People who are true leaders stand out. Others want to be around them because they know
they’re worth following. But what qualities do these leaders have that make them exude such strength of character, while other supposed leaders fall short?
According a leadership survey conducted by McKinsey, U.S. companies spend around $14 billion on leadership development. Yet only 7 percent of respondents in the survey felt that their leaders are effective.
That’s the thing about leadership. We can send people to endless programs and get them to follow particular pathways, but unless they make the decision to be a good human being when everyone around them is doing the opposite, they’ll never reach their potential.
Those that do will go on to become role models for others, make courageous decisions, remove roadblocks to get things done and challenge the status quo. In order to do this and to be the catalyst for vibrant workplace cultures, they need to do one thing that most managers don’t — they need to relentlessly develop their emotional intelligence.
Vibrant culture leaders are emotionally intelligent. They are role models in every sense of the word and set the example for others to follow. They take the time to listen, grow and work closely with their staff to remove barriers and inspire incredible performance from those around them.
Emotionally intelligent people like this are a positive driving force for culture evolution within their organizations. They’re empathetic when it’s easier to be dismissive. They make time for new ideas and thinking. They have a tractor beam that others are drawn to and people know that they won’t allow themselves to get dragged to the dark side.
These are the people whose conversations, meetings and training sessions are different. Whose communications are tailored to individuals, who can converse with all levels of people, who celebrate success and who make their employees feel that anything is possible.
Vibrant culture leaders stand for something. They have purpose, influence, ethics, and they continually look to safeguard the future of their organization. They do this by getting to know each member of the team, setting expectations well and holding people to their promises.
When people don’t deliver, they lead with empathy, asking how they can help and ensuring that their employees understand what’s required. Where people still don’t deliver, they conduct performance management with strength and courage. Vibrant cultures hit their targets, which requires that all within the team do their part.
Vibrant culture leaders are a force of positive energy and see the good in everyone with whom they interact. In short, they’re good humans who have others’ respect and loyalty.
These kinds of leaders are critical for organizational performance as they make people feel valued for the work they do — which leads to greater engagement, which leads to enhanced productivity, which leads to greater value for customers, which ultimately improves profitability and reputation. And they recognize that culture is everyone’s responsibility. They make time, find money and undertake activities designed to make a real difference in the way things get done.
When American Express introduced training to make their leaders into more emotionally intelligent people, sales increased by 10 percent. When AT&T introduced a similar training, productivity increased 25 percent. At the heart of every successful business you’ll find vibrant culture leaders.
Here’s how to become a vibrant culture leader
Improving oneself is one of the most life-affirming actions that one can take. It’s a demonstration that lessons can be learned to grow as a person, and that a person is dedicated to making a real difference in other people’s lives. Here are three ways to get started:
1. Become more self-aware. List the things that you (or others) don’t like about your approach, whether it’s the way you communicate, how you run meetings or the time that you try to motivate your team to meet goals. Find one way to change it and then work hard to make the change. It won’t be easy, but it will be worthwhile. Once you’ve improved on that behavior, pick another one and so on.
2. Say thank you often. As a self-aware leader you’ll realize that it’s the team that does all the real work, so use your manners and say thank you more often. Find different ways to do it — place easily seen post-it notes, send a hand-written card, call out commendable performance in a team meeting or treat them to lunch. Let it be known to the team that you’re someone that appreciates the efforts that people put in.
3. Make the time to build the culture. Do something different. Take the team off-site for two days. Agree on a vision, establish the expected behaviors required from every team member, define the principles of collaboration, get to know each other and commit to challenging your status quo. This will create individual ownership, energy and motivation.
There’s no hidden art when it comes to being a vibrant culture leader. It’s simply a case of being a good person, being the catalyst for great culture and ensuring the team feels valued for its work. Who doesn’t want that?
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Colin D. Ellis is an award-winning international speaker, best-selling author and renowned
culture change and project management expert who works with organizations around the world to help them transform how they get things done. Based in Australia, Colin is the author of four books, including his most recent, Culture Fix: How to Create a Great Place to Work (Wiley, Nov. 4, 2019). Learn more at www.culturefix.xyz.