What Makes a Great Leader? | BridgeBetween.com

What Makes a Great Leader?

Are leaders born or is leadership learned?

It’s a little bit of both, but it’s more complicated than an either/or statement so let’s look more closely at the aspects of personality that make a great leader. Why? Because one thing that IS true is that calling someone a leader/CEO/President doesn’t make them a leader.

What are some personality traits of a great leader?

Authenticity

Someone who is not authentic or honest is obvious. This can be observed in social media interactions every single day. The ‘influencers’ who are successful are the ones who are authentic. The ones that have a great big ‘for sale’ sign on their foreheads will have a moment in the spotlight but it’s not a lasting reality.

In order to motivate people to follow your lead, you need to appeal to them at a core level. This can’t happen if you appear constantly inauthentic. Empathy and awareness of others, of their needs, is an important part of authenticity. A leader who is only concerned with the bottom line and not what is going on with his team members will not be authentic or effective, in the long run.

Intelligence

To make tough and important decisions, which a leader is bound to have to do, they have to be intelligent in order to be able to do this with confidence and authority. Intelligence doesn’t just mean knowing the details of a project inside and out, though.

There are other forms of intelligence: street smarts, if you will. Understanding how emotions between team members and throughout a hierarchy work and play a part in success, for example. It’s not all about knowing the ins and outs of a project or company. It’s about understanding how people work and how to work most effectively with them.

Positivity

To inspire people to do the work that they need to do, a leader must project positivity. There are few who would follow someone who was perpetually negative, always assuming the worst of a situation or a person and generally unable to see the brighter side. Real optimism is part of authenticity but it is so vital to a team’s well-being that it stands apart as an important aspect of leadership qualities.

Focus

A leader who cannot keep his or her eye on the prize, all the while ensuring the team members are still on board, won’t be effective either. Ultimately, most leaders have a goal or several goals and a vision of how to get where they are going.

It’s not a question of moving forward headlong without paying attention to what’s happening in the process. It’s the ability to do both: focus on the goal and keep all the tasks in line, at the same time.

Part of focus comes from accountability. A good leader is accountable to his or her team and makes them accountable for their areas of responsibility. It’s by trusting others to get their tasks done and working with them, rather than micromanaging every aspect, and also coming through on the tasks that he or she is responsible for, that a leader gains respect.

Over to you …

While some of these traits might seem difficult to pinpoint in any one individual, over time, a good leader will show these while an ineffective leader will falter. Seeking power for the sake of it is not what makes a good leader. Seeking a solid path to a goal and taking others with them for the ride: that’s the mark of a good leader.

Do you agree? What qualities do you think are essential to being a successful leader?

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Do You Want To Be an Exceptional Leader? | BridgeBetween.com

Do You Want To Be an Exceptional Leader?

Communication is the key.

There are leaders and then there are LEADERS. The latter are people who are able to inspire and motivate those around them with seemingly little effort. Those who follow their direction are energized, galvanized, uplifted and electrified.

These are some strong words to describe the mindset of some teams and the leaders who are truly successful at inspiring these sentiments can do one thing better than anything else: they can communicate well.

Exceptional leaders use all forms of communication

Humans communicate in a multitude of ways: voice is just one of them. A good leader will make use of all the ways of communicating at their disposal, including body language and listening skills.

A leader with arms folded across their chest all the time, eyes darting in every which direction like a nervous tic will not elicit a lot of confidence in those he or she is communicating with. Open stance body language and eye contact, with their full attention focused on whomever they are communicating with are important ways that a good leader will show, not just say, what they are trying to share.

A good leader will always be looking at the recipient of his or her words and actions to gauge reaction: are they responding? Are they nodding? Are they engaged?

If a recipient isn’t engaged, a good leader will adjust their stance, their body position, their facial expression, even their distance, to try and elicit a better, more positive reaction. Some of this is instinctive: we want to know that people are hearing us; but a lot of it is learned and acquired over time, by paying attention to cues from listeners.

Listening skills are just as important in communication as active speaking or body language. A leader who listens but does not actually hear what people are telling him or her isn’t really participating in a two-way discussion.

Without open discussion, a leader isn’t engaging with his or her team in a meaningful way but is instead issuing directions instead of creating a culture of communication.

Exceptional leaders are clear in their messaging

Whether talking about their vision for the company or the structure of management for a specific project, clear communication is vital. To that end, specific communication, using clear and unencumbered language in an even tone is the best way to ensure that everyone understands and is on the same page. Sarcasm, snark and even misplaced jokes can quite unintentionally create barriers to communication.

Clarity comes from confidence and knowledge. If a leader doesn’t really know what they are talking about or they are not confident in their knowledge, it shows. They will tend to say whatever comes into their mind instead of providing thoughtful comments or feedback.

It’s the mark of a good leader when even negative feedback is given in the spirit of improvement rather than as punishment.

Exceptional leaders are humble in their statements

A truly effective leader doesn’t expound on a topic as if they were the only one who understood things. They don’t pontificate. They share information from their point of view, in their own unique voice, with directness and politeness, and with evidence of appropriate reflection on what they are saying.

