“Before you are a leader, success is all about growing yourself. When you become a leader, success is all about growing others.”
Dianne had always felt like more of a wallflower than a leader. However, she had mastered her current role in her publishing company and really wanted to get promoted to a higher-level position.
To get there, she knew she had to focus on growing her leadership skills. She began working with an executive coach who gave her weekly exercises to do in order to hone those abilities. Within a couple of months, her boss had remarked about her growing leadership competencies and suggested she might be a prime candidate for a directorial position one day.
What do great leaders do? They instill feelings of confidence and motivate their workers. Many people struggle to understand how they can achieve the same results.
Here’s the good news: If you have the motivation, you absolutely can master the necessary skills to become a star leader.
Some people are born with an inherent ability to get others to follow them. However, charisma isn’t the only trait of a great leader. A lot of the personality traits that make for highly effective leaders are built on a solid foundation of emotional maturity and drive.
Here are the most essential traits that great leaders have. If you want to aspire toward a career in leadership, work toward building and developing these characteristics.
- Great leaders have Integrity.
Leaders’ honesty and ability to follow a set of ethics in all of their work affects their ability to influence their followers. Demonstrate your integrity by keeping your word and showing that the human element of what you do matters more than anything else. Set and maintain strong corporate responsibility guidelines, if you’re in a position to make such decisions. Your employees will be proud to work at a firm that takes social responsibility seriously.
- Great leaders have Intelligence.
This may seem like a no-brainer, but great leaders should be able to think critically and solve problems. Emotional intelligence is an important trait, too. Great leaders get results by working effectively with others and building strong relationships with the people they supervise. Keep an open mind when it comes to problem-solving. Seeking a range of input will increase the overall intelligence you have to work with.
- Great leaders have high energy.
Leadership requires enormous drive, hard work, good stress-management skills, and enthusiasm. Find ways to recharge during your downtime and destress your life, so you can maintain the optimistic outlook and drive it takes to succeed as a leader.
- Great leaders bring stability.
Being in control of emotions that are disruptive to others is another critical component of being a great leader. Find a relaxation technique that helps you maintain calm within the storm when difficult situations arise. If you tend to get anxious or angry easily, make a habit of not responding immediately to emails or phone calls that spark those emotions. Take a few moments to re-center first.
- Great leaders have high standards.
Great leaders set high professional standards for themselves as well as their employees. They remind themselves of the standards they want to meet and the image they want to create on a daily basis. The needs of the organization and its employees are their top priority. In many ways, a great leader is self-sacrificing. They’re willing to have tough conversations and take on demanding work for the sake of the greater good.
- Great leaders have a strong inner voice.
Using gut instincts and reasoning, great leaders are able to quickly assimilate information and arrive at a conclusion. They trust their intuition and allow it to guide their decisions. While they often seek additional input, they’re not usually starting at square one.
- Great leaders are confident in their decisions.
Great leaders know that the choices they make are the best ones, and they don’t hesitate to make tough decisions, even if that means having to fire someone. They can confidently explain the rationale behind their choices, maintaining transparency. They are also capable of mitigating damage in the event of a bad choice, knowing they’re not infallible.
- Great leaders invest in their own growth.
By keeping abreast of new developments in leadership methods, great leaders can ensure that they will continue to serve as a valuable resource to their company. They strive to read up on new techniques and approaches, and to brush up on them with leadership skills trainings.
Knowing what makes a boss or leader great is not enough. You must also take steps to put your knowledge into action. For instance, you can grow your confidence by building a support team and challenging yourself to take smaller risks. If you’re an aspiring leader, take a few minutes right now to list the steps you will take this week to become a stronger leader. Or, if you’re a manager working to grow your people’s leadership qualities, prompt them to list those steps for themselves.
As an executive coach, Joel Garfinkle is an expert at helping promising employees develop leadership qualities. Contact him to learn more about his executive coaching services.
“Leadership is lifting a person’s vision to high sights, the raising of a person’s performance to a higher standard, the building of a personality beyond its normal limitations.” —Peter Drucker
Braxton Asks: To prepare my high-performers to take on more challenging roles, my company wants to hold a leadership training event. What should we be looking for in a training meant to prepare them for executive positions?
Joel Answers: The most important quality your talent pipeline of leaders need to have to move to the next level is executive presence. By experiencing this executive presence program, leaders will acquire the necessary traits to develop their executive presence and become the elite performers who influence outcomes, contribute to major decisions, and drive change for the betterment of the company.
