Photo: Wikimedia Commons
When I was growing up, the kids in my neighbourhood would play in a nearby park every evening. Our undisputed leader was a boy who was barely a year older than I was.He was a take charge type of person who introduced the new kids to everyone, taught them the rules of games we played, and made sure no one felt left out. We also trusted him blindly because he always had our backs whenever we messed up.
None of the leadership lessons I have learned, unlearned or relearned since then have had as profound an impact as the ones I learned as a child. Three, in particular, stand out:
1. Trust: Do your co-workers trust you? Do they accept that you will consistently and without hesitation, stand up for them whatever the situation? Only that kind of trust makes people feel empowered, gives them the courage to innovate, take risks, and push themselves beyond their comfort zones to find success.
David Maister, Charles Green, and Robert Galford, who wrote The Trusted Advisor, outlined four attributes for assessing your trust quotient. They focus on the key traits of credibility, reliability, intimacy, and self-orientation. Take this online assessment to evaluate your trust quotient..
2. Empathy: Did you notice that look of anxiety as your teammate walked into the office this morning? Or did you completely miss it because you were locked in your own thoughts, more concerned with pending deadlines and deliverables? Do you treat your team members as human beings, and not just as co-workers?
Here’s the issue: Emotional intelligence is widely recognised as a leadership quality, but being transparent about your emotions isn’t. I’m puzzled by the fact that organizational and company leaders are expected to maintain a “stiff upper lip”.. Why can’t we rejoice in and celebrate our successes or conversely, show concern with setbacks, rather than taking them in stride? Why don’t we laugh and cry with the highs and lows in the lives of our colleagues? We are human beings, and knowing that our bosses care about us is a fundamental human need.
3. Mentorship: No matter how talented we may be as individuals, we all crave the guidance and direction from a mentor who will teach us the rules of the game. Pat Riley, the widely respected former NBA coach, once said that there was no great player who didn’t want to be coached. The same holds true in the workplace. Would you be where you are today if your first manager hadn’t nudged you in the right direction? When people are unsure or uneasy about what the future holds for their organisations and for themselves, mentorship and coaching are critical.
I certainly didn’t realise when I was playing with my friends in the park that I was learning important leadership principles and life lessons that would never go out of fashion. At a time when people everywhere are questioning their leaders’ values, these characteristics seem to resonate even more.
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