I have worked under many different managers in my life, but with very few leaders. While most managers think they are leaders, most are not. Leaders are rare.
Just because one has been placed in a position of power or achieved a title, doesn’t mean they are a leader. Research shows that a significant percentage of people who are promoted at work would have been better off left at their previous position and just given a raise.
Often the reasons they were promoted was that they were excellent in their last position. However, just because one is good at sales, doesn’t mean they will be good as a divisional sales leader. While it can be a benefit that the sales manager was a good salesman, it isn’t a necessity. In fact, many leaders have limited knowledge of how to perform the job of the people they are leading. A leader’s job is to lead, not to make sales.
I believe leaders possess 6 different traits which set them apart from managers. I call these the 6 Traits of Strong Leaders.
Leaders are authentic.
Managers often attempt to lead by putting on a persona. They believe if they pretend to be interested in their employees, they will be able to influence them more. If truth be told, they are often more interested in their own personal gain and not those who they lead.
Leaders, on the other hand, are genuine with people. They possess strong character traits and act in accordance with them. They know that relationships are built on solid principles of trust, fairness, integrity, and human dignity. They lead by the axiom, don’t show me what you know until you show me how much you care.
Managers are reactive. When things aren’t going the way they intend them to, they blame their employees, the market, and top leadership. They rarely look at themselves and the role they may have played in the outcome. But when things are going well, they are the first to step up and take credit.
Leaders are proactive. They respond appropriately to the situation after looking at it from all angles. When they don’t receive the results, they were planning for, they analyze instead of blame.
Leaders look first at themselves and their role in the situation. They focus on learning from the results and making the appropriate adjustments.
When things turn out well, they are humble. They praise their crew for their insight and hard work.
Leaders possess vision.
Managers can’t see past the immediate moment. They are now centered. This is great when working on the task at hand. The problem begins when they never look up to see where the task at hand is taking them. This type of leadership may keep them working diligently in the wrong direction.
Leaders take a larger perspective. Instead of focusing on the current problem, they step back and look at the big picture. They take the time to decide what the greater purpose of their efforts is and then create a vision that encompasses it.
As Stephen Covey says, “Management is efficiency in climbing the ladder of success; leadership determines whether the ladder is leaning against the right wall.”
Leaders look for multiple perspectives.
Managers suffer from a phenomenon in cognitive psychology known as a mental set. Basically, this means that the mindset you have when solving a problem determines your options for how you will deal with it. This limited point of view often leads to inadequate solutions.
Leaders realize that their knowledge on any given subject is limited. As a result, they turn to experts for multiple points of view. This gives them the much-needed information for making intelligent decisions.
Leaders intrinsically motivate others.
Managers believe employees are motivated strictly by money. They offer incentives and bonuses in a weak attempt to up productivity. When they don’t receive the outcomes, they were seeking, they often conclude that their workers are lazy or incompetent.
Leaders understand that money and recognition is important, but also understand that it is not the only way to get the most out of their crew.
Leaders take the time to get to know those whom they lead. They find out what matters most to them and then guide them to make the connection between their personal motives and the job they are expected to perform.
Leaders take the time to make decisions and implement them after careful planning.
Managers are reactive. They quickly replace their current system with the latest fad that is supposed to increase productivity and the bottom-line.
Leaders hear of new ways of doing things, and carefully research their effectiveness. They don’t jump ship with their old ways of doing things until they have proof that the new way will work within their organization.
Once they do decide to make changes, they do so with a solid plan of action. If it is a large change, they introduce it in intervals, allowing everyone the time to make the proper adjustments. This methodical approach leads to a smooth transaction, limiting confusion and downtime.
While this list in no way encompasses every aspect of a strong leader, I do believe it is a great place to begin. Leadership is an art as well as a science. It is about self-awareness and requires constant self-improvement. To be a great leader, work on yourself and let these 6 Traits of Strong Leaders be a guide for your development.
Question: Do these traits reflect your leadership style? Which qualities do you need to work on? You can leave a comment by clicking here.