If you want someone to instill your star employees with the skills and presence to excel as executives, you need someone with proven expertise in training up-and-coming execs. You also need to make sure that person can give you a detailed description of the training he or she will provide, so you’ll know exactly what you’re getting.
For example, a multi-billion-dollar biotechnology company recently contacted me for a training on executive presence to help newly minted high-potential mid-level managers reach the next level of leadership. Here’s the program and what the audience learned.
Title of the training:
Executive Presence: Four Ways to Convey Confidence and Command Respect as a Leader.
The audience learned how to:
- Radiate Gravitas: Be poised, confident, in command, and charismatic.
- Act with Authority: Be decisive, bold, accountable, and convincing.
- Build a Positive Reputation: Be seen as credible, trustworthy, respected, and reliable.
- Communicate Powerfully: Be concise, prepared, and deliver confident messages with conviction.
Often people believe that executive presence is something you’re either born with or lacking. Up-and-coming leaders need to know how to cultivate it. They need to understand the specific behaviors they can practice, day after day, in order to build the kind of executive presence they’ve admired in other leaders. In this training, I take the mystery out of executive presence so audience members can begin carefully crafting it within themselves.
Outcomes of this executive presence training:
By taking part in this program, leaders learned to carry themselves with confidence and be sure of their abilities and what they are able to produce and accomplish. They gained the confidence and respect of their co-workers and supervisors. They were assigned high-profile projects and put in situations where they can create impact and exercise influence. They gained the confidence to seize the reins in their careers.
There are thousands of speakers all over the nation, which can definitely make the selection process feel daunting. But by knowing what you want and finding a speaker who can deliver in that specific area, you’ll ensure the program will drive results.
If you want your leaders to develop executive presence, hire Joel Garfinkle. He’s the subject matter expert and has been speaking on the topic of executive presence for twenty years.
“On great teams—the kind where people trust each other, engage in open conflict, and then commit to decisions—team members have the courage and confidence to confront one another when they see something that isn’t serving the team.”
Sofia was floored when during a team meeting, her coworker stood up to present a project they’d been working on together. They hadn’t planned to share their results until next week. Using materials she’d helped to create, he described it as his project and announced his results. What should I do? Sofia thought frantically.
If one of your coworkers keeps reframing your ideas as his own at meetings, or if your colleague went so far as to present your strategy to your boss, you need to take action. Avoiding conflict in such scenarios would harm the whole team. Tread carefully, though, or you could end up accused of stealing credit from others.
If someone rephrases your ideas as his own…
If a coworker is continually restating points you have made at a meeting and framing them as his own, he might be doing it unconsciously. That doesn’t mean it’s okay, but it helps inform how you should respond.
- Before saying anything, calm down. Losing your temper could make you look irrational—fair or not. Plus, you won’t get your thoughts across clearly if you’re angry.
- Address the transgression tactfully but directly in the moment, if possible. For example, if a coworker restates your idea, say, “Yes, that’s exactly the point I was making. I’m glad you agree with the idea.”
- If it keeps happening, approach the person one-on-one and ask if you can talk with him. Remember, if someone is repeatedly claiming your ideas as their own, it’s probably a sign of insecurity—so be gentle, or you’ll put him on the defensive. Affirm that you fully believe it wasn’t intentional, and validate the person’s contributions so acknowledging his mistake won’t feel as hard. For instance, you might say: “I’m sure it wasn’t intentional, but a couple of times during the meeting, I felt you were framing X idea as your own when I introduced it earlier on. I’m happy that this idea resonated with you, because I appreciate the expertise you bring and would love to get your insight on similar ideas in the future.”
- If the issue keeps occurring, mention it during a one-on-one meeting with your boss. Focus on your desire to strengthen working relationships, stick to the facts, and maintain a positive tone. “I think Coworker Y has many strengths, and I hope he’ll become secure enough in his own ideas that he doesn’t unconsciously lay claim to those of others,” you might say.
If someone presents your idea or success as her own…
Say you believe a coworker has stolen your idea outright, and presented it to your boss or team as her own. Or say your coworker took credit for your work on a big project. You don’t want to look like a pushover by letting it go, but you don’t want to obsess so much about the transgression that you look irrational or insecure.
- Again, calm yourself down before taking any action so you’re fully in control of your words.
