When you Google “what is leadership,” you get 594,000,000 results.
Suffice to say, leadership is a popular topic. The problem is, many people focus on what great leaders DO, rather than who leaders ARE. Leadership is not only doing, but rather being which is why it is so difficult to pin down. Yet we know that when leadership is done right, it is extremely effective, felt by everyone, and the company grows.
There are specific traits that every transformational leader must display that have nothing to do with numbers or past performance. So, what does it mean to BE versus DO and what are the specific types of traits that exemplify this type of leadership?
Harvard Business Review published an article featuring research from Jim Collin’s book “Good to Great,” where he breaks down 5 Levels of Leadership. A Level 5 Leader must possess all the qualities in the other 4 levels. Most leaders end up in in the Level 4 category, which is still a great place to be.
So how do you get to Level 5 Leadership?
Transformational Level 5 Leaders are smart, transparent, kind, open, honest, approachable, vulnerable, and funny. They only focus on what they can do and not what they can’t do. Focusing on what they/the company does not do is wasted energy. They understand that their attitudes and how they conduct themselves are how employees view them and the company as a whole. They understand together is always better than alone. Transformational leaders view leadership as a privilege and a responsibility.
This combination forms the culture.
This all sounds great but why do so many people struggle with leadership?
Truthfully, leadership is hard and inconvenient. People say they want to be a leader, but most are unwilling to put in the work. In addition, many people think that if you are not a born leader, then leadership is not for you. False. Leadership is a set of learned behaviors. With effort and deliberate action you too can become a great leader.
Leadership is more than what you say and how you say it. It is about who you are, what you believe, and how you treat others.
How do your people view you?
People do not receive messaging until they know that you care. As a leader, you can care all about the numbers and goals (which you have to), but if you do not know your people’s motivations and care about them personally, it is hard to move the needle.
How do you get to know your people’s motivations and show you care?
Be in the know and now.
Walk around the office every day. Get out from behind your computer and be present. Know your people. Have accountability standards and regular meetings with them. Check in often. Make sure with all the craziness going on, people are having fun.
Even with being present, having a great attitude, knowing your people and their motivations, and putting in the work to get better, you are still missing something.
I’d like to add two traits to what I believe makes an even stronger Level 5 Leader.
In order to get people to go to battle with you and for you, you need:
EMPATHY and GRATITUDE
Without empathy and gratitude, people will not follow you for the long term. Show people you understand them and you are thankful for them as a person. The rest will follow.
Chris Damico is a Patient Conversion Team Lead at Align Technology. Over his 13-year career, Chris has set the pace winning awards in both sales and culture. He has always enjoyed surrounding himself with good people and giving everything he does 100%. Now in a leadership role, Chris understands how to motivate his team members to also lead and achieve success. When Chris isn’t at the office, you can find him exercising, reading, and enjoying time with his family.