It used to be that leaders managed employees with fear and retribution. In this old-style model, there was a definite hierarchy, and workers were reminded frequently of their lower status. In other words, there was little to no collaboration.
Dr. Larry Coleman, DVM, works with operations in Nebraska that consistently top the national rankings for pigs/sow/litter and other parameters. When asked how he works with employees and has such a high level of engagement, he said, “There’s no silver bullet, but if there were one, it would be to practice the Golden Rule.” To him, it boiled down to treating others the way he wanted to be treated.
Dave Kerpen, author of Likeable Business, says being likeable helps leaders in their jobs, businesses, relationships and lives. He offers several concepts to become a better leader and says, “All of the concepts are simple, and yet, perhaps in the name of revenues or the bottom line, we often lose sight of the simple things – things that not only make us human, but can actually help us become more successful.”
Below are important qualities for you to incorporate into your leadership style:
- Listening: Listening is the foundation of any good relationship, says Kerpen. When you listen to employees, you validate their opinions, and it allows you to delve deeper into their ideas. Chip Bell, founder of the Chip Bell (consulting) Group, says, “Effective questioning brings insight, which fuels curiosity, which cultivates wisdom."
- Storytelling: In the book Influencer, author Kerry Patterson says, “Changing behavior requires changing minds.” And while most leaders try to change behaviors through verbal persuasion, Patterson believes “the great persuader is personal experience. He says, “With persistent problems, it’s best to give verbal persuasion a rest and try to help people experience the world as you experience it.” Doing this through stories can create moments that help your employees view the world in new ways.
- Authenticity: Vulnerability, humility and conscience are hallmarks of authentic leaders. Robert Greenleaf, author of the well-known book Servant Leadership, writes, “Conscience is the inward moral sense of what is right and what is wrong. That one quality is the difference between leadership that works and leadership that endures. There is a mass of evidence that shows this moral sense, this conscience, this inner light, is a universal phenomenon.”
- Transparency: Openness and honesty are absolute imperatives in business because there is nowhere to hide, and business people who attempt to keep secrets will eventually be exposed. In The Culture of Collaboration, author Evan Rosen believes that sharing information builds trust, breaks down barriers and encourages collaboration. Rosen quotes Tim Alexander, visual effect supervisor at Industrial Light & Magic: “As much information as you can give everybody that is true and the more you try not to have corporate secrets and try not to hide the reality of the situation, the better.”
- Team Playing: In The Culture of Collaboration, Rosen discusses Toyota’s principle-driven culture. He writes, “The Toyota Way consists of ingrained principles, which are the foundation of its culture. Among the principles is nemawashi, which means to prepare a tree’s roots for the soil. The metaphorical meaning is to make decisions slowly by consensus.”
- Responsiveness: “Leaders take the initiative in mobilizing people for participation in the processes of change, encouraging a sense of collective identity and collective efficacy, which in turn brings stronger feelings of self-worth and self-efficacy,” writes James McGregor Burns in his interesting book, Transforming Leadership. Responsiveness means being able to adapt to changing situations, too.
- Passion: Leadership with passion are able to transfer that energy and passion to their employees. Stephen Covey refers to these leaders as “abundance thinkers” in his book, Principle Centered Leadership. He writes, “Abundance thinkers drink deeply from sources of internal security – sources that keep them gentle, open, trusting, and genuinely happy for the successes of other people…that renew and recreate them…that nurture and nourish abundance feelings, enabling them to grow and develop and giving them comfort, insight, inspiration, guidance, protection, direction, and peace of mind.
- Simplicity: Kerpen explains that taking complex projects, challenges, and ideas, and distilling them to their simplest components allows staff members to better understand and buy into your vision. “We humans all crave simplicity,” Kerpen says. Use easy-to-understand language when talking to your staff, and ask questions to make sure they understand the concepts you’re trying to convey.
- Gratefulness: Effective leaders are grateful for the people who have contributed to their opportunities and successes. “Being appreciative and saying thank you to mentors, customers, colleagues and other stakeholders keeps leaders humble, appreciated, and well-received,” says Kerpen. While it takes extra time to draft a hand-written note, the benefits are worth it. A group that works with donors studied the value of a hand-written note and found donors were 38 percent more likely to give a second time if they’d received a hand-written thank-you note.
Your dedication to being an authentic leader will not go unnoticed. Begin implementing these practices and discover the value for yourself.