You may or may not already code yourself as a natural born leader. It’s one of the highest compliments you can pay a manager, for a reason. Gallup says only one out of every 10 leaders can be considered a natural born leader.
Which begs the question, what makes for such a leader? The Gallup organization conducted an extensive, 195-country study across a whopping 2.5 million teams (detailed in its new book It’s the Manager) to discover what attributes predict managerial success.
Gallup isolated five attributes–again, which only come naturally to 10 percent of all leaders. Don’t feel like you’re a natural born leader? That’s all right. You can wedge your way into this group by practicing the following five tenets of natural born leadership:
1. Motivate with a compelling mission or vision
A compelling mission or vision is one that resonates with people’s identities. It should make membership in the organization feel special, like everyone is part of delivering a meaningful outcome (usually on something bigger than oneself). A compelling mission or vision should also support known company values and be enough of a stretch that it will take the organization working as a whole to achieve it.
Communicate the mission or vision over and over, and when doing so, make sure each employee understands how their work fits into it and supports it.
2. Assert yourself to overcome adversity and resistance
True character is revealed in times of adversity–use such times to show yours. It will make a lasting impression, whether you want it to or not, so you might as well make it a good one.
Too often, managers don’t. They forget how often people take cues from them, and they get caught contributing to the storm rather than being the eye of it.
I remember a manager I worked for who regularly shifted blame in times of struggle, pointed the finger, and even contributed to unhelpful gossip. I only worked for the person for three weeks, but I’ve never forgotten him (in a bad way).
To help avoid this as a leader, write what I call an adversity manifesto. It’s a few paragraphs you write out that explain to your group what they can behaviorally expect from you in times of adversity. Ask them to hold you to those behaviors.
On my manifesto, I make it clear I’ll be calm when the seas are rough, I’ll drive out fear, stay focused on solutions, take informed but quick action, and role-model accountability. Being clear about the behaviors that can be expected from you in adversity also gives you the right to ask for the same kind of behaviors from your organization in such times.
3. Foster a culture of clear accountability
Accountability is one of the greatest forces on earth, and without it organizations are doomed to fail, circling in a death spiral of finger-pointing, “not my square” mentality, inefficiencies, and dropped balls.
As a leader, role-model accountability by accepting blame, focusing on ways to get better, and by addressing underperformers (rather than letting them languish and drain the culture because they’re too much work). Accountability also means owning and celebrating successes as a team.
4. Build relationships that create trust and transparency
Nothing is more transparent than when someone is not being transparent. Human beings are too smart not to pick up on it, so why be anything other than transparent? But far too many aren’t, and all it takes is one occasion of catching a leader not being transparent and trust goes out the window. (It’s hard to get back.)
Be a beacon of honesty, transparency, and integrity for your team. Nothing sets the cultural tone quicker and more profoundly than a leader’s behavioral tendencies for creating trust and transparency (or not).
5. Make decisions based on productivity, not politics
I watched many a leader get ahead by playing political games in my corporate life. But magically, 98 percent of the time, it eventually caught up with them, and they quickly fell out of favor.
Leave the politics for the politicians and focus instead on doing the right thing, at the right time, for all the right reasons. Take care of three things and you’ll get taken care of (without the need for politics): the business, big ideas, and your people.
Nobody said that to be viewed as a natural born leader everything has to come naturally to you. Work hard at these five attributes to make it look like it comes easy.
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