False or hyperbolic statements are easy to spot and a person who speaks that way regularly will eventually be dismissed by those around them.

Teams will follow a leader who understands them and whom they can understand, a leader who takes the time to listen and reflects back to them what he or she has heard. Being a good leader is very much about open communication with peers and subordinates alike, and less about speech making.

Being a good leader is very much about open communication with peers and subordinates alike, and less about speech making.

 

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The Key to Good Teamwork is Kindness

The Key to Good Teamwork Is…

Drumroll please…

While many factors come into play in creating and maintaining a solid and healthy working team, the bottom line comes down to such a simple thing: kindness.

Yes, it’s true, according to the mother of all team creators, Google.

Wanting to find out what makes the quintessential team, a … well, a team was formed at Google and given a project name: Project Aristotle.

The project compiled data from hundreds of interviews with Google employees to attempt to pinpoint the perfect combination that would lead to a solid team: was it team members? Was it skill sets? Google was bound and determined to find the perfect algorithm: the one that defined a top team.

As it turned out, the right algorithm wasn’t about the WHO but about the HOW. The members of the team—their skills, abilities, experience—was found to be less important than how the team members interacted with one another. In other words, HOW they worked together as a team was more important than WHO they were as individual team members.

This probably isn’t ‘breaking news’ to anyone who has experience leading teams but it’s significant in that it puts into specific relief that which many leaders—including people like Steven Covey—have suspected all along: psychological safety is the key to an effective team.

Covey said in his 7 Habits of Highly Effective People: “Members of productive teams take the effort to understand each other, find a way to relate to each other, and then try to make themselves understood.”

Put another way, kindness drives a good team. Specifically, the project discovered five keys to a successful team:

  1. Psychological safety—taking risks within the team and in front of one another without feeling as if there will be negative repercussions.
  2. Dependability—knowing that each member will do their best work, on time.
  3. Structure and clarity—having each member be absolutely clear on their role, the processes for the project / team and the ultimate goal they are trying to achieve together.
  4. Meaning of work—each team member feels personally invested in the work being accomplished.
  5. Impact of work—each team member feels that the work matters, in the overall scheme of the organization and the world at large.

Identifying solidly with all five keys is the hallmark of an effective team. A leader who feels that this isn’t happening with his or her team can take heart if the first of the five is underway in his or her group. Why? Because ‘psychological safety’ is at the heart of all the keys and without it, the rest doesn’t hang together. It’s primary and most important.

A team can’t be effective if its members, including the leader, don’t feel safe sharing or putting out their ideas, in effect creating vulnerability vis-a-vis their team members. Work on that and you’ve got a team that’s working.

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Humor Is Good for Teams and Business

LOL: Why Humor Is Good for Teams and Business

There’s no contradicting the fact that a little laughter can lighten any situation.

We’ve all been in one of those situations: a tense disagreement between team members or a stressful day with a deadline looming. How these times get handled is very important to the overall well-being of a team. One way to handle them is to try and inject a little humor, a little levity, into the situation; to bring everyone back to reality.

There are a couple of advantages to using humor to break tension or build up an effective team:

  • It builds trust and group bonding through a shared experience, something they can all look back on later and laugh about again. Just putting people together on a team doesn’t mean that they will bond. The shared experience of humor can go a long way to helping individuals build that feeling of being a part of a meaningful whole.
  • It breaks the tension by taking people out of their usual comfort zones but doing so in a fun way that doesn’t threaten anybody’s position and creates open communication, improves morale and lowers stress.
  • Humor or a humoristic situation puts all team members, including the leader, on an even playing field. If managers or team leaders are viewed as ‘regular people’, the rest of the team will be able to relate to them more effectively.

Why does laughter and humor matter?

Sophie Scott gets into the science of laughter in her TED talk: “Why we Laugh”. Laughter is, she points out, an important social cue: “ And when we laugh with people, we’re hardly ever actually laughing at jokes. You are laughing to show people that you understand them, that you agree with them, that you’re part of the same group as them. You’re laughing to show that you like them. You might even love them. You’re doing all that at the same time as talking to them, and the laughter is doing a lot of that emotional work for you. “

When you’re building or working within a team, humor and laughter can help individual team members to socialize to the group, creating a different level of connection than a ‘strictly business’ attitude would ever attain. Laughter also relaxes people physically, which can be very useful in a tense or stressful work environment.

“Everybody underestimates how often they laugh, and you’re doing something, when you laugh with people, that’s actually letting you access a really ancient evolutionary system that mammals have evolved to make and maintain social bonds, and clearly to regulate emotions, to make ourselves feel better.”

In other words, laughter is good for us, both individually and as a team.

How to engage humor to team build?

I think I’ll start with what not to do: don’t build up contrived, silly games that some of your staff find demeaning and only participate in because they feel they have to. Know your people: if you’ve got classic introverts in your group, forcing them to play a game every week, to get everyone’s laugh muscles working, is not going to be helpful.

