What Grades Define You? Understanding the Leadership Report Card
There are volumes of literature about the topic of leadership and what things make a great leader. Some claim domain expertise and direct style feedback is most important, while others prefer positive reinforcement and downplay developmental areas. By the time you are done reading all of the ways to “be a great leader” you have a list of 50+ characteristics that you “must” exhibit, not to mention a pounding headache. To say the least, this process – and the body of information gleaned from it- is overwhelming and hugely ineffective.
We are focused too much on the ever elusive “characteristic checklist” and not enough on the actual output of leadership actions. We expect leaders to be all things to all people when we know full well that every situation is different. What is missing in this discussion is a framework that regardless of circumstance can help us evaluate if what we are doing is working or not. This simple question is often overlooked, but in the end is what really matters. I propose the following 5 simple questions that every leader should ask themselves in order to self evaluate if they are being successful in their particular leadership approach:
- 1. Would my people take a lateral move in order to continue working for me? This is a question of trust. Great leaders are the differentiator for people. They create intangible value that is irreplaceable. Employees seek this and want to invest in great leaders because they trust that the career payoff will be ten-fold in the future. If you think your people are not willing to trust a horizontal move in order to keep working for you, they are essentially saying that they don’t see enough of a payoff to invest in you as a leader. Ask yourself why and adjust accordingly.
- 2. Would my people follow me to another company? This question is about being effective enough to earn loyalty. Loyalty is critical and if you can earn this degree of it you are doing a great job balancing the right combination of characteristics and actions to get the best out of your people. Loyalty is incredibly powerful and its presence – or lack thereof – is the result of leadership.
- 3. Would my people recommend their best friend to work for me? If your people would put their reputation, judgment, trust and friend on the line by providing a recommendation to work for you, they see and value your leadership approach. Word of mouth is the most effective form of advertising. Use this as a litmus test to your effectiveness as a leader. If you aren’t good enough for their best friend, you are likely falling short.
- 4. Would my people call me their biggest fan AND their biggest critic? All too often, managers who want to be great leaders misconstrue this task as a popularity contest. The trick is balance. Great leaders know how to strike the balance between positive and negative feedback. They know how to develop people by challenging them more than anyone else will while simultaneously supporting them more than anyone else can. Being their biggest fan and biggest critic demonstrates that you are balanced in your approach.
- 5. Would my people dread hanging out with me socially? A lot of people may argue this is irrelevant, but ultimately we all have choices in life and life is too precious to waste it working for someone who isn’t likeable. If your employees can’t tolerate hanging out with you socially, you’re likely not easy to tolerate at work either. Consider how you come across to people and what you might need to do to be more engaging and personable.
We need to embrace differences in leadership styles and acknowledge that elements of success vary with situations, but how our employees view us is the ultimate report card. The above questions don’t attempt to solve a problem, but are a way to create a simple gauge on your leadership effectiveness from the employee perspective. At the end of the day, your leadership stamp of approval will come from them. By being honest with yourself and asking these 5 questions from the point of view of your employees, you will be able to do a quick self-checkup and hone in on areas you want to improve on. Acknowledgement is half the battle!
Fabio Malagisi is a Finance Manager at CR Bard in Boston, Massachusetts. He is an ambitious and results-oriented professional with a proven track record of being a business partner, driving results and improving the bottom line through effective business decision making. His expertise in finance is demonstrated with an exceptional background in providing leadership across multiple and diverse global operations. He is a proven leader and mentor that actively develops talent pipelines and builds effective team. He has a passion for employee and leadership development and can be connected with on twitter under @FabioMalagisi.