A lot was written about what it means to be a good manager and a leader. I’m not going to talk about difference between a manager and a leader, though you can get my thoughts on the topic from my other posts. Instead, I will focus on the six attributes that a strong leader and a manager have in common. Regardless whether you work with people reporting to you, peers, or just a random group of people you will significantly increase your chance of being seen as a strong leader and you will improve the chances of project’s success if you follow what I would call the rule of 6F.
Be fast. To get things done you actually need to go and do them. Endless, planning and talking about what needs to be done just delays the inevitable. At some point you either do it or not. Why not to move fast and make decisions as soon as you have at least some basic data. No need to wait for all the data, all the opinions, and the right time. The right time is now! For more thoughts on decision making and moving fast check these posts Tough Choice: The Art Of Decision Making, Want To Be Seen As A Leader? Be Fast!
Focus on the activity at hand. Learning to be present in the moment and fully focus on the task you are doing is key in both, moving fast and getting things done with good quality. Don’t check emails every five minutes, don’t let your mind wander to what needs to be done tomorrow. Just eliminate distractions and fully live in the moment. One of the tricks you can try is to split your work into small tasks that require only short amount of time to complete. That way you don’t need to worry about missing out on what is happening around you. For more thoughts on this check Getting Stuff Done: The Right Tactics.
Being fast and focused is good only as long as you complement it with enough flexibility to change direction when needed. If something doesn’t work you should recognize it fast and stop doing it. Routines are a great way to safe some decision making power but at the same time they bring a danger of being stuck in doing something that doesn’t have the priority right now. Being able to admit mistakes, flexibly react to changes in environment is a must for a good leader.
People will follow you only if they see that you have a vision, you know where you are going, and you have their good on top of your mind. Being fair (whatever it means) is a key. You should always strive to be inclusive, never discriminate or be biased towards others whatever the reasons. You also need to realize that the same action on your part can be seen by some as fair and by others as unfair so first you need to start with defining of what “fair” means to you and then be very clear with people around you what that definition is. For more on being fair check Life Is Not Fair! So What?
Creativity is a cornerstone of knowledge based economy. And creativity strives in a relaxed atmosphere where people are not worried about voicing their thoughts and concerns, where they can build on each other’s ideas without worry of being ridiculed or their ideas stolen. As a leader you need to be friendly and approachable. Everyone on the team needs to be able to come and talk to you without worry of persecution. People need to trust you and being friendly is one of the ways how to ensure that. They of course it is a question of competence and integrity. Read more on being friendly versus being friends in Are You Friends Or Just Colleagues?
Be friendly but don’t try to be a friend. You need to be able to offer sympathetic ear and at the same time be able to make tough decisions. You need to be able to hold people accountable to achieve the team’s goals. It is you as a leader who sets the tone on what communication and work culture the team has. If you constantly give in to pressure, if you overlook others not doing their job, if you treat people differently only because they are friends, you will slowly create a pretty toxic culture. Being able to hold others accountable and focused and do it respectfully while maintaining positive atmosphere is one of the most useful skills you can learn. More on keeping people accountable in How To Deal With Broken Promises.
When you put it all together a strong leader is Fast to act, Focused on execution, Flexible in thinking, Fair in dealing with team members, Friendly to everyone around, and Firm in dealing with issues.
What are the attributes that help you being successful at leading others? Would you agree with the list, is anything missing? Is there anything that wouldn’t be too important in your culture?