Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Developing Your Future Leaders Part 5... Traits that describe Leadership

Traits that describe Leadership

So… where were we?  Oh yeah… you have this team, some of whom you might have been able to hire, and the rest you inherited.   You are just starting to meet with them to get to know them and build relationships.  You can count on this process taking some time, as it always takes time for people to get to know us, and trust us enough to start to open up to us.  Once they do open up to us, we can find out who they are, what they care about, and what their goals are.  We can ask them many of the same questions we would ask if we were interviewing them, and find out how they see themselves, as well as how they see the world and how they fit into that world.

In the mean time, we need to start looking for Leadership qualities.  Like we talked about here, we are going to start splitting up responsibilities, and giving them to the team members we think have Leadership qualities that need to be developed.  In order to be able to choose the right people, we need to look at what they are doing, how they are acting, and decide which ones have Leadership waiting to get out.  We started this in the last post here, and we’ll continue it here.

So, I think the easiest way to move forward with this will be to list the qualities (for our purpose here we’ll use John C. Maxwell’s list from The 21 Indispensable Qualities of a Leader ), and then list actions that describe that quality.  Last time we talked about self-responsible, so we might skip that one.  He lists them in alphabetical order, so here we go…

Character:  defined as the way we think, feel, and behave… our personality, or the mental and moral qualities of an individual.
It’s who we are on the inside, and how we act when no one is looking.  So, for actions, how we act from minute to minute is a good starting place.  Most of us can do almost anything for a short period of time.  We can all ‘be on our best behavior’ like when we were kids and we were going to church, or someone important was coming over.  And we can only do that for so long… then we revert to who we really are. 

So we are looking for the workers who are consistent.  The ones who always give their best effort.  Even if their best isn’t the best of everyone you have, if it is their best, and they consistently give their best, I’ll take them.  I’ll take them over the people who can do better, and who only chose to give their best when it suits them.   Character is concerned with why we do what we do, and so the person who always gives their best does it because it’s important to them.  The person who can do better, and who only give us this level of work when it’s important to them has some other motivation… they are not motivated by doing their best, or what’s best for the team.  We cannot make anyone give their best… it’s a choice that each of us must make for ourselves.  Look for consistency, and a desire to do good work for it’s own sake.  I do not believe that character can be taught… I do think that each person is able to change his or her character, and in my experience this only comes after some very trying time, or some very negative consequence. 

Charisma:  defined as charm or compelling attractiveness, that can inspire devotion in others, or a spiritual power or personal quality that gives individuals influence or authority over others.  Charisma can be hard to describe in terms of actions, and I believe that we can find it in our team members.  Charisma shows itself as expressing our feelings spontaneously and genuinely, which can allow Charismatic people to affect the moods and emotions of others.  They also show empathy, reading the emotional states of others, and connecting to them through those feelings.  They are able to make others feel as if they are the only people in the room!

Charismatic people are emotionally intelligent, and in social situations they are expressive, sensitive, and are able to carry themselves with poise and grace.
On our teams, these people will show themselves as the natural Leaders in most situations.  Other team members will look to these people for guidance when the team gets together.  Other team members will refer to ‘charismatic’ ones as the heart, or soul of the team.

Communication:  defined as the ability to convey information effectively and efficiently.  And, we all know that someone skilled in communication does much more than that.  Good interpersonal communication involves appropriate eye contact, reading body language, and using tone of voice, as well as hand gestures to convey not only the simple message, but also the emotional tone of the message.

People who have this quality will often take the opportunity to say something like “what I think Joan is trying to say is…” and then they will put the thoughts and emotional message that Joan was unable to convey into easily understood words and gestures.  I know you have one of these people on your team.  These are the people I always wish I had whispering in my ear when I am trying to ‘lead up’.  Almost without exception, I leave that conversation saying to myself “oh… I should have said this, or that…”.  These are the people you want by your side when attempting to change the culture of your team in a whole team meeting!

Commitment:  defined as working very hard towards, or being dedicated to, a pledge, promise, or obligation.   In the real world, we see commitment in those team members who work harder to be sure to get the job done on time; who ask to stay late to finish a task; who jump in to help others for the benefit of the whole team; and who are can be counted on to be there when needed.

These are the people who will stand up to their coworkers, perhaps able to rally others to get the job done.  These are your team members who are not easily discouraged, who will stay late, come in early, learn from their mistakes, and can work as a team player when needed.  You can probably think of at least one or two of your team members who fit this description. 

Competence:  defined as well qualified; able to do things quickly and efficiently; effective in a job.   In real life, competence is much more than qualifications.  Often we look at the way a team member sees his or her work.  How they see the job; what the work means to them; and how they feel about the desired results will better define someone who shows competence.  We are looking for workers who try to figure things out on their own before asking for help.  These people at least attempt to solve their own problems, and at the same time know when to ask for help.  These people are able to remember instructions (I think because they care about the job), lists of things to be done, and things to check.  They do not have to be told over and over.  They can also take lessons learned on one task and use those lessons when working on another task.

You are looking for team members who take their work seriously, and do more than shrug off mistakes.  They care about their job, and the quality of their work.  They are generally confident in themselves and their abilities, AND they have an accurate picture of their abilities… they are not overconfident, nor do they boast.  They are adaptable, and you will see this when plans change, or problems come up.  They are able to move forward and keep working towards the goal. 

Courage:  defined as the ability to do something that is dangerous or difficult, able to face danger.  In our workplace, we look for team members who are willing to ask questions… yes… this takes courage.  We want team members who will correct other team members when they don’t follow rules, are in some way endangering others, or just not working towards the team goals. 

Giving trust is a courageous thing to do, so we look for team members who are trusting of others.  It also takes courage to listen to feedback from others, and hear it without defensiveness.  Do you have any team members like this?  The ability to give honest feedback, to say what needs to be said takes courage.  And it takes courage to give credit, instead of taking it for oneself.

Discernment:   defined as the ability to see things clearly and intelligently, the ability to decide between truth and error, or right and wrong, judgment.  How do we see this in our team members?  Discernment begins with knowing our capabilities and ourselves.  Then, we can judge what we can do well alone, and when we need to ask for help.  You are looking for team members who ask for help when it’s appropriate; and not when they just don’t want to work alone, or don’t want to figure it out for themselves. 

Team members who show discernment will be the ones making good judgment calls.  They will be able to prioritize, and know that ‘first things first’ is best.  You will think these people are good at reading between the lines to figure out what is really going on.

OK… three pages are enough for today.   We’ll pick this up tomorrow.

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