For companies to thrive they need great leadership. So how do we define great leadership and what are the behavioral traits of a great leader?
In his best-selling book Good to Great, author Jim Collins wrote about what he called Level 5 Executive leaders who build enduring greatness through the paradoxical blend of personal humility and professional will. He describes these Level 5 leaders as both modest and willful, humble and fearless.
“Level 5 leaders look out the window to apportion credit to factors outside themselves when things go well,” writes Collins. “At the same time, they look in the mirror to apportion responsibility, never blaming bad luck when things go poorly.”
What the business world needs more than ever now are Level 5 leaders. It needs men and women who understand how to attract and grow talented employees. Their focus should be on people before products and profits. Customers and shareholders will be satisfied only when employees are fully engaged and optimally performing.
In Roberta Chinsky Matuson’s book The Magnetic Leader: How Irresistible Leaders Attract Employees, Customers, and Profits, she defines seven irresistible traits of magnetic leaders. These are authenticity, selflessness, strong communication, charisma, transparency, vision and resilience. Matuson also provides important questions to ask yourself in order to strengthen these traits.
Authenticity requires admitting you don’t know everything, being truthful and sharing your backstory. To increase your authenticity, ask yourself:
- Do I bring my whole self to work or do I leave parts at home?
- What have I done within the last week to build trust?
- How often do I share my backstory with employees and prospective candidates?
Selflessness requires the humility to focus on another’s success. Strive to be more of a servant leader and ask yourself:
- Are people following me because of what I can do for them or are they doing so because of what I can do to them?
- Do I take more than I give?
- What have I done today to put others before myself?
Strong communication means focusing as much on the way you say something as you do with the words you choose. Consistent communication is directly connected to higher employee engagement. And strive to become a better listener. Ask yourself:
- Am I fully present when people speak?
- Is my communication clear or is it a bit cloudy?
- How often have I reached out to team members in person, on the phone or via e-mail or Skype this week?
Charisma means as a leader you are able to influence and inspire others. It is often defined by those who exude confidence and express positivity. Ask yourself:
- Do I genuinely like being around people?
- Do I express my ideas in a way that exudes confidence or do I radiate self-doubt?
- Do I expect people will do their personal best or do I believe most people will merely look to get by?
Transparency is linked to candor and this requires trusting others as the only way to build and sustain relationships. To increase your transparency, ask yourself:
- How often do I filter what I tell people?
- How frequently do I shield information from others for my own benefit?
- Am I being transparent or a bit murky?
Vision is about seeing the bigger picture and then painting it for others to see. In order to assess where you are on vision, ask yourself:
- Am I focused on everyday tasks or long-term outcomes?
- How often do I take time out of my day or week to think about the future?
- Who in the organization has potential that is not being realized and what can I do to help unleash that potential?
Resilience is about the ability to carry on in spite of a hopeless situation. It is about the grit that enables one to get back up after falling down. To further build this resilience, ask yourself:
- Do I take responsibility for my failures or do I place the blame elsewhere?
- Do I pick myself up quickly after a failure and move forward?
- Do I play it safe to avoid failure or do I take risks so I can grow?
Often it is the questions that matter most. The best questions can help us to understand and grow. Asking and answering honestly to the questions above can help determine how you measure up in order to assess your own magnetic leadership.
In the conclusion of her book, Matuson describes management as a destination while leadership as a journey. She writes that “the way you choose to lead matters more than your intentions, and that every day is a new opportunity to lead in a way that is memorable for the right reasons.”
Great leadership embraces the notion of continuous learning and growth. To be a magnetic leader, seek to become more of who you are and embrace these seven traits.