What Does a Great Leader Look Like? Here’s a Checklist

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Apr 26, 2018

In the current economy, leaders and executives often forget that their leadership objective is not only to manage the company processes, or to supervise the production of widgets. Their role is  made important by the charge to lead people. As executives tasked with running a company, that is a fundamental and critical component of business you cannot push off or delegate, and expect that someone else has it covered.

Too many executives consider talent management a human resources (HR) function and as such, best left to the leaders in HR because it is part of their duties to support the company in that effort. The truth is that for talent management to be pervasive and effective in an organization, the primary responsibility should be placed in the hands of the direct managers of employees. Most companies don’t formally expect this of their managers and executives so it’s not surprising they don’t, and don’t know how to do it. This is a void that not surprisingly becomes filled with mistakes and problems and issues that could have been prevented or certainly mitigated.

Let’s apply the widely used 70-20-10 model to this discussion. If you are a leader, your work breakdown should match the development percentage mix. You should be spending 70% of your time developing your people by giving them challenging assignments, spending 20% of your time on coaching and mentoring them around both tasks and behaviors, and spending 10% of your time ensuring that they received the needed training to be effective in their job, or growing their knowledge through learning and development.

In reality, in many organizations it’s the other way around. I have observed this closely.

Allow me to share what I have seen as a career coach, and management consultant to Fortune 100 companies as the tips for leadership success in the gig economy

1. Coach and mentor to cultural fit, not to job function — Developing and sustaining a positive and productive culture requires that people “fit.” It’s not just about talent or experience alone; you must make sure that the person you hire can align with the culture.

2. Make being informal, normal — Never disregard the importance of the “informal” aspects of your company. If you focus only on the “formal” you are not paying attention the thing that may be the most important driver of culture in your organization.

3. Lead from the frontAlways be accountable for what you do as a leader. Often leadership failures hit those that work for you and for your company much harder than the leaders. Leaders need to share the pain; so approach decisions feeling you have “skin in the game.” This is one of the cornerstones of establishing and sustaining an authentic culture.

4. Show up the same way every day — Who you show yourself to be starts on Day One. Give all employees (even interns, temps and new hires) the type of experience you would appreciate if you were in their shoes. That goes a long way to establishing how you are perceived as a leader and an organization.

5. Lead by good examples — Be the right type of leader for your people and your organization. Kingmakers and poachers each have shortcomings that have a long-term negative impact on what you accomplish as a leader.

6. Be agile, not fragile — You have to be flexible and willing to learn in order to be an effective leader. If you are intolerant — brittle with those you lead and can’t see your way to make the right decisions because you’re unwilling to learn and adapt — then your leadership will fracture.

7. Be genuine always — If you approach leadership genuinely without personal artifice and never convey an “I’m better than them” mentality then you can draw the best people to work for you. If you lead they will follow. How you lead them is what you leave behind as your legacy.

8. Accept change as frequent visitor — Change is constant. In dealing with change you may make mistakes. These are often caused by internal politics, generational differences and miscommunication.

9. Conduct stay interviews often — Understand why people want to stay with your company rather than fixate on why some choose to go. Leaders and organizations are better served if they try to find out what makes people enjoy working for them or for the company.

10. Seek clarity over assumption — You also have to be rational and rationality only comes with clarity as to who you are as a person and organization. Weigh things and see how they balance out. Don’t presuppose a decision. Apply calm thought to all aspects and that will help to not make a quick, and probably flawed, decision.

11. Manage the process, by leading the people —– It’s the people. Without them what is a leader? What is an organization? It’s a fact that leaders are faced with many challenges that previous generations never had to face: expanding global competition, a surge in loss of intellectual resources with the wave of coming retirements and a workforce with different generational values.

12. View your team members as people first — The flip side of action is engagement with the people you lead that support the action. There has to be engagement and meaningful interaction across all levels — the right balance of both leads to a more effective team and organization, which will reflect, on the performance of the leaders.

Talent management needs to be seen as every leader’s responsibility and they need to be equipped with how to manage that talent. They need to know (or be shown) what that effort looks like in the context of their organization remembering that each organization is unique. Business leaders of all levels have a right to be worried, but in that concern, should be an endless optimism that we can conquer this challenge and that we can rise together and embrace a new future and the gig economy paradigm.

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