At one point or another, we all experience great leadership. Although difficult to articulate, the impact is profound. Whether it's a boss, teacher, parent, or coach, their example leaves a lasting impression, and we're happier, more engaged, and perform better as a result of their guidance.
Unfortunately, this experience is not the norm. According to the global analytics firm Gallup, about one in 10 people actually possess the talent to manage.
However, in my experience, most companies average more than one manager for every 10 employees. So, with a short supply, where do these other leaders come from?
The ironic thing is that the skills getting most people promoted often have nothing to do with being an effective manager. To ensure they don't lose technical experts to other organizations, many organizations promote prematurely. I believe that's a big part of the reason why Gallup also found that companies fail to choose the right candidate for the job 82 percent of the time.
The transition to leadership requires a transformation of thought.
If you commit, the results are significant. Organizations with great bosses, on average, produce 147 percent higher earnings per share than their competitors. This boost comes from higher quality work, discretionary effort, and productivity.
Over the past few years of hiring and training managers, and analyzing what makes them great, I've narrowed the list down to my top three key traits.
1. Great leaders have a growth mindset and project it onto their teams.
It's a simple belief that intelligence and talent can be cultivated over time. As opposed to a fixed mindset (the belief that skills and abilities are predetermined), leaders with a growth mindset are more positive and committed to the learning process.
Simple in theory, significant when practiced.
Google, for example, found that managers who have a growth mindset are more eager to learn, challenge themselves, and experiment, and it eventually boosts their performance.
For their teams, it translates into an environment where employees feel safe to try new things. At the first sign of failure, they don't give up. They embrace challenging work and persevere. They see failure as a part of the learning process, welcome feedback, and believe that potential is limited only by effort.
I don't know about you, but that's a manager and a team I would want to work for.
2. Great leaders leverage team diversity by creating safe environments where everyone feels comfortable.
We've all been there. Due to the fear of seeming incompetent, we've held back questions or ideas. I get it. It's unnerving to feel like you're in an environment where everything you do or say is under a microscope.
If a manager doesn't tackle this head-on and intentionally seek to create a culture where employees feel safe to speak up, then bureaucracies and bias will run meetings and limit the team's effectiveness. Employees will internalize thoughts and feelings to fit in-- and the team will suffer as a result.
Unfortunately, I see this scenario play out too often. Companies do a great job of attracting and hiring diverse talent but never utilize their experience for fear of change.
Instead, managers must foster judgment-free environments and provide air cover so employees feel comfortable letting down their guard. At that point, employees will offer up suggestions, and the team will benefit.
3. They create clarity and energize their teams.
The most effective teams that I've been a part of had clear goals, everyone knew what their role was, and the work had a personal significance to each one of us. As a result, we had structure and clarity on what was important, could depend on one another's contributions, and felt a sense of connection towards our work.
If a manager can't instill a sense of order by creating a clear mission and purpose, then competing priorities, individual agendas, and confusion will slow the team down. Plus we all want to know why we exist.
For even the most committed employees, daily work can be a grind at times. In a vacuum, tasks can seem menial and unimportant. Without a connection to meaningful work, employee engagement and commitment are tough to come by. However, when people believe their efforts are serving the greater good, tenacity and energy are byproducts--and those are essential traits of high-performing teams.
We may all not be natural leaders. But the good news is, leadership is a trait that can be learned and perfected over time. These three qualities will get you heading down the right path.