Ronald E. Riggio, Ph.D., is the Henry R. Kravis Professor of Leadership and Organizational Psychology at Claremont McKenna College and the author of over 100 books, book chapters, and research articles in the areas of leadership, organizational psychology and social psychology.
Riggio writes in Psychology Today, "To cut to the chase, the answer is: 'mostly made.' The best estimates offered by research is that leadership is about one-third born and two-thirds made."
That's certainly good news for the majority of us dedicated to developing the right skills to lead our tribes. And those skills are mostly relational -- they are people or "soft" skills.
Without those skills in place, you're a mere manager or boss, not a leader. To lead well, you'll need skills that combine a mix of organizational, emotional, psychological, business and management, and even spiritual thrown in for good measure.
Based on evidence in the literature and best-in-class leadership behaviors, here are 11 things that demonstrate just what it takes to lead a team to perform at the highest level.
1. You are organized.
Getting organized means being intentional about choice: "do it, delegate it, or dump it." As you make it a habit to lessen your load, declutter, simplify, and reset priorities, you'll model the behavior for your team to become a well-oiled productivity machine.
2. You are respectful.
"I love it when my boss yells at me in front of my peers," said no employee ever. Every person wants to be honored and dignified for their efforts and contributions. Disrespect does the complete opposite: it sows resentment, fear, and anger.
3. You are decisive.
That means making a timely decision with confidence and not resting on your laurels; even if you don't pull the trigger on a decision and no forward movement takes place, it's still a decision. Good leaders will make the tough calls under fire, even when it's not the best or most popular thing to do. Because in their heart-of-hearts, they know it was the right choice.
4. You are fair.
You don't play politics; you walk the talk and follow your own rules and guidelines to the same degree for everyone without bias or favoritism toward anyone. But take note: If you're going to be fair and ethical, expect that you may be unpopular at some time, which is a good thing. A leader that fears to be unliked, who secretly wishes to be everyone's friend, is a weak leader that will be exposed.
5. You are curious.
Being curious and asking questions about why and how things work, for example, inspires creative thinking. It also opens up doors for your team to share their input and ideas, which fosters innovation and keeps you from growing stagnant.
6. You exercise integrity.
Leading with integrity means that you don't question yourself. Your actions are now open for everyone to see, and you don't have to worry about hiding anything. When you operate from integrity, you gain the trust of others. They see you as dependable and accountable for your actions. Trust develops, people feel safe in your presence, and you gain influence.
7. You have the natural desire to grow and develop others.
You provide your followers opportunities for learning and growth to help develop their potential. You create career paths for them, and encourage them to discover and utilize new strengths. Having said that, you have no self-entitlement issues about growing and developing yourself, and will seek the same level of personal and leadership development.
8. You provide guidance.
Your team trusts you because you envision the future for them, and steer the ship in a clear and agreed on direction. As you navigate, you keep taking initiative to move out ahead, clarifying goals and expectations for you people -- helping them to consistently know and understand what it takes to get to the vision.
9. You share your leadership.
As counter-intuitive as it sounds, you leverage the sharing of power and decision-making to empower others into becoming leaders themselves. By pushing authority down to your staff, they grow more competent and confident, become freer to take ownership of their work, which raises both productivity and satisfaction levels.
10. You are humble.
I've heard a few times from people in position of power that humility is weak. Yet this core virtue drives at the inner strongholds that make a bad leader: pride, self-centeredness, judgmentalism, control, and impulsiveness. Author and thought-leader Jim Collins describes them as leaders who "channel their ego needs away from themselves and into the larger goal of building a great company. It's not that [such leaders] have no ego or self-interest. Indeed, they are incredibly ambitious--but their ambition is first and foremost for the institution, not themselves."
11. You are a great listener.
As a leader, your first responsibility is to look out for your team, and not yourself. This requires a fair amount of active listening. Listening to the opinions of others and those that admit mistakes, without judgment. It is the ability to understand what's happening on the other side of the fence; to identify the will of a group and help to clarify that will. Peter Drucker once said, "The most important thing in communication is hearing what isn't said." As servant-leaders, the listening has one overarching theme: how can I help the other person?