“Anyone can hold the helm when the sea is calm.” – Publilius Syrus
A November U.S. Gallup poll reports that workers remain largely unsatisfied at their jobs. The poll had participants rank 13 factors such as work safety, flexibility of hours, chances of promotion and pay. Workers biggest complaints were on-the-job stress, insufficient benefits and low wages. Meanwhile, workers were happiest with flexible hours, co-worker relationship and safe work environments.
Considering the changing and difficult job market, the numbers aren’t surprising. In a grand example of the breakdown between management and workers, Hostess Brands recently declared bankruptcy after failed negotiations with its striking workers. The incident incited a host of postmortem commentaries placing blame on poor management or unreasonable unions. If the Twinkie can’t make it in this economy – who can?
One thing is certain, leadership in the workplace has never been more important. Leaders are the only people who can guide businesses through these tough times. Workers need leaders, not managers, who can communicate the shared mission of the company, and inspire loyalty and a collective spirit to innovate and perform in difficult times.
So what makes a great leader? Theodore Roosevelt said, “The best executive is the one who has sense enough to pick good men to do what he wants done, and self-restraint enough to keep from meddling with them while they do it.” Bill Gates said, “As we look ahead into the next century, leaders will be those who empower others.” In my book “The New Leader” I describe innovative leaders as those who span a narrow gap between two key areas: passion for action and passion for people.
U.S. President Abraham Lincoln is revered for his leadership during one of the toughest times in our country’s history. Guiding our country through civil war, he led with conviction, compassion and humility. He cared equally about his country, the cause and the people. As a result, people all over the world believed in Lincoln and his cause, and he was able to reunite a country bitterly divided.
If leaders are made and not born, which they are, we can all learn and strive to be better leaders. Here are nine traits that innovative leaders share.
- Mission. The greatest leaders have a defining mission. This can be called a purpose, an obsession or a calling. This passionate focus is what separates managers from leaders, and rallies support.
- Vision. Great leaders have a clear picture of what they hope to accomplish, what they want their company to do, to be, to provide.
- Trust. Great leaders trust the people under them. They gather and develop the talent in their organization, and are able to delegate tasks, and not micromanage.
- Cool under fire. Great leaders take a position and defend it. They are graceful under fire, and inspire respect.
- Risk Takers. Great leaders are not afraid to try new things and take risks. They are not afraid to push boundaries to remain or be competitive, even if it means making mistakes.
- Experts. Good leaders are experts on their company’s products and services. They know its strengths, its weaknesses, its allies, its enemies, its history and its evolution.
- Big Picture. Great leaders have a remarkable ability to zero in on what is important. They can simplify complex problems elegantly without taking the easy way out.
- Listeners. The greatest leaders listen. They listen to people’s ideas, concerns and problems, and are able to glean the best solutions or practices, change course based on circumstances, head off problems, and seize opportunities.
- Mentors. True leaders are always looking to the next generation of leadership – preparing those they are leading to be leaders themselves.