The rapid rate of change and innovation brought about by the digital age is putting many large corporations in peril as they realize they are in an “adapt-or-die” era.
But for a business to change, its leadership must be willing to change as well, and that doesn’t always happen. Old strategies and approaches are not sufficient any more. Unfortunately, we are stuck in the Dark Ages of management, in which we fall back on the old ways of leading people, rooted in the patterns, metrics and expectations of the past. We are in desperate need of a management revolution.
Put simply, a leader’s hesitation to learn and adapt to new realities kills any chance of spotting opportunities and being innovative.
We have memories of such giants as Kodak and Borders. Both used to be on the Fortune 500 list, but passed away because they were stuck in the old paradigm of thinking. A dogmatic way of thinking and acting won’t get anyone far in business.
Over the years I’ve learned numerous lessons about what separates extraordinary leaders from the ordinary. Here are just five of the traits true leaders possess:
1. They are involved with their teams.
Managers who just monitor from afar what employees are doing tend to think they are good leaders as long as everything seems to be going well.
This is wrong. Are you giving input to the team? Are you present when things are going well or only if things go poorly? The amount of effort and energy the leader puts into the work defines the actual role and status of the leader.
2. They are coach and receptive learner at the same time.
This is a good combination because, on the one hand, you help people to grow by sharing your expertise. On the other hand, not learning from other people is equal to ignoring them. In the best scenario, there will be experts on the team from whom the leader and everyone else can learn.
3. They understand leadership is not a dictatorship.
People in leadership positions possess power and influence, but they should use that power to serve people. If you do that, you’ll be paid back threefold with respect, support and loyalty. Make your leadership worth following. Be an example by working for others, rather than acting like you’re king of the mountain in a kids’ game.
4. They over-deliver on promises.
When true leaders pledge to do something, they are able to calculate the risk and understand the effort needed to achieve what they have said they will do. Real leaders know they will be judged against actual deeds and fulfilled promises. Unfulfilled promises work against them and people who counted on them will leave. Promising too much is for incompetent leaders.
5. They know that winners breed winners.
It’s a leader’s duty to help people feel like winners even in small achievements, and to convince them of their ability to succeed despite past failure. People trained to win will win. People trained to fail will fail.
The modern leader needs to combine meticulous planning with flexibility. The wrong decisions and actions can lead to the whole organization losing sight of customer needs as well as quality, harming the long-term sustainability of the organization.
Making the right decision means thinking of more than the company. It means considering the values and needs of customers and employees as well.