- Try to find out if there’s any way it could have been unintentional. Maybe you were brainstorming together, and she inaccurately remembered the idea as being her own. Or maybe you worked on the project together, and she accidentally left out your contribution during a meeting out of nervousness. Talk with her one-on-one, and phrase your question in a non-accusatory way so you won’t be sabotaging a working relationship. Give her a chance to apologize, but if she doesn’t, push back, says Karen Dillon in HR Guide to Office Politics. Making it uncomfortable for her to continue the behavior will deter it from happening again.
- Get support from other team members, if others know for certain that the idea was yours. Ask them to acknowledge your contribution in the next meeting, or in a team email. If the coworker at fault sees you have support, she may back down.
- If the offense was truly egregious—for example, if a coworker took your name off a presentation you created and presented it as her own—meet with your boss to explain what happened, sharing evidence to support your case.
If someone repeatedly takes credit for your work…
- Keep a log showing details about what happened and when.
- Find out if colleagues have experienced the same behavior from this coworker. Gather your evidence of the transgressions.
- Talk to your boss about the situation, along with any other coworkers who have been affected. Stay collected and share evidence, if you have it. Rather than badmouthing the coworker at fault, focus on your desire to feel heard and to create a harmonious office dynamic.
- Help create a culture of sharing credit by always highlighting the contributions of others.
Preventing idea theft
Work to prevent theft of your ideas by documenting them well. If you share them, share them with more than one person so you don’t end up in a “he said/she said” scenario. Better yet, share them electronically, so there’s a record.
Remember, too, that one idea isn’t everything. You’ll have other great ideas, and you can be more conscientious about how to share them in the future. Don’t fixate so much on remedying this issue that it keeps you from shining in other ways, or makes you look petty. If you focus on the future, others will notice your stellar performance and give you plenty of credit for it!
Contact leadership coach Joel for more advice on promoting your work and building a strong reputation.
“I think self-awareness is probably the most important thing towards being a champion.”
~Billie Jean King~
Client Clara asks: I always get so nervous before my annual performance review. How can I calm my nerves and make sure it goes as well as possible?
Coach Joel answers: Performance reviews can be daunting, but being proactive about the process will make it a motivating ritual that you look forward to. By conducting a review of your own performance before you meet with your boss, you’ll have thoughtful answers to all your boss’s questions. Here’s your guide on how to do that.
Your boss might conduct performance reviews once a year, every six months, or on a quarterly basis. Forty-eight percent of employees are reviewed annually, and 26% are reviewed less than once a year, says Gallup. More frequent reviews are optimal, allowing you to recollect more of what happened during the review period.
Aim to conduct your own performance review on a quarterly basis. Even if your boss only conducts reviews once a year, you’ll have detailed notes from each quarter to use in preparing for your annual review.
According to Gallup’s research, good performance reviews are “achievement-oriented, fair and accurate, and developmental.” Gallup suggests calling them “progress reviews” to emphasize these areas of focus.
In other words, they should be less about a grade and instead focused on utilizing the performance review process to continue developing your skills.
- Evaluating fulfillment of the role
- Look at the description of your role. Then ask yourself how well you’re fulfilling each of your primary responsibilities.
- Ask yourself if the expectations are fair, and if you have adequate time and resources to fulfill the role, advises Gallup. If not, determine what changes are necessary.
- Reviewing your past goals
- Look at the work performance goals you set for the period you’re reviewing. Where did you achieve them, and where did you fall short?
- Analyze what went wrong when your efforts didn’t succeed.
Make a list of the areas you want to strengthen.
- Acknowledging successes
- List and share your achievements, both concrete and less tangible.
- Have you developed any new skills, even if you haven’t put them to extensive use yet? Be sure to add them to your list, so you can make them known to your boss.
- Examining your leveraging of success
- Ask yourself how you leveraged your successes, advises Sharon Armstrong in The Essential Performance Review Handbook. Have you effectively used them to boost your visibility and influence?
- Consider where you could leverage successes better in the future.
- Create a visibility plan outlining how you’ll do that.
- Setting goals
- Now it’s time to set new goals for the next period. Make sure your goals are SMART—“strategic and specific, measurable, attainable, results-based, and time-bound”—emphasize Anne Conzemius and Jan O’Neill in The Power of SMART Goals.
- Consider what actions you’ll need to take to reach your goals. For example, if you want a promotion, look at options in your company and prepare a compelling argument for why you should get one.
- Developing ideas
- Write up specific proposals for ideas you wish to pursue, suggests Armstrong. Generate ideas that will challenge you and emphasize the skills you want to highlight.
