve their ability to mentor, inspire and motivate their direct reports and promote teamwork within their organization.
Collaboration is recognizing that leadership success comes most to those who are surrounded by people who want their success to continue. If you can’t create a workplace environment where everyone has each other’s backs, for the betterment of a healthier whole – the probability of sustainable success is extremely low.
If your leader has made the decision to go at it alone – this is a no-win situation for all involved. It is through increased collaboration that leaders get the opportunity to know and engage with their employees well enough to detect and enable their talent potential.
4. Thought Leadership
A thought leader is a person who identifies trends, common themes and patterns within a particular industry or functional area of expertise to help others in turn identify new opportunities or solutions for growth. Does this sound like your leader?
To be a thought leader you must be original in the ways you think and express a point of view that others will be interested in enough to want to read or listen to. Much has been said about the digital age – that it has made it easier for people not to think for themselves. Hopefully your boss is smart enough to be an original and values his own perspectives enough to share his wisdom with others.
Thought leadership is a necessity in today’s marketplace. All leaders should be forward-thinking and establish their own methodology/ways of thinking to give them the distinction to stand out from the crowd and enable the success of others along the way.
5. Touch the Business
Leaders regardless of hierarchy or rank must be accountable to touch the business just as much as they lead it. The traditional leader is uncomfortable with getting their hands dirty. They appear to be uninformed about the changing demands and requirements for their organization to be relevant and globally competitive. The traditional leader enjoys roaming the sidelines and observing the performance of others, rather than getting in the game and taking a more active role.
Carefully observe the leaders in your workplace. Do they delegate too much? Do they immerse themselves in reports? Do they desire to be recognized – more than respected?
Leaders in the 21st century must be more entrepreneurial than ever. They need to view their departments and/or functional areas like a small business that is constantly looking for creative, resourceful and cost efficient ways to grow and compete profitably. This requires leaders to touch the business enough to know how to optimally manage their time, their budgets and talent requirements. When they can do this, leaders are better able to anticipate crisis and manage change before circumstances force their hand.
If your leader has a slow learning curve, you might be working for a leader that can’t anticipate marketplace conditions.
6. Passionate Explorers of New Possibilities
Leaders need to unleash their passionate pursuit of excellence in order to challenge the status quo and seize previously unseen opportunities to build sustainable momentum in the workplace. For too many years, being a passionate leader at work has been interpreted as being an immature, sensitive and overly emotional leader that gets caught up in the noise. Recently, a Deloitte study indicated that when leaders are passionate about their work, they become the explorers of new possibilities. The passionate worker is more likely to outperform those who are not.
Leadership is about standing for something and transitioning your beliefs into action – and taking it all the way through to the end. When leaders don’t act on a strategy that matters to their business, they are being irresponsible to the people, organization and industry they serve. Many times leaders take the easy way out rather than having the courage to put their ideas and ideals to the test.
When leaders are not exploring, they are playing it safe and over time becoming complacent in their leadership role – which sends the wrong signal to those they are leading. Are your leaders passionate explorers of new possibilities or have they grown to be complacent?
You will learn more from a leader that explores than from one who merely floats along. When a leader explores they challenge everyone on the team to get out of their comfort zones and step up their games.
7. Executive Presence
I’ve seen too many leaders who continue to act like managers only – and in today’s short-term, rapid-paced trust-demanding world of work – this behavior is unacceptable.
Executive presence is not about selling a business transaction, or showcasing your knowledge, capabilities and skill-sets. Executive presence is one’s ability to create a moment — an experience that ignites others to want to know more about you. Executive presence is mastered over time. It requires self-trust, confidence, self-awareness and the ability to navigate the needs of other people.
Executive presence is about being a good listener and the ability to quickly connect the patterns of conversation in order to detect one’s personal interests, leadership style and business needs. Executive presence is about earning the right from others to explore a more meaningful and purposeful business relationship. Executive presence is not about you; it’s about others. The one with highly effective executive presence is invited to the next meeting with the opportunity to create more formal relationships. Executive presence is about having impactful, long-lasting presence that inspires others to want to know more.
When you are surrounded by leaders that have executive presence, you are experiencing leadership at its most impactful and purposeful moment. It is the executive presence of a leader that allows them to seamlessly deliver points 1 – 6.
In the end, you should expect great leadership from your leaders! The most effective leaders do this by contributing to your career growth, potential and advancement. They lead by example, make those around them better, are great coaches and also do twelve other things extremely well. Make it a new year’s resolution and hold yourself accountable to help enable your leaders embrace new competencies. Help them become successful but also more significant for the development of their employees and the growth of the organization they serve.
- Click here to learn more about my book, Earning Serendipity – where I introduce the 4 opportunity management skills to create and sustain continuous momentum as a corporate leader, business owner and entrepreneur. Download Chapter 0 here.
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