Being a good leader isn't easy. You have to guide and inspire at the same time, while managing to get the results you want. To help strike the right balance, Roxi Hewertson, president and CEO of the Highland Consulting Group, offers the following tips for leaders.
- Read/understand own emotions and recognize the impact on self and others — It all begins with the amount of emotional self-awareness you demonstrate, which others around you use as a cue. By developing an accurate view of, and aptly managing, your own emotional responses to situations — and the ways in which you impact others’ — the rest of your skills and talents will be duly magnified and leveraged.
- Know one's strengths and limits — The best leaders understand they can never know and do everything…and don't pretend that they do. Instead, they recognize what they are really good at and leverage those skills, spending time doing what they do best and continuing to learn in areas where they are not as accomplished.
- Know and have a good sense of one's self-worth and capability — There is a big divide between confidence and arrogance. Confidence comes from a strong sense of self-worth and self-awareness. Arrogance comes from fear in many cases and a sense of entitlement in others. The best leaders are very confident in what they know and can do from an objective view, rather than an assumed view.
- Think and act with optimism … seeing the upside — There are two kinds of attitudes in the world: those who think and act through the lens of abundance, and those who think and act through a lens of scarcity. Attitudes shift throughout our lives for many reasons, and great leaders know the message they are sending about whatever attitude is current. Great leaders go for solutions, new ideas and silver linings, even in the worst of times.
- See and seize opportunities for contributing to the greater good — Despite conventional thinking, great leaders have low ego needs because of their solid confidence and self-worth. By not wasting time and energy to shine up their image, this kind of leader frees up energy and time to create something greater than themselves, often building a legacy that contributes to something far more important than their personal agendas. Great leaders have an achievement orientation that is laser focused on the greater good.
On the other hand, Hewertson offers the following tips for leaders to avoid.
- Discount others' emotions and perspective — Failing leaders just don't pick up on or value other people's signals. Or, if they do, they don’t care, all demonstrating a fundamental lack of empathy. This emotional intelligence skill relates directly to social awareness. One cannot be a good leader without empathy, period.
- Miss key organizational clues, norms, decision networks and politics — These types of "leaders" are mostly clueless and leading in name only. They somehow landed a leadership title, most likely by accident, circumstance, timing or favoritism. They have very little emotional intelligence in terms of self-awareness and organizational awareness.
- Blame others for outcomes — Author Jim Collins is right in asserting that great leaders look "in the mirror" when things go wrong and "out the window" applauding others when things go right. In fact, when things go wrong, it is about the leader since that’s who is responsible for the culture and the success of their team. Holding people accountable for their performance is important; blaming them for mistakes or failures is a non-starter.
- Avoid dealing with and resolving conflicts — Failing leaders avoid dealing with conflicts, fail to provide constructive feedback, and duck key relationship issues. They often think, "If I ignore it, it will go away."' Sometimes it does, but rarely. More commonly the conflict grows exponentially until it's a toxic, smelly mess. No team can be functional without the ability to resolve their inevitable and necessary conflicts.
- Isolate self and/or team from others in the organization — These are the lone wolves who think they — or them and their team — can do the job better than everyone else. They believe they are in it alone, that no one understands them and that, if anyone interferes with them, it will dilute their agenda, work or image. Failing leaders divide and try to conquer.