In my experience, there are four things that people in the workplace – including myself – want from their leaders and managers. Inspiring leaders and good managers all have these four qualities and market-leading organisations actively seek them when recruiting or promoting.
You cannot be a good leader or manager if you cannot win the trust of your people and sustain it over time. Trust binds commitment and promotes action. Without it, you cannot win. From the employee’s point of view, if they cannot see signs of your competence then you are not going to gain their confidence. Openness is another aspect of trust and good leaders and managers encourage openness and manage dissent. You will know when you have got it right when you do not have to reprimand staff who transgress; it will be enough that they know that you know.
Oddly enough this is linked with trustworthiness. Working as a project and programme manager I have often been told that I am “positive” or “optimistic”. It is always good to hear because there is not a big market for negative and pessimistic project and programme managers; we need to be purveyors of hope. Optimism can be pervasive and powerful. However, it has to be built on trust and not on delusions; it cannot be an act. If you get hung up on your mistakes, problems, wrong turns or mishaps (we all make them) and do not treat them as opportunities to learn and change, do not become a leader or manager! Optimism stems from a clear vision of the future, a commitment to get there and determination to bring everyone on their team along for the ride.
Purpose, direction and meaning
Which brings me to determination. I cannot over-emphasise the significance of determination to achieve a goal, together with the conviction, passion and unique point of view that will establish the energy and direction of the leader and manager. If you are a leader then you are helping to define the purpose of the job. Without the sense of alignment behind the purpose there can be no direction. How do you know which way to face? It must also be a purpose that energizes and engages people, that has meaning and resonance. That is why it is easier to do for leading a project than for managing Business As Usual (BAU). However, it belongs to everyone in the organization. The leader and manager must communicate the purpose in such a way that ownership is created on every level of the operation.
Acts and gets results
Ultimately, of course, you are there to deliver results so you must have the capacity to convert purpose and vision into action. Having developed a great vision you have to use it to inspire people. It has to become “real” in some material way to produce results. Most leaders and managers are pragmatic dreamers and practical idealists, which is not an easy balance to maintain.