“Leadership is hard to define and good leadership, even harder. But if you can get people to follow you to the ends of the earth, you are a great leader.” Indra Nooyi, CEO PepsiCo
There is a HUGE difference between an Empowered Leader ("The Real Deal") and a Boss (“Wanna Be”). I'm amazed how often people use those words interchangeably when they are actually so different.
I have worked with both "Real" and "Wanna Be" Leaders. The difference between the two is immediately palpable. Empowered Leaders know that to work well with others, they need to quickly earn their respect and more importantly, give that respect back. It’s inspiring to see what positive energy does to boost employee engagement, productivity and profits.
On the other hand, Bosses often motivate through fear and the only respect they have is for their own time and agenda.
It's important to realize that no one is born an Empowered Leader. These are skills that are developed over time. You spent many years studying and working to become an expert in your field. Why would you think that you could acquire the robust set of skills to become an Empowered Leader through osmosis? It just doesn't work like that.
And sadly, many Bosses focus on developing the wrong set of skills (bullying and dis-empowering employees) and ultimately this plays into their downfall and that of their organization.
Here's what you need to know to become “The Real Deal”.
Empowered Leaders Are Visionary
One of the most important things that a leader must do is to create a vision and a set of values for the organization to live by. This is your “WHY” - the heart and soul of the organization. This will drive your decision-making from strategic direction, hiring and customer acquisition policies and strategies and KPIs.
Empowered leaders stick with their vision – even when it is not popular. They know how to communicate the power of this purpose in a way that makes it easy for employees to connect to. Having a powerful vision that connects your organization to a higher purpose is one of the most important strategies to engaging employees.
Most Bosses are not focused on the vision. They are too focused on “the next sale” or next quarter’s results so they make short-term decisions that end up costing a lot of time, energy and money down the road.
Empowered Leaders Focus On Their People
“Hire people who are better than you. Then leave them to get on with it.” David Ogilvy, Founder Ogilvy & Mather
Your people are your most important asset. Not only my words, but shared by many successful CEOs. I wish more leaders genuinely believed this and treated their employees accordingly.
Your employees have strong knowledge, skills and expertise. (If they don't then why did you hire them?) They also have great ideas. (Again, if they don't, then why did you hire them?) And they’re eager to share them if you give them a chance.
Empowered Leaders create an environment that encourages the sharing of new ideas and spurs innovation from employees at all levels. Innovation is a key factor of success for any business. Without innovation, your competitors will sail right past you as we live in an exciting era of change and constant disruption.
Empowered leaders also know that every one of their direct reports should be better at their job than they would be. Hire smart people to work for you and empower them to thrive.
Bosses don't trust their employees. Often because they are not confident in their own abilities to successfully lead. They micro-manage, offer little flexibility and discourage their employees taking risks and trying new things. They are fearful of someone else outshining them, so they keep their staff stifled, confused and frustrated.
Empowered Leaders Say “Let’s Go”
No one wants to hear a leader rally the troops, then bark commands while sitting in his office checking email or on the golf course.
Empowered Leaders understand that they are as much a part of the team as each employee that works with them. They're ready to roll up their sleeves and get to work. They recognize that everyone has an important role to play.
Lead by example. If you ask employees to meet a last minute client deadline, be there with them to lead, guide and support...and inject a little fun into the experience. And make sure to thank them for their hard work and commitment, whether the outcome is successful or not.
Empowered Leaders Are Compassionate
Compassion is one of the most important qualities to have in life, let alone work.
Bill George, the widely respected former CEO of Medtronic explains the benefit of compassion.
This shift is the transformation from “I” to “We.” It is the most important process leaders go through in becoming authentic. How else can they unleash the power of their organizations unless they motivate people to reach their full potential? If our supporters are merely following our lead, then their efforts are limited to our vision and our directions… Only when leaders stop focusing on their personal ego needs are they able to develop other leaders.
On the flip side, many people fall into the driving, directive, coercive styles of leadership. The kind often associated with “tough, successful business people” portrayed in the media. Ray Williams, acclaimed author, coach and speaker shares that those traits may move people and get results in the short-term, but the dissonance it creates is associated with toxic relationships and emotions such as anger, anxiety, and fear.
Not only does anger erode loyalty and trust, it also inhibits creativity by amping up employees' stress levels. Stanford University neurosurgeon Dr. James Doty explains, “Creating an environment where there is fear, anxiety and lack of trust makes people shut down."
Empowered Leaders Don’t Micromanage
Nothing more to say here. Don't Do It.
Empowered Leaders Earn Respect
Empowered Leaders know that for employees to respect them, they need to earn it over time. They work hard early on to earn it. And they give respect back.
How do you do this? Show your employees the respect they deserve, set clear expectations up front, pay a fair salary, allow them to grow and develop and do not micro-manage. Every good relationship is built on a foundation of trust and respect.
Sadly, Bosses are fixated on the old school mentality that employees respond well to fear. Spoiler alert: they don’t. (see above!) Yelling and threatening employees will make them less productive, less engaged and get them out of the door faster.
Empowered Leaders Accept Blame And Give Credit
Our work, and that of our colleagues, continues to prove that leaders who led successful turnarounds took personal responsibility when things went wrong and shared credit with their teams when things went well.
Empowered Leaders model these behaviors for their team. They see the willingness to accept personal responsibility, especially during tough times, as critical to winning the trust of employees and other stakeholders.
These behaviors are easier exemplified in a supportive environment where there is an existing culture of trust and one that encourages (calculated) risk taking. If nothing is ventured, nothing is gained. And even with the best laid plans, often new ventures fail. Employees should be applauded, not crucified for trying something new.
Conversely, Bosses need credit to feed their ego. Not only are Bosses not willing to take blame, but they’re looking to see where they can assign it, instead of moving on and trying to fix the issue and ensuring it doesn’t happen again.
Again, its important to remember that anyone can become an Empowered Leader. Having these skills will better your life both personally and professionally. What are you waiting for? Jump right in and make it happen.