For those seeking to build their leadership skills there’s no shortage of places to turn for leadership advice or elements of leadership to work on. It can be overwhelming, which is why I’m discerning about advice making the cut. That said, I’d say conclusions behind 50 years of research from polling and management expertise company Gallup makes the cut.
The findings are in the recent book It’s The Manager by co-authors Jim Clifton (CEO of Gallup) and Jim Harter (Gallup’s Chief Scientist), which includes a chapter titled “The 5 Traits of Great Managers.”
The chapter takeaways don’t come from a specific study per se but from the collective knowledge of the authors and the Gallup company. The authors explain that the five decades of research employed a variety of methodologies but that all the work centered on two things: examining traits that tend to come naturally to great leaders based on their “hardwiring,” and what the best managers choose to intentionally improve upon over time.
I’ll share the five traits of great leaders the authors list with my own perspective having led many multi-billion dollar businesses over a three decade career.
1. They inspire teams to get exceptional work done.
An organization is only as inspired as its leader. I developed a course on inspirational leadership and can tell you there are many paths you can take to inspire employees. A primary manner is via your communications, where you mind the 3 P’s: projecting confidence, providing critical information with hope and reality, and promoting a sense of team and belonging.
You also inspire by setting a powerful vision, intentionally building the organization’s confidence, consciously caring about every employee, granting autonomy, and creating a sense of purpose and meaning for employees.
2. They set goals and provide resources for teams to excel.
The most powerful goals get everyone on the same page working towards the same thing; they create a sense of interdependency. To accomplish this, set what I call 3C goals: the goals should be common, compelling, and cooperative.
The commonality ensures everyone is working toward the same end. The goal must be compelling enough to create the energy and deep-seated motivation to achieve it. And it should be cooperative in nature –lofty enough that the only way the goal can be accomplished is by the team working together (versus individuals working to achieve the goal in silos).
3. They influence others to act, pushing through adversity and resistance.
And they realize the influence comes from personal power versus position power. They listen intently with the intent to act upon what they hear. They’re the organization’s cheerleader and squad leader, role modeling perseverance and staring down challenges head on.
And in times of adversity, their true character comes though (in a good way). They realize they’re the eye of the storm and that being calm and collected serves as a beacon, never forgetting how many take cues from them. They drive out fear and refuse to point fingers knowing that the mortal enemy is ignorance of the fact that the enemy is external. They pull on the chain of command when needed for strength, knowing there’s a reason it’s not called the thread of command.
4. They build committed, collaborative teams with deep bonds.
Great leaders understand that being a part of a team is meaningful. It creates a sense of pride, fellowship, camaraderie, and loyalty. It helps employees answer the important question, “Where Do I Belong?”
The best leaders know that a sense of mutual interdependence is one of the greatest forces on earth and that membership to an interdependent team affords access to a learning lab where employees openly exchange ideas, problems, solutions, and feedback. And they know that collaborative teams divide the effort and multiply the effect.
5. They take an analytical approach to strategy and decision-making.
The best leaders are also the best strategists. They leverage data to drive their strategies and decision making, but balance both by using their gut. I try to keep a balance of 65 percent data to 35 percent gut-check when forming strategies and making decisions. Great leaders also know how to create efficient decision-making processes that involve the stakeholders as appropriate without being too bureaucratic. They realize the more decision-making they can push down into the organization (to the people closest to the work) the better.
They share information to enable better decisions rather than hording it to hold power. They ask for recommendations and carefully weigh pros and cons against clear decision criteria. They conduct inquiries not inquisitions, and in the end encourage a debate, decide, commit spirit.
So take it from 50 years of research and even more collective years of experience. Put these traits on your tray and go serve your employees in a memorable manner.