We’ve been exposed to different types of leadership our entire lives. Our prime ministers, school principles, teachers, coaches, bosses, creative directors and parents all inform our idea of what it means to be a leader. These people play a crucial role in our personal development, our motivation to give our best and our perception of how should lead in the future.
Effective leaders have much deeper motivations besides the esteem, titles and pay packets that come with positions of influence. As best-selling author Mark Miller said: If your heart is not right, no one cares about your leadership skills.
Here are three human-focused qualities that deserve greater emphasis on the leadership qualities checklist because they equally serve the Indians as much as they do the Chiefs.
1. Ability to inspire personal growth
Leaders inspire people to do more than they ever thought they could. A leader gets people to do what they wouldn’t normally do, with the goal of increasing the quality of their lives and their sense of what is possible.
Life coach and self-help author Tony Robbins expressed that leaders recognize the greatness of those that they lead and help them to discover and embody that greatness for themselves. It is not through attentive mentorship or supervision that this happens, but rather as a side effect of being around them. How many bosses, teachers and co-workers have had this effect on you? How many of them were able to help you realize your capabilities and importance just by working with them?
My very first design industry boss, Pip Jamieson, co-founder of The Loop and founder of The Dots UK, was a woman who demonstrated this ability to inspire personal growth through acknowledging other people’s greatness. She was my boss at my very first internship. I was unsure of everything I did. I needed someone to help me recognize my own capabilities.
Pip provided this recognition for anyone who crossed her path. She spoke highly of the people she worked with and connected with. She saw their talent and would openly acknowledge it to others. She did this for members of her development team, her designers, her business partner and creative business owners in her customer-base.
Pip would take me to meetings and networking events and tell people that I was her right-hand woman, not just her intern. She would lend me books that helped me reframe my understanding of my own potential such as “It’s Not How Good You Are, It’s How Good You Want to Be”. She would push me to complete tasks that were outside my comfort zone like cold-calling businesses for our contacts database, and praise me afterwards for testing myself.
This interest that she showed in my personal development motivated me to want to give my best at The Loop and consequently sparked the intrinsic motivation to make myself a better person and employee.
You need to understand that you are no different from the people you lead. You have the same value in the organization; you just have a different assignment.
In his TED Talk Leadership Without Ego, renowned entrepreneur Bob Davids tells the story of how he earned the respect of his employees by working alongside those in the trenches. During the construction of one of the Chinese offices where he served as CEO, Davids noticed that the way the builders were laying the pipes was logistically unsound. He attempted to communicate this to the construction team but his instructions were lost in translation. He decided to jump into the dirt and show them how to fix the problem. His employees saw him doing this and word spread throughout the entire company. He won the respect of his staff by demonstrating that he was humble enough to do whatever role was required in order to put the company in the best stead.
Presenting leadership as a list of carefully defined qualities (like strategic, analytical, and performance-oriented) no longer holds. Instead, true leadership stems from individuality that is honestly and sometimes imperfectly expressed…. Leaders should strive for authenticity over perfection.
-Sheryl Sandberg, Chief Operating Officer, Facebook
I don’t believe that there is a version of our self that we bring to work and another for the weekend. No matter how high up our leaders are, they are still individual and human. They make mistakes, they get emotional, they have weaknesses and they have interests outside of work. When they don’t hide these things they can create greater rapport and trust with employees and clients alike.
My older brother, co-founder and technical director at Leafcutter Creative Digital is a great example of an authentic leader. I noticed that he always began client meetings by talking about their personal interests whether it was sport, family or world events. This small gesture was great for building trust and a connection that went beyond mere business.
He has two dogs that he is fanatical about. They’re like his children. This personal passion lead he and his team to approach RSPCA NSW to do a complete overhaul of their digital strategy and website design. I had never seen him so proud to win an account before. His personal passion motivated him to create work that was true to his own values and mutually beneficial for both parties.
What traits do you expect from your leaders? Do you possess these traits yourself?
During the course of writing this article I’ve listed all of the leaders who have been a positive influence on my personal development, every one from my Enrichment teacher in primary school to my user experience design teacher from General Assembly. I’ve had 24 standout leadership influences in my life during my 25 years into this lifetime. I’m very grateful.
Try this exercise for yourself. It may help you become more aware of the type of person that you want to be lead by or even become.
Image: One of my leadership icons Sheryl Sandberg–Chief Operating Officer at Facebook, Author of Lean In