The Top Foundational Qualities Of The Best Leaders
Imagine for a moment that the role of an executive leader is, at its core, to create an environment that inspires and supports people to collectively contribute towards a greater future for the organisation.
Ok then, if that’s true, then what are the keys to success? What tools do leaders need at hand for this mission? What mental models must they run through daily?
Leading others is a great privilege and responsibility. As our awareness grows and we learn more, we may discover more and more evidence that we are living in an incredible time in human history. There are tremendous challenges in poverty and privilege, sickness and health, freedom and imprisonment. Right now the world needs you to step up and lean into your leadership, it needs your unique gifts, wisdom and talents- that only you have. And it’s right there within you.
The power to make a difference.
By bringing out the best in yourself and your people, you can make a positive difference. You can start simply with changing yourself- those effects ripple out and compound. The best way to start is with strong foundations. So today I want to encourage you to come back to leading from these three guiding principles – Trust, Service and Love. We know from hundreds and thousands of hours of research, learning and development that these are the proven and foundational qualities to top executive leadership.
1. EARN THEIR TRUST EVERY DAY
The depth to which your people trust you is at the root of how they will show up, what you can ask from each other and how you and your team perform. When you are surrounded by happy, creative, engaged and inspired people, it’s no surprise that it pushes you to even greater depths and heights of achievement. The way to draw this out of your team or attract the right members to your team is to go first.
It’s extremely difficult for a selfish leader to gain someone else’s trust. Once people know you are “in it for yourself,” they’ll only trust you to do what’s best for you – meaning they know you won’t look out for them. Gaining the trust of other people requires that you consistently (consistently- not constantly! You don’t need to be perfect, you just need to be consistently making progress) take into consideration your team’s needs when making decisions, and stand up for them if they do what you ask, especially if things don’t turn out as planned. Once people know you have their back, trust develops naturally.
TAKE THESE ACTIONS TO BUILD TRUST
Appearance and Confidence– As obvious as it sounds, your professional appearance and confidence in yourself is one of the key reasons people will or won’t grant you their trust. So dress like today is important because as far a you can guarantee today is the only day that you can live in. If you dress for each day expectantly, importantly, beautifully, then each day will become that. People will react differently to you if you dress as if it matters.
Reliability– Be someone who can be counted on, show up on time to meetings and work, be prepared, underpromise and overdeliver, be conscious of what you say yes to because when you make a commitment, follow through. Close the loop on all expectations and if sometimes you fall short, do whatever it takes to make it right.
Credibility– Know yourself: your strengths, weaknesses, personality and leadership profiles.There are many tests you can take: Myers Briggs, 16 personalities, DISC, Enneagram, the Demartini Value Determination test and many others. Most of these tests rely on your self assessment of a set of questions- which is completely subjective. So let me share with you the one test that I’ve found which doesn’t rely on subjective guesses but objectively measures your true ability.
One of the most valuable tools I’ve had the privilege of experiencing is the work by Natural Ability. Using the Highlands Ability Battery- a gold standard aptitude assessment tool, Natural Ability helps you understand your unique natural abilities and the role your abilities play in how you can find happiness and success in major life issues like career planning, career change, team building and team dynamics and relationships.
Natural Ability delivers an Individual Ability Identity program which includes world-class aptitude testing, personalised reporting, 12-month email support and a 2 hour one-on-one counselling session in person or over Skype/ phone.
Having gone through the process myself, I was so impressed by the value of the test, Robert’s support and the clarity this world-class test delivered that I partnered with Natural Ability.
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Bring value to the table:know what you’re supposed to know and do what you’re supposed to do. Learn all you can about your business and industry, step up when needed. Be congruent in your words and actions: it’s ok to say you don’t know but you will find out.
Connection– Make your presence felt, and add value. Build rapport and relationship with others, learn something from them or about them every time you interact, find out what matters to them and help them get it. Listen, understand and give.
Transparency– Build and encourage openness and honesty in your team and people. The old ways of hiding information and keeping employees in the dark are dead. Life exists in the leaders and teams that demonstrate transparency and open communication, people respond to what is real and true. People have grown tired of leaders who hoard what they know to consolidate their power. They want leaders to be proactive in sharing where the organisation is headed and forthright about its future. Really people just want transparency so they can plan and protect themselves, don’t you? The world is changing rapidly and trying to control what people think and know is a losing battle. It’s far more powerful and enjoyable to build relationships and engage so people can decide for themselves if working with you in your organisation is in alignment with their personal values, skills, talents and expertise. This is what will build a healthy, collaborative and innovative work culture.
