True leadership helps people and companies get where they want to go. Good leaders contribute to the success of a business because they are able to shift individuals and groups into a desirable direction. In addition they are able to integrate social, environmental and situational considerations into their business decisions to propel themselves and those situations forward. Even though few people are born natural leaders, everyone can learn how to incorporate leadership into his or her own management style.
Good leaders generally have five key attributes:
- Systemic thinking
- Recognizing diversity
- Natural ability to balance perspectives
- Developing meaningful dialogues
- Emotional awareness
Each of these five attributes is supported by a specific set of skills.
- Organizational skills
- Tactical skills
- Acute awareness of surroundings and situations (street smarts)
- Observation skills
- Communication skills
Balance of perspective
- Observation skills
- Prioritization skills
Ability to develop meaningful dialogues
- Listening skills
- Communication skills
- Observation skills
- Communications skills
Note that both observation and communication skills are present in more than one of the key attributes. This is because they are the backbone to good leadership. Leadership is about people. In order to lead you must communicate what has been observed. Lack one of these skills will result in faulty leadership, confusion and a divergent path from the set goal.
Observations help you recognize where someone is coming from. Good observation skills mean that small details are detected. Differences like how people dress, speak, their use of mannerisms and what body language they are using should be noticed. These types of observations assist us in our perception of how to communicate with an individual or a group. Should you use direct or indirect communication? Should the communication be formal or informal? What kind of personal space is needed during communication? These small modifications enhance your ability to excel as a leader or a manager.
Good leaders and managers help bring people together because they recognize diversity and know how to utilize it. Good leaders and managers identify polar affects and bridge the gap between them. They lead, they do not just manage.
In the story of Alice in Wonderland, was anyone a good leader? What about the cat? He probably was not as good as he could have been because he did not lead Alice; he accompanied her. The cat may have tried to direct Alice, but his direction was confusing and unclear.
“Would you tell me, please, which way I ought to go from here?” “That depends a good deal on where you want to get to,” said the Cat. “I don’t much care where…” said Alice. “Then it doesn’t matter which way you go,” said the Cat. “So long as I get SOMEWHERE,” Alice added as an explanation. “Ohm, you’re sure to do that,” said the Cat, “if you only walk long enough.” (Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, Chapter 6)
Alice probably felt somewhat frustrated. She was looking for direction, but received only riddles. Many of us have experienced this type of situation from our managers and some of our employees may be familiar with similar situations– ones we created ourselves. A lack of strong leadership may result in frustration, but if we take the time to observe and communicate clearly we will become better leaders and managers. It is important for us to remember that clear communication and observation are critical to understanding a situation and the people within that situation in order to promote a resolution. Situations are easy to observe, but examining the people in the situation is often much more difficult.
New managers and those who want to be exceptional leaders need to understand people first. Recognizing each individual’s motivation, experience and skills help us to realize what people are made of. I recommend that people to use what I call the people pyramid. Utilizing the people pyramid brings you one step closer to being an effective manager or leader.
The people pyramid is made up of the basic building blocks that help form an individual’s perspective. Consideration of who you are working with and how you deal with them as well as a clear understanding of the people pyramid will help you add leadership awareness to your management style.
The People Pyramid
The people pyramid is a set of 7 key building blocks that – when combined with our experiences and skills – help form our perspectives. Understanding that each individual has their own pyramid, determining how to balance the influence of those key areas within a team, and how to managing the combination of skills to enhance the greatest effect of a team or an individual is leadership.
The 7 aspects of the People Pyramid are: gender, nationality, religion, family values, education, political and economic backgrounds.
The people pyramid begins with Gender. To quote the famous author Allen Pease “Why men do not listen and women can not read maps?” Gender differences between men and women include:
Critical management issues to deal with Gender are:
- Understand the difference between how women and men use power
- Understand the difference in stress reactions
- Understand time management differences
In today’s multinational and cross cultural workforce, nationality is a critical issue to understand. Different nationalities have different views on many issues such as punctuality, humor and eye contact. For example in Germany punctuality is critical, where as in Italy it is less important. Eye contact in different cultures can either reflect trust or hostility. Communication is also critical; dialogue may be used in a variety depending upon the country.
In order to manage group interactions, critical management issues that need to be reviewed when dealing with nationality are:
- Understand dialogue control
- Ensuring communication protocols are set to limit misunderstandings
- Manage management and employee interactions
Although religion is not recognized in the business world, its effects may be seen through people and by actions. Examples of religious difference can be seed through the observance of religious oriented dress codes, work pauses, holidays or even the use of language.
Critical management issues that help to address religion in a team are:
- Clear business ethics that are not mixed with personal ethics
- A clear understanding of Human Resource issues
- Development of periodical reviews to measure the team’s tolerance.
Family values play a role in how people view the workplace or other coworkers. Single people may have a different view than empty nesters or those with young families. The critical management issues to be aware of when dealing with family values are:
- Developing a flexible work environment in order to accommodate all different family values
- Caution to avoid mixing family values with gender issues (for example: parental (formally maternity) leave issues are not female issues but family issues)
- Respecting each individual’s work-life balance.
Education is a part that is often taken for granted, especially if we ourselves have a strong educational background. Not everyone in the workplace has had the same educational opportunities and some may lack any educational experience. Some people start a successful business in their cellar or kitchen without any education. To understand the educational balance in the team means you must:
- Evaluate the individual first and then his or her background
- Build Human Resource development plans to help bridge gaps
- Engage in the evaluation of potential as well as an employee’s skills
Politics are in every work place because people have adopted these concepts as part of their belief system. As part of the people pyramid, the critical issues of politics that need to be undertaken are:
- Ensure politics do not get embed in company governances
- Monitor to what extent they are prevalent in the workplace
- Understand the relationship between politics and management style (those with liberal views may manage more liberally for example)
Economical background plays a role in each of our personal experiences. Everyone comes from somewhere, and each area has its own as well as shared economic issues. As a part of bringing good leadership to your team, it is critical you do not:
- Assume a connection because of economic background and / or work ethic
- Do not assume someone’s work intelligence is relate to their economic background
- Ensure development plans are equally produced
As a good leader, utilizing the people pyramid will allow you to be able to observe each member of you team and understand exactly what aspects of that pyramid they bring to the game. Observing the different experiences and skills surrounding their individual pyramid will enable you to effectively communicate with them, the team as well as communication between individuals.
Good observation and communication will bring good leadership skills into your management style, even if you are not a born leader. Just remember the people pyramid, and respect each individual for what they bring to the group.