There is a common misunderstanding that the leader of a company is the CEO, the president or at the least the “boss”. The truth is, each and every employee should feel that they are in a leadership position within their company!

Companies can dominate their markets if they have a high percentage of their employees behave as a leader would behave. For an employee to become a leader they must (at a minimum) be accountable and engaged. Accountable and engaged employees are always more productive and they have a tendency to stay employed longer. Here are some specific examples of employees acting as a leader:

Co-workers can be leaders by serving on committees, being a role model for behavior or serving as a mentor for new or younger employees

Salespeople can be leaders by helping their customers become more successful/achieve their goals

Marketing people can be leaders by unlocking a new vertical market, creating new products or establishing a new image for their company.

There are significant behavioral differences between being a boss and being a leader. A boss talks while a leader listens. A boss keeps control; a leader shares control. A boss gives directions, a leader asks questions. A boss fixes mistakes; a leader coaches. A boss judges afterward; a leader helps throughout. A boss takes credit; a leader gives credit. A boss fosters dependence; a leader demands independence. A boss punishes failure; a leader rewards efforts and risks. A boss reprimands in public; a leader praises in public. And lastly, a boss praises in private (if ever) while a leader guides in private.

With apologies to Steven Covey, here are the seven habits of highly ineffective leaders. They are:

  1. Unclear goals
  2. Poor communication skills
  3. Disharmony between corporate strategy and day-to-day activities
  4. Inflexible leadership
  5. Lack of professional development for the leadership team
  6. Lack of trust between employees and management
  7. Leadership integrity issues

A company has unclear goals when the executive team thinks it has clearly defined the “mission critical” goals but employees don’t have a clue of how doing their job helps the organization.

Poor communication skills include more than just speaking skills. They also include written skills, listening skills as well as body language. How you listen is almost as important as if you listen.

Winston Churchill said, “The price of greatness is responsibility.” If we apply this quote to management, it means that it is the leader’s responsibility to train and develop their people. He or she must identify the mission critical tasks of each job and then assess the readiness level of each employee to execute the tasks.

Our research shows that the following are characteristics of successful leaders:

  • They have a dedicated sense of commitment and enthusiasm.
  • They embrace responsibility.
  • They are persistently in pursuit of their team’s goals.
  • They are well organized.
  • They enjoy developing people.
  • They are patient and tolerant of mistakes.
  • They are resilient and flexible.
  • They are always seeking self-improvement.
  • They lead with a vision of where they want the team to go.
  • They focus on the team’s goals and monitor performance consistently.
  • They invest in the skill development of their employees

The behavior of the most successful leaders is always externally focused. Whether they are speaking with co-workers, employees, customers, prospects, stakeholders or shareholders, their focus is on what’s in it for their audience. They also adhere to the adage “inspect what you expect” and they realize that “hope” is not a strategy.

Former President, Dwight Eisenhower said, “Leadership is the art of getting someone to do what you want done because they want to do it.” Isn’t that what it’s all about? The secret to being a successful leader is to invest in human capital. Hire people better than you. Train them. Encourage them to succeed. Get out of their way and empower them to do the job they were hired to do. And publicly praise their accomplishments!

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