The secret recipe of leadership

Good morning, Highlanders! Here’s another edition of Career Thursdays. This article is about leadership, which is fitting since the UCR Alumni Association is hosting an event called Learn from Leaders next Wednesday, October 26 at the Craft Brew Alliance in Playa Del Rey. There’s going to be food and beer while you listen to four UCR alumni speak about how they rose to the top of their respective organizations. Register TODAY at alumni.ucr.edu/laleaders. The article below was originally written by Akash Chander on October 19, on LinkedIn. 

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In our experience, the secret to a building an effective and abundant leadership inventory in an organization is assessment based coaching and leadership development. There are no two ways about it. Leadership may partly be inherent but a more powerful and empowering thought is that it is learned. *When you have a good manager, who is also a leader or mentor, this empowerment will happen automatically. You feel that support system growing you as an individual and professional with this person standing beside you and rooting for you.

Humans have a great capacity to learn new skills. We learn to walk, talk and behave in a way that works for us. Leadership skills too can be developed. In fact, from an organization perspective, it’s best to start early. Many companies overlook the need to invest in emerging leaders for success.

The recipe for abundant leadership inventory lies in starting early. And if it is so, why is it so often neglected?

Resting the case on “Leaders are born” is in fact the top reason why organizations do not invest in their people. And since that’s the common paradigm, everyone starts looking to hire those “ready-made” leaders. And the result is an obvious shortage of leadership talent. While I agree some leaders have an inborn aptitude for driving results while taking care of their people, building relationships while driving the bottom line of the business, the truth is that like any other skill, these competencies can be learned, and refined.

Here are those few vital things that make great leaders. If you can be effectively inculcate these, then you have a fair chance of being successful at workplace.

1. Be a friend

We’ve all experienced a diverse set of supervisors. Some people are so much fun to work with – but not always. They can sometimes be quite fastidious in their ways. But the overall experience is engaging. They create the right environment to work in. Personal and friendly, challenging and competitive, stimulating and structured – a mix of everything together.

As a friend, you can support, guide and compel people to work hard without being obnoxious in your ways. You can quickly transform into a cheerleader in good times and a shoulder to cry on in bad times. You can give constructive feedback like a friend. And most importantly, you genuinely care and take ownership of your team’s success and career. *This can be a hard line to balance, being a hard and strict manager versus being a friend to your employees. You absolutely need to be the most authentic and genuine person when you are in a leadership position and come at hardships in a good neutral way. 

Remember that people are inherently good. If you treat them as your friend, then you’ll have them on your side. *This also builds trust and rapport. A good working relationship with your employees will always have these two qualities and if they don’t, the working environment probably won’t be as successful as it could be with a great working relationship. It’s always better when you get along with your colleagues and supervisors on a personal and professional level. If you isolate yourself, people will notice and wonder why. Go to lunch with people, maybe hang out on the weekends with lateral colleagues to do a fun activity together. This will enhance team building and relationships with everyone. 

2. Feedback all the time.

You must learn to close the loop every time. Transactions tend to become open ended in a fast moving environment. People shift from one project to another like flipping their hand. Learning is lost and everyone gets into the endless loop of making the same mistakes over and over again. In the absence of feedback that is quick, in time and objective, most of us create and believe in stories that suite our own game. *Be specific when giving feedback so the employee understands what they can do to improve the next time. Taking small setbacks as learning opportunities and addressing them right away will help for future issues that might come up within the organization. 

It is your responsibility as a leader to let people know when they’re doing their jobs well. Sharing the good news and not just the bad news on a consistent basis. Inspiring people is not just about encouraging people. It is also about letting them know when people are not doing well. *It’s safe to say that everyone likes to be recognized for the good work that they do within any organization and when you are the leader who praises their team for successes, you will be well respected and gain more trust than if you simply focus on the negatives all the time. People like to be around positive people and providing this praise is a good way to start. 

3. Make time for people

Leadership is more about aligning people than just creating a vision. As a leader, you could either be engaged, making time for those who make you successful, or be hiding in your lofty tower. Taking interest in your people, spending time on their development and everyday dilemmas is important. By structuring messages, engaging people in two-way dialogues, creating multiple platforms for conversations is important. Make rituals that make conversations happen – one to one meetings, skip level meetings, informal or casual conversations, fun filled conversations – all bring value and sense of belongingness. *Be a human. Try to get to know your employees and make time for them, whether through formal meetings or just casual “catch-up” meetings so everyone is on the same page. If some folks don’t want to open up about what they do outside of work, that’s okay. Colleague lunches is a good way for bonding especially when you make a rule not to talk about work during that time.  

4. Lead by example

Your team members emulate what you do and not necessarily what you say. Clichéd as it may be, leading by example is certainly important. Ensure that the personal examples you set bring a sense of stability and persistence in the people. Do you have a well-balanced life? Do you talk about your family time just like you talk about your business vision? Seeing you as a normal human is just as important as seeing you as a business leader. *Be as open with your employees and colleagues as you would like to be. You don’t have to open up about every aspect of your life just what you’re comfortable with. Everyone has a different comfort zone, just be mindful when you’re talking to people and how loudly you’re talking in an open office environment.

5. Invest in yourself

In continuation of the above point, leaders must invest in themselves not just to enhance their own skills but also to set an example for the teams members. It requires proactive planning and financial investment to develop oneself. Seeing the leader as someone committed to learning motivates team members to do the same. They start seeing “development” as an imperative aspect of professional life. *When you, as a leader, are doing things to strengthen your professional development, you will be inspiring your team to do the same. Whether you’re attending conferences and coming back to work with great ideas that you are ready to implement or if you’re reading a book that is good for personal and professional development that you’re starting to use those strategies at work, you will be setting a good example for your team to do the same. We must never stop learning. Learning personally and professionally strengthens us and increases our value to our employees and to our employer. 

What would you add to this list of ‘traits that make a leader great’?

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