2. SERVE YOUR PEOPLE
If you can lead from where all your choices align with two principles, earn trust and serve your people, then you will be able to dive past your own fears, insecurities and doubts and deeply access your true state. Your true self is a being of love, connection and peace. And when you remember that you’ve always known this, then you realise that you’ve forgotten this truth. And the truth is it’s not about me, it’s not about you, it’s not about them.
It’s about us.
It’s important you remember this because as you gain more power and influence, unless you’ve built or come into a strong positive culture of trust and where openness and honest feedback is encouraged, powerful leaders seldom get useful feedback in their organizations.
Your teammates and those you manage are loath to give bad news or critical feedback, and many boards are not diligent in seeing feedback for performance improvement, particularly relationships, as important as other things, such as financial results. There are enormous stresses on your shoulders and the critical mindset that sets you apart in being a Leader, instead of an authority figure, is your awareness of yourself and your ability to serve your people. Without that awareness, it is all too easy to become blind to what is really happening in your team and organisation or to feel as though it is you alone who can get things done right, who must make all the decisions and you may fall into the trap of trying to ‘look good’, of looking out for your own interests (which may be disguised in a statement that you are looking out for the ‘organisations’ interests), of trying to manage and control what your people think, do and say in order to preserve your own and your organisation’s reputation, which is really your ego and sense of worth and importance.
You might feel that since you are in charge, you get to make the decisions and people can follow or leave. But what actually happens when leaders and managers in companies start putting power and profits over their people, is that it immediately starts undermining morale, performance, engagement and eroding organisational culture. Think about it. Have you ever worked with someone who:
- Dominated meetings in an attempt to force his or her ideas on others?
- Stole ideas to appear better in the eyes of others?
- Took sole credit for things that required a team effort?
- Didn’t have your back and worse, shifted personal blame onto you or others?
- Was ‘always right,’ therefore making his or her opinion the only relevant one?
If you answered “Yes” to any of the above, you know firsthand the havoc a leader who puts their own ego first wreaks on the environment.
Realise that leading from us, where it’s about our collective human family, moves you out of your ego and small self and into miracles, magic and synchronicity. Where you are not afraid of being wrong or looking bad, of not knowing enough or being unworthy because you are focused on your service to others and the vision.
Yes. Here, this space.
Here is where you can do what needs to be done to inspire people to do what they’re capable of doing, learning and becoming. Serve your people by helping people grow and set a course for them to succeed. When you help others get what they want, you will find that you get what you want.
3. FALL IN LOVE WITH YOUR TEAM
It’s so important that you are working in the right environment with the right people who value working together as a team and have each other’s back. No matter who you are, if you are in an environment that supports you, surrounded by successful, supportive people with growth mindsets, together you will achieve anything you set your minds and hearts to.
Great leaders make people around them successful. They are passionate and committed, authentic, courageous, honest and reliable. That’s why in today’s high-pressure environment, it is critical you have the right people on your team. I respectfully suggest that if you are a leader of people and are looking to grow your influence and impact, you need a confidante, a coach, someone you can trust, to help you gain the perspectives and support to take yourself and your teams and organisations to the next level.
In order to do this you need to authentically and genuinely love what you do and who you are surrounded with. It starts by understanding yourself and knowing what your values are so that you are clear around where, how and with whom you would like to spend your time, energy and resources. Here are 5 questions that will support you with clarity on falling in love with your life and work:
- What are your natural strengths and gifts as a leader and as a person?
- Who do you love spending time with and what impact are you having on others?
- Why do you work so hard?
- What are your values? And if they were a guidance system, on a scale of 0-10 how aligned is your life to your values?
- Where are you spending the most amount of your time and is it on activities you love?
I know it’s not easy to question yourself, to examine your life, thoughts and beliefs and to take radical responsibility for everything that is happening in your work, life and business. Even harder to change your habits when they have worked to get you to where you are today. When you have reached a certain level of success and responsibility, often the pain of growth and the risk of failure may initially appear to outweigh the benefit of taking new actions. How can you control the outcome, predict the return on investment when you don’t know what it could look like or what could happen? It’s a step into something new! And the truth is, that what got you to where you are isn’t what’s going to take you to the next level. Einstein once said that “We cannot solve our problems with the same thinking we used when we created them.” To grow to your next level of leadership you will need to embrace a learner’s mindset and fall in love with the process, as confronting and challenging as it may initially feel.
You are here for more.
Leaders, I want to promise you if you commit, do the work, grow and lead from this space, the expansion of all that unfolds in your life is more beautiful, humbling and magical than you ever thought possible.