Think about the mentors and leaders you have encountered through-out your career. Does anyone stand out as exceptional or unforgettable? By unforgettable I mean someone who challenged you but didn’t really model strong leadership. We learn about how to be a good leader from people we admire. Conversely, we can also learn some important lessons on leadership from bosses we don’t admire.
My Career Path
My first boss was a middle-aged retired nun. She had left the convent got married and adopted two children. To say she was intimidating would be an understatement. During my first month on the job as a hotel sales manager in Miami, Joanne regularly worked through the night.
We would come into the office the next day and find her at her desk, wearing the same outfit she was in the day before, wrinkled and rumpled with her hair all askew. I recall one conversation with parents as I described her and expressed alarm that I may have selected the wrong career path. Her leadership style was less than inspiring to the team, she showed a lack of empathy and no regard for our feelings which had many of us doubting our decision to work in hospitality sales. Today, bosses aren’t quite as intimidating and the workplace is more collaborative. Many of the team members ended up becoming good associates and later friends with her. She did excel in the characteristics of drive, humility and integrity which we all came to appreciate and value. As a result, we all learned about certain traits we absolutely didn’t want to emulate in our career path.
What characteristics and qualities make for a good leader?
Leaders shape the future with a clear vision. They embrace change and make it their mission to develop and nurture the organizations soul.
Leadership by example
Today’s leaders make things happen, they have the discipline to get things done. They turn strategy into action and accountability. True leaders are committed to others.
Value Human Capital
Leaders understand the importance of having the right skills and talent on board. They see associates as the most important asset in the organization. Leaders create an environment that attracts quality people and put programs in place which help develop, learn and grow this asset along the way. A collaborative work environment draws talented employees who grow vested in the organizations success.
Establish a stable and enriching work environment
Great leaders understand the requirements for long-term success. They listen and work within the paradigm of making an investment in developing competencies for the greater good which later yield sustainable and scalable results.
What leadership style best describes you?
There are many models which help describe the various leadership styles prominent in the workplace today. If you peruse the internet you will see countless articles and definitions circulating on the web. It boils down to five or six true styles.
One book I stumbled upon explained the various leadership styles fairly succinctly. The book is titled The Leadership Wheel by Clinton Sidle.1 Sidle categorizes the various types into five styles; Warrior, Teacher, Nurturer, Visionary and Sage. I would add a sixth style, let’s call it the Expert. Sidle covers what he calls the positive traits of each style and the shadow side which can create negative ramifications.
To break it down;
- The Warrior leads by inspiring and risk taking but the shadow side can be controlling. The warrior is perfect during a crisis and can lead a company out of chaos.
- The Teacher, focuses on doing things correctly. Teachers believe in sharing information and gathering data to find the best processes and systems. Teachers can often get bogged down at the expense of effectiveness.
- The Nurturer, works on teambuilding and collaboration. They bring unity to the workplace and create bonded and cohesive work environments. On the shadow side they tend to avoid confrontation and can take criticism personally.
- The Visionary uses their intuitive senses to combine both intellect and emotion to inspire and lead others. They are charismatic leaders with big personalities that infuse energy into any organization. However they can lose focus and fall short when it comes to details.
- The Sage is an optimistic leader who is addicted to continuous growth and learning. They are great conceptual thinkers who can see both the path and the end zone. Tragically Sage’s can lose hope, be marred by the blues and withdraw from the mission if they see things as unchanging.
- The Expert, combines both a high level of knowledge and a great degree of skill. This is a leader who is in the trenches and produces alongside his/her team. People tend to respect and value them for what they have accomplished. Sometimes this style of leadership falls victim to comparisons and moral shifts when no one can figure out how to duplicate the exceptional results on their own.
When you reflect on these styles you should note people generally have a natural style but can adapt their style as the situation demands.
1 C. Clinton Sidle, “The Leadership Wheel; Five Steps for Achieving Individual and Organizational Greatness,” (Palgrave Mcmillan, 2005)