6 Key Behaviors for Leaders
A famous golfer once said, “The more I practice, the luckier I get.” The words "professional golfer" on your bag do not make you a great golfer; it's the practice and dedication that impact your skill level. In the same vein, the title Team Leader, Manager, or VP on your business card does not make you a great leader. Leadership is a learned skill that needs constant refinement and adjustment based on real experience over time.
Leadership is an art and a skill that's learned, but few colleges today adequately prepare students to emerge as strong leaders with successful leadership behaviors. Business schools may provide the tools and techniques of leadership, but business graduates are often ill prepared for what being a leader means in day-to-day practicalities.
This is the beginning of a new KaiNexus Blog Series detailing 6 key leadership behaviors that, when properly executed, will create and sustain a thriving culture of continuous improvement:
- Lead with honesty, integrity, and respect
An important trait that all great leaders have is respect. They understand that respect is earned, and that they must treat people on their team with the same respect that they themselves expect. Leaders must recognize that each member of the team brings something of value to the table, and find a way of releasing the talent and innovation in the team through honest personal behavior and open communication.
- Listen more and speak less
A misconception that those new to leadership roles often have is that they think they need to have all the answers to every problem or challenge. Nothing could be further from the truth. Great leaders actively solicit opinions, listen, and leverage the knowledge of the entire team in order to make their final decisions, and when making that final decision, ensure that the reasons for choosing one path over the others is explained in detail to the team. That increased understanding helps employees to understand and respect the decision, because they know that it was made with their thoughts considered in the process.
- Sometimes you win and sometimes you lose
Many believe that true leadership talent emerges when you are losing, not when you are winning. Your team will sometimes make wrong decisions, and as the leader, you will sometimes be perceived to fail. It is during those times that true leadership is needed. Rather than trying to find a scapegoat for a loss or a failure, great leaders accept that the responsibility falls on their shoulders. Lift the team up, ready them for the next challenge, and thank them all for giving their best. Prepare well, practice hard, and the next victory will be earned as a team.
- Consistent behavior is key
We all have our ups and downs; some days are better than others. In spite of this, leaders must be consistent in words and actions. Sometimes it will be tough, but that is what true leadership is about - the ability to overcome adversity and drive forward.
- Always look to Improve
Every professional athlete in the world looks to improve his or her performance and strive for excellence. The same should be true of business leaders. Just as athletes look for outside opinion from their coaches, so too should leaders look for input on their performance from those around them.
A leader should look to their chain of command and constantly ask their leaders how they can improve. The leader should also solicit direct feedback from the team they lead in order to find opportunities for improvement in different angles.
Improvement can also be team focused, looking for ways in which the team can improve as an operating unit, or how processes that the team applies in the execution of their work can be improved.
- Recognize and reward
Team members react more positively to the recognition of their contribution to a team than to any other type of recognition and reward. This is partly why Lean was so successfully applied in Japan. Japanese workers recognize and respect their role as part of a team more so than their Western counterparts. However, this is beginning to change and team building and team events to help with team building are becoming more commonplace in the West.
I believe that these leadership behaviors will be rewarded by hard work from the team, as they collectively strive to achieve a common shared goal. Upon attainment of the goal, it is important to celebrate and recognize those on the team who have excelled. By applying all of these basic principles, leaders will lead their cultures of continuous improvement well.
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