Instead, look for the more real opportunities to engage in humor. It can be as simple as stocking up on some clever jokes that you saw online or sharing a meme from Facebook that will speak to the team members, or at least speak to their funny bones!

If you’re a team leader, self-deprecating humor can work wonders to encourage your team to see you as one of them. Make yourself the butt of the joke once in awhile, and you’ll see the other members responding.

While team-building retreats—out of the office and away from the day to day—can be great for getting a new group to understand one another and their individual strengths, it should not be at the expense of allowing a little bit of humor into the every day. Many organizations send their teams on these retreats, where they are expected to ‘let their hair down’ a little, but then it’s business as usual the minute the come back into the office. This defeats the purpose entirely. It’s a retreat, not Vegas: allow some of what happened at the retreat to filter back into the everyday, particularly anything that was humorous.

Do you use humor in team building? What works for you?

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What to Do (or Not Do) on a Team

What to Do (or Not Do) on a Team

That old chestnut that there is no ‘I’ in ‘team’ is tired but true and those team members who forget it are likely to struggle.

Working in a team isn’t necessarily easy. It takes effort and requires contributions from every member in order to be effective. There are, however, some specific things you can do as a member of a team to ensure that you are acting as effectively as possible and inspiring others to do the same.

Speak up… and listen

Communication is key. If you aren’t talking, sharing, being honest and open, you probably aren’t communicating effectively and if you don’t, the other members of your team won’t know what you’re thinking. A team can operate cohesively but that doesn’t mean that other members are mind readers!

In addition to speaking and sharing, a good team member will also listen. And not just passive listening, where they take in what is being said around them and don’t react to it in any way, but active listening, where they feedback what they think they have heard, to ensure that there are no misunderstandings. Further, other team members will feel that their contributions are valuable if you demonstrate an interest in what they are saying. If you are playing on your smartphone while others are speaking, you aren’t communicating effectively.

Don’t play the blame game

When something goes wrong during a project, proactive problem solving is the best result a team can strive for. It’s important not to waste a lot of time and energy blaming individuals for an error; it’s more valuable to own the problem as a team, assess the damage and figure out a way to move forward.

That said, a team’s spirit can be undermined if there is a need to hold someone or several persons accountable for their actions and that accountability is not exercised; but that’s different from laying blame.

Accountability to the team is important: if everyone is participating and ‘pulling their weight’, so to speak, there should be no issue that can’t be handled as a team. It’s when there are individuals who do not have the motivation, interest or ability to participate that issues of blame begin to crop up.

Be supportive and an active player

To follow on the notion of accountability, all team members need to be active participants, supportive of their teammates. Cooperation, reliability and flexibility are the order of the day and a desire to achieve working ability through consensus makes for the strongest teams.

If everyone pitches in and does their share, contributes with their strengths and supports others as they contribute with theirs, each team member will have done the best they can to achieve the goals of the team as a whole.

You can’t control how others behave, but you can control your own behavior and it behooves us all to put our best foot forward, in every circumstance.

Take credit as a team

Goals are achieved as a team and therefore accolades need to be given to the team as a whole. While there may be one person or a sub-group that stand out as being particularly important in the achievement, the reality is that most great achievement does not happen in a vacuum. There are a lot of people who contribute to it and those contributions should be acknowledged.

Some things not to do, as a team member?

  1. Not contributing and giving out signs of apathy—if you don’t want to be on the team, or you don’t subscribe to the goals as set out for the project, it will show. Your lack of contribution—sitting on the sidelines, as it were—will eventually be resented by the other members of the group, which in and of itself can damage the group’s dynamics.
  2. Not communicating, at best; being rude, at worst—the importance of communication cannot be overstated. If you are in over your head, say so. If you need something from someone else in order to do your part of a project, say so. If someone is trying to tell you that they disagree with something you have done or said, listen to them. Ignoring others or arguing with them disparagingly will be damaging to any project.
  3. Not trustworthy, poor timekeeper, won’t get it done—reliability is essential in being an effective team member. If everyone else is doing their share and working to the best of their abilities and you can’t be bothered to show up to most meetings and don’t complete the tasks that are on your to-do list, you’re letting the whole team down.
  4. Only interested in personal gain—doing things as a team means achieving (or failing) as a team. If you are engaging in activities for your own personal gain and with no regard for your teammates, you’re there for the wrong reasons.
  5. Blames others when falls short—a good team will take the hits together. Blaming other team members instead of constructively trying to alter the methods used going forward is a weak approach and one that ultimately will not benefit the team.
  6. Negative attitude / not buying into team goals—we all have disagreements or times when we don’t necessarily agree with everything that is being done on a project. But rather than sitting in a corner passive-aggressively ranting about it, or worse, complaining to anyone who will listen, do something about it. This all comes back to communication and contributing, for an effective team.

 

So much of what I’ve said here is common sense but it’s all worth repeating and reminding ourselves about what works and what doesn’t, in a team environment.

 

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