- If you have ideas for how the department or company could improve, write them down as well.
- Evaluating salary
By conducting a review of your own performance, you’ll feel energized and inspired at performance review time. Plus, you’ll come across as far more articulate, insightful, and capable during your meeting with your boss. And in turn, you’ll make better use of that meeting, coming equipped with questions to ask and polished ideas to present.
Hire leadership coach Joel Garfinkle for more advice on preparing for career advancement.
“Networking is an essential part of building wealth.”
Liam didn’t drink, so when his coworkers went to the bar after work, he’d say goodbye and head home. Sure, he was missing out on the chance to socialize, but it wasn’t really his scene. Then his sister shared some interesting statistics about the effectiveness of networking after work.
Over the past couple of decades, many studies have shown a relationship between social drinking, socializing, and higher wages, she told him. Moderate social drinkers earn 10% more than those who abstain, a study from the University of Calgary found. Another study in the Journal of Labor Research found that the average male employee who drinks socially earns 19% more than those who abstain, and the average female employee who drinks socially earns 23% more than abstainers. Male employees who go to bars at least once a month earn an extra 7% on top of that.
It’s not about the alcohol consumption. It’s all about building and improving relationships. Sequestering themselves away from the drinking crowd is the main reason why non-drinkers lose these opportunities, according to a study at North Carolina State University.
Moderate drinkers may be perceived as more charismatic, and they certainly get to know their drinking buddies much better than they otherwise would. Social drinking is a highly effective networking strategy—and even non-drinkers can get in on it. If you’re a non-drinker, here’s how to overcome some common alcohol-related hurdles and share all the social benefits that drinkers get. (If you’ve dealt with addiction and find being around alcohol too triggering, see the tips at the end.)
Problem: Drinking is an effective inter-office, after-work networking vehicle. As mentioned, those who drink tend to earn more than colleagues who abstain. Hanging out at the bar is a proven way to foster relationships outside of the office. But because you don’t drink, you’re missing out.
Solution: Go to the bar and enjoy some time with your colleagues. Don’t let the venue stop you from using this opportunity to form working relationship bonds with your coworkers and supervisors. Order a non-alcoholic drink. (Chances are, you won’t be the only one not drinking.) Show them you can have fun along with the rest of them, and soon they won’t even notice you’re not drinking! Here are a couple other pointers:
- Ensure people you have no problem with their drinking. They might feel awkward, wondering if you’re judging them, which you can dispel with a few words and an accepting attitude. If you want, share a reason for not drinking that focuses on you, like “Alcohol makes me tired, and I want to enjoy myself.”
- If coworkers tend to drink heavily and that makes you uncomfortable, excuse yourself early, saying you have to get up early the next morning.
Problem: Drinking is part of the company culture. For many companies, drinking during work hours is frowned upon. Some even have a no-tolerance policy. However, there are a few where having a drink at lunch or in the afternoon on Friday is part of the company culture. Others are experimenting with having beers during brainstorming sessions to loosen things up. Refusing the libations can set you apart as an outsider.
Solution: Participate without the drink. Be sure to include yourself in those martini lunches. If Friday afternoon is the time when everyone relaxes in the conference room with a beer before heading home, be sure to be in there too. Show them you can relax and unwind with the rest of the team, even without the alcohol.
Problem: Entertaining clients often requires taking them out for drinks. You have a client in town, and it’s your job to make sure he’s enjoying himself. Taking him out for drinks and dinner is part of your job duties. Refusing these duties can definitely hurt your career.
Solution: Go and have fun with your client! Even if you don’t drink yourself, there’s no reason why you can’t take clients out and show them a good time. They may even appreciate the fact that you’re going to be the designated driver, so they won’t have to worry about making it back to their hotel safe and sound. Plus, you’ll be able to keep your wits about you and massage the relationship to your company’s benefit while their inhibitions are lowered thanks to alcohol. Secrets and soft spots may be revealed!
You don’t have to spend multiple nights at the bar each week to get all these benefits. Even going once in a while will increase your visibility among your coworkers and build your social cache.
If you’re a recovering alcoholic and find being in situations like bars too triggering, reach out to coworkers in other ways. They’re not likely to move from the bar to another venue, but perhaps you could start meeting colleagues for breakfast once a month or so. The main goal is to build relationships by networking after work, showing them what a fun and interesting person you are!
Social drinking might have a definite place in your company’s culture. Contact leadership coach Joel Garfinkle to learn how to build relationships and become more influential at work.