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Characteristics of Leadership

"A true leader has the confidence to stand alone, the courage to make tough decisions, and the compassion to listen to the needs of others. He does not set out to be a leader, but becomes one by the equality of his actions and the integrity of his intent."

– Douglas MacArthur

Characteristics_of_leadership.jpgThere is a distinct difference between leadership and management. You may manage your inventory, budget, and equipment, but when it comes to remarkable leadership, it’s all about people. Many leaders say they would rather be respected rather than liked, but what if you can be both? What if people love working with you? You can’t legislate loyalty. People will only work harder if they’re inspired rather than required.


Rob Bell discusses these four key characteristics of leadership:

  1. Vision. Does everyone on the team know what makes us fantastic? What sets us apart? Everyone needs to be on the same page. The vision needs to be meaningful, understood by everyone, and it should define why we’re a great place to work.
  2. Passion. Passion brings power. You need fire to inspire and it must authentic, not fake.
  3. Be a great communicator. We need to let people know what’s going on and be able to learn from each other.
  4. Consistency. Do what you say you’ll do. Be consistent.

Where does leadership fall short?

The Center for Creative Leadership analyzed data from 2,339 managers in 24 organizations in 3 countries to understand the leadership gap. These are skills organizations need but their leaders don’t have. Six key gaps were identified:

  1. Inspiring commitment. Employees want to be recognized and rewarded for their achievements. Managers who publicly praise others for their performance will inspire commitment from their direct reports.
  2. Leading employees. Each employee is an individual and what motivates one is not what motivates another. Leaders who excel in directing and delegating to their employees effectively and fairly will broaden their opportunities, while hiring talented people for their teams.
  3. Strategic planning. This includes managers who are highly competent in setting realistic business strategies that support the vision of company and are able to convey long-term objectives and update plans to reflect changing circumstances.
  4. Change management. Skilled leaders aren’t thrown off course by change. They’re steadfast and view change in a positive light. They’re adaptable and able to guide their employees to be, as well.
  5. Employee development. Guidance, encouragement, coaching. A manager who takes the time and effort to develop their employees will gain loyalty and have a strong workforce.
  6. Self-awareness. Self-aware leaders recognize their personal limits and strengths. They learn from mistakes and look for ongoing feedback to improve themselves.

Deloitte’s Global Human Capital Trends 2015 report reveals that for a third year in a row, leadership has become one of the most challenging talent issues for corporations. Both global HR and business leaders (86 percent) report leadership at the top of their list of problems. What’s confusing is the increase of corporate spending on leadership training programs vs. the increasing capability gap of leaders.

What’s the problem?

Treating leadership sporadically and only for the few. Leadership should not be on again-off again. Viewing it sporadically and only offering development to only a few chosen employees denies long-term solutions. Furthermore, the leadership pipeline at all levels suffers. If you develop only your C-suite executives and deny the Millennials, corporations will continue to have a leadership gap. Corporations need to start thinking today about the leaders of tomorrow.

Lack of consistent investment. In tough economic times, one of the first programs to get the axe is training. Employees are the bloodline of each organization. Cuts should be made elsewhere. Companies need to budget every year for training instead of viewing it as a one-year, short-term expense. Research has shown that high-performing companies spend 1.5 to 2 times more on leadership than other companies spend with impressive results that are triple or quadruple the levels of their competitors.

Where Should Companies Start?

Commitment from the top. Leadership development and maintenance must be a priority of the CEO and top-level executives as a continuous investment.

Begin a conversation. What are your top business priorities? Once defined, look at the capabilities of leaders who will help you grow your business today and tomorrow. Discuss selection, assessment, development, and succession issues and solutions.

Leaders at all levels. While top leadership is important, it’s the first- and mid-level leaders who are the future strategic leaders of the organization. They’re the ones building client relationships every day, managing employees, looking at process improvement and ways to grow the company. Make it a priority and reward current leaders for developing successors and sharing their talent.

Today’s market is extremely competitive and constantly changing. Organizations must push forward and invest in today’s leadership to drive innovation, as well as motivate and inspire future leaders. They must recognize and execute growth strategies or they’ll lag behind the competition.

About Rob Bell

Rob-Bell-Photo.jpgRob began teaching his customer service and communication techniques early in his tenure as the Personnel Development and Education & Training Director for Dick’s Supermarkets, Inc. Drawing on 25+ years of experience in leadership roles, customer service, and training, Rob makes it simple, clear and FUN to improve customer service and gain leadership skills.

Before becoming Dick’s Supermarkets’ go-to-guy for training, Rob worked as the accounting manager for a large trucking company, an auditor, and an adjunct instructor at the University of Wisconsin – Platteville. Rob now tours the country teaching the principles that have helped hundreds of companies and organizations improve their communication strategies.


Topics: Human Resources