What does good leadership look like?

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What does excellent leadership look like? When we interact with our own manager, for example, we typically don’t think much about the leadership traits our own manager has --unless we suffer the impact when there is a good trait missing. We think to ourselves, “He micromanages everything I do.” “He can’t make a decision…he flip flops depending on who was in his office last.” And when it comes to our own self-awareness as leaders, we often have blind spots because we judge ourselves by our own best intentions—not realizing how our day-to-day behavior affects those around us.
 
So here is a list of some of the traits I see in great leaders. Unfortunately, it’s a rare person who has all of them, but working toward improving your own competence in these areas is a laudable goal.
 
Great leaders are:
  • Selfless. They put the organization’s goals at the forefront, and use them as the primary criteria for decision-making. They have ambition, but they are smart enough to know that the fastest way to grow their career is to help their organization to succeed—even if it means making some sacrifices along the way for the greater good.
  • Can stand on the balcony, as well as play in the orchestra, if necessary.  Many leaders are better at one or the other. They are either too hands off, or too deep in the details. Being able to stand on the balcony means being able to get perspective and see how their actions, and the actions of their employees, influence the organization’s outcomes.
  • They treat their employees like colleagues, rather than subordinates. That’s not to say they treat them as friends. They don’t rely on position power to get things done. Rather, they support and collaborate with their employees and treat them like partners.
  • They have a life outside of work. Invariably, a leader who does nothing but work, loses perspective. Leaders, who take an active role with their children and spouse, and/or have the support of a good group of friends, have a more well-rounded character—and that leads to sounder leadership decisions.
  • They listen—and consider— what people say to them. They don’t try to be the smartest person in the room. They may not agree with what they hear, but they solicit and consider the opinions of those around them.
  • They get to know their employees beyond their jobs. They care about the people around them not just because they know people will be more motivated to perform well, but because they really care about their lives as people—not just as employees.
  • They can be tough and focused when faced with a crisis. They take charge, pull people together quickly, develop a response and demand elegant execution to solve the problem at hand.
  • They have the ability to adjust to their audience. They can work the room at the company holiday party, have a down-to-earth conversation with a group of employees, and deliver a crisp presentation to the Board of Directors.
  • They make you feel good about yourself and what you contribute. They notice what you do and thank you. They rely on you to deliver excellent results and point it out when you do.
  • They hire the best and give them room to perform. They only get into the weeds when a person is new, in trouble, or there is a crisis. They have a good cadence of staff meetings, project meetings and one-on-one meetings to keep their hands on the controls without over-steering.
  • They don’t wait too long to release underperformers. Timing is the trick here. Most good leaders are vested in their team’s success, so they tend to hang on too long—hoping they can turn the person’s performance around. The best leaders watch and assess the negative impact of poor performance on others. They are honest and clear about their expectations and know when to fish or cut bait.
  • They take great satisfaction in developing others and seeing them succeed. They don’t have to be the hero. It’s more fun for them to watch one of their team members getting accolades, than grabbing glory for themselves.
  • They don’t just give feedback when someone isn’t performing well. They look for ways to grow the people around them. They have conversations about what interests their employees and actively look for ways to develop them. They give honest feedback because they know it will benefit the person.
  • They give people the benefit of the doubt but aren’t easily manipulated. This is a fine line to walk. They tend to be healthy skeptics who are constantly assessing motives but aren’t glass-half-empty types. They know the best way to influence outcomes is to understand those who have vested interests and to tap into their motivations to get things done.


Joan Lloyd is a Milwaukee based executive coach and organizational & leadership development strategist. She is known for her ability to help leaders and their teams achieve measurable, lasting improvements. Joan Lloyd & Associates, specializes in leadership development, organizational change and teambuilding, providing: executive coaching, CEO coaching & leader team coaching, 360-degree feedback processes, retreat facilitation and presentation skill coaching and small group labs. Contact Joan Lloyd & Associates at (414) 354-9500, mailto:info@joanlloyd.com, or www.JoanLloyd.com 
 
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