On any given day, in just about any given business publication, you will find one or more laundry lists of skills, qualities, behaviors, competencies, and whatevers that are attributed to an effective, successful or great leader. It’s actually a bit mind-boggling. How can anyone possibly be all of that?!
Well, here’s the thing.
I’ve been working with leaders at all levels for…well, a long time. I’ve implemented leadership development programs across organizations large and small, and I’ve worked one-on-one with senior leaders and executives. I’ve been a leader in the corporate world, on boards and in my own business. And here’s what I’ve learned. While the leadership competencies touted in those lists are important, let’s keep it real about what makes a leader truly extraordinary. It’s not rocket science. It’s what I call the KEEP it REAL Leadership Principles (or Leadership According to Karen).
Before we get to those principles, though, note that they don’t include INTEGRITY. Why? Because for leadership that should be a no-brainer! The is NO negotiation on integrity. If people don’t trust you, there is no way they’re going to follow you. Be accountable and tell the truth. Do what you say you’re going to do. Show up whole, and be YOU and no one else.
Now. Here are my 6 KEEP it REAL Leadership Principles:
BOLD. Have a backbone, state your opinions and hold strong to your beliefs. Be courageous. Protect your team and staff – make them proud to be part of your team. Be accountable – do what you say you’re going to do. And have the hard conversations. Putting them off helps no one.
TOMORROW. What is your vision? Share it. Where is your team and the organization headed? Let them know what’s next, how “we’re” going to get there, and what they can do to help. Give your people a reason to believe in the future and to want to participate in building it. Provide them with development opportunities that will grow their capabilities to help achieve the vision.
TAWK. That’s New Jersey-speak for talk. Communicate, communicate, communicate. People need to hear things multiple times in multiple ways before they really “hear” it. Adapt your communication style to the listener – everyone takes in information differently. Remember it’s about them, not you. Tell them what you’re going to tell them, tell them, then tell them what you told them. Oh! And don’t forget to listen!
LEARN. You cannot stop learning! Be self-aware: know your strengths and be willing to admit (and work on) your blind spots. Make the time to get to know your team. Be curious. Cultivate a growth mindset and set an example of continuous learning. Provide learning opportunities for your people and encourage them to keep growing. As John F. Kennedy said, “Leadership and learning are indispensable to one another.”
PLEASE & THANK YOU. Say it. Always. No excuses. Always be courteous and kind. Express your gratitude and mean it. No one gets tired of hearing: “Please” and “Thank You.”
FUN. Create a culture where people want to come to work, where people enjoy the projects, their colleagues, the stretch assignments, their team. When people enjoy their environment, they’ll be more innovative and creative, and they’ll want to stay in your organization. Culture starts at the top. Create the team YOU want to be part of.
“A good leader inspires people to have confidence in the leader. A great leader inspires people to have confidence in themselves.” - Eleanor Roosevelt
Watch for more about KEEP it REAL Leadership – coming soon!
Till next time,