Volumes of self-help books offer advice about the strategic skills good leaders must develop. But what makes a visionary leader, the person everyone willingly follows? Isn’t it an intangible ‘something’ they exude more than the average individual?
Perhaps; yet the best and worst bosses are memorable for the same reason: They communicate priorities, set a professional tone, and respect and encourage everyone in the workplace.
I can’t count the supervisors I’ve had in my many years in journalism, public relations and higher education. My best bosses mentored, challenged and praised me when I succeeded; they advised me on ways to overcome my weaknesses and encouraged my professional development. They involved me in decision-making, asked for my advice and opinions, and valued team members’ individual talents.
The worst bosses were poor leaders, plagued by indecision, pride, insecurity, anger issues and poor communications skills. They were closed-mouthed about their plans, averse to confrontation, and more concerned about their own success than the success of the institution or even their own team.
Teri Carstensen, president of bank solutions for Fiserv, embodies the best qualities of a boss; that may be because she rose from bank teller to CEO by developing ingenious business solutions that have benefited her and the company.
Leadership “is one of my favorite topics,” Carstensen said in a September SmartBrief leadership newsletter article by James DaSilva. She loves engaging with younger people early in their careers, especially enjoying “the mentoring and coaching aspect of what I do.”
I daresay she employs the principles of values-based leadership espoused by management professor and best-selling author Harry Kraemer: To put yourself in position to be a successful leader, you must first put yourself in the right mindset. In fact, leadership doesn't depend on your job title or where you fall in your company's organization chart; it relies on your ability to influence and engage other people, noted author Jacob Morgan in a recent Inc. story.
To learn to be a values-based leader, Kraemer suggests four principles:
- Self-reflection. Know your values, what you stand for, your purpose, and your vision for the leader you want to be. Daily self-reflection can help you improve.
- Balance. Good leaders don't try to be right; they try to do the right thing. Don't be afraid to get opinions from other people and to ask for help and guidance when necessary.
- Self-confidence. True self-confidence is accepting you who are and owning your skills and your flaws. Leaders who are truly self-confident know where they stand and work to improve themselves every day.
- Humility. This goes hand in hand with self-confidence. Even if you have reached a great milestone in your career, don't forget where you came from and everyone who helped you reach your goals. Creating connections with people who are on the way up the ladder can be hugely beneficial in becoming a successful leader.
Mastering these will make you a memorable, fair and conscientious leader – but you can’t stop there. You must constantly evaluate your progress to ensure you stay on the humble, balanced path to be a leader that’s remembered for not just what you do, but who you are.