3 Qualities Needed for Leadership

I am not the classic extrovert that our society tends to identify as a leader. I am an introvert. I am often drawn more to computers and machines than to people. So why would I be writing about leadership?  Leadership is analyzed all the time in today’s world. You would have thought we would have figured it out by now.

As it turns out, we have not figured out leadership. We still have companies going down the wrong path. We still have bad bosses. I have had to learn the skills to lead people because it was not such a natural thing for me. This allows me to have a different perspective.

Writing this article helped me clarify what leadership is to me. Leadership is a combination of empathy, vision and belief. Without these roots, I would not be much of a leader. I have worked on developing these qualities in myself. I’ve needed them as a framework so that I could apply them outside myself. We all need to have our own foundation to be better leaders. Leadership is not about us, it is about the people that we lead.

Empathy – em·pa·thy, ˈempəTHē, noun, the ability to understand and share the feelings of another.

Many people put in a position of authority seem to forget that they have actual people working for them. Businesses often expect staff to work long hours and stay connected 24/7. I don’t think that this is a sustainable model. People have outside interests, children, parents and significant others. Staff are not just workers.

Empathy can be just asking simple questions. How is that project going? Are you doing anything this weekend? How are your kids doing in….? Maybe this is natural for most people, but not for me. Those “watercooler” moments are some of the most beneficial interactions that you can have. It is part of creating a safe environment for staff that allows them to question, grow and excel. Ask yourself, what can my staff do if given a safe environment and resources? Can you help them balance the requirements of the job and the needs of the rest of their lives?

Being authentic is another key. My staff have learned that I give them the true story of what is going on in the company. If we are straight with each other, it creates a space where we can all trust each other.

Vision – vi·sion, ˈviZHən, noun, a mental image of what the future will or could be like.

I recently realized that as the Director of the SBDC, I am helping people manifest their ideas. This new “lens” made me look at many things differently. It changed my vision of what I do and what the organization does. Develop your vision of the future for yourself and the organization. Use it as your “True North.”

I work to communicate my internal vision of the organization to my staff and coworkers. It can serve as a road map for staff from on boarding to exit. Ask yourself, what is your vision of this company/division/organization? Can you have a shared (empathetic) vision of the future with the staff members that you are leading?

I was watching a TED Talk by Simon Sinek about how great leaders inspire action. He talked about communicating from the why you do things, not the what or the how. How do great leaders inspire? They know why they do it. They have vision and believe.

Belief – be·lief, bəˈlēf/, noun, trust, faith, or confidence in someone or something.

I found an example of belief in a TED Talk that was an interview of Linus Torvalds, the inventor of Linux. Linux runs the vast majority of servers on the internet and every android phone. Linus believes in the purpose of what he does as a developer. He has opened up Linux to be improved/marketed/changed by others. He gets out of the way of the people that can contribute to the project. He believes both in the purpose and the people. Linux continues to flourish from this type of leadership.

Don’t create the environment of “If it were me, I would have said/done this…”. This is a glaring lack of belief in the staff. Your staff can be true to the company and think. Allow them to do that.

Sometimes it is hard to continue to believe. I work with great staff and clients every day. Yet, I have my moments in wondering if I am doing the right thing. I think what keeps me going sometimes is this: I believe in them. Sometimes, even when they don’t believe in themselves.

I hope this journey that we just took together was helpful to you. It was helpful to me. It made me refocus on how I interact with staff and clients. I had never written down that my leadership mantra is all about empathy, vision and belief. I encourage you to find the pieces that speak to you for your leadership style. Remember, you work with people and leadership is all about them.

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