“Before you are a leader, success is all about growing yourself. When you become a leader, success is all about growing others.” –Jack Welch
As a millennial that has rapidly moved into a leadership role, I am here to tell you that there is nothing better than having a great leader pave your way, who believes in learning and development as the ultimate investment in employee success. Let’s be clear about leadership. Leadership isn’t following or saying “yes” to everything. Leadership isn’t doing the same thing over and over again and by no means does leadership mean avoiding conflict at all costs. Great leadership isn’t about YOU as the leader but the people you lead.
I recently sat down and thought about all of the best leaders I know. What are their strengths? What did they all have in common? Here are just a few of my observations:
- They were aligned with organizational goals.
There is nothing worse than being within an organization and not knowing the goals—the strategy execution. The great leaders in my past not only make their decisions with the organization’s goals in mind, but they convey them to those they lead. As a result, I felt like I could actually make a difference to the organization.
- They are champions of change, innovation and growth.
In this competitive world becoming complacent just won’t cut it. I feel that the best leaders embrace change and take calculated risks when necessary. They understand the need to innovate and grow to stay competitive. After all, the saying “evolve or die” rings true for a reason.
- They influence the business across organizational boundaries.
Silos? No way. The champion leaders in my past influenced the business beyond their department. They collaborated aggressively by sharing ideas, knowledge, best practices and tools. They make it a priority to know, connect and partner with other leaders—both internal and external. They also never miss an opportunity to help shape the organization’s future.
- They engage and thoroughly develop diverse talent.
Lee LaCocca said, “I hire people brighter than me, and I get out of their way.” I believe that great leaders seek out diverse talent that can come together to make a powerful team. And they never miss a beat when it comes to developing and retaining that talent. How? They inspire employees! They build teams that reflect diverse ages, backgrounds, skills, ideas and styles.
- They took action to become an effective, resilient and trusted leader.
I was most inspired by leaders that were lifelong learners. They committed to continual learning and sought opportunities for leadership skill development (and they even learned from their people). They were always working on self-improvement with the hope of becoming a better leader each and every day.
These five observations will also prepare future leaders and hi-potentials as they rapidly move up the ranks in leadership positions. Preparation is key. That, too, is an observation of a great leader!