Forget about ‘readin’, writin’ and ‘rithmetic,’ let’s talk about the 10 “R’s” that differentiate great leadership, in Corporate America, from figureheads with titles. How’s that for a blunt opening!
Actually, great leadership could be characterized by probably any letter of the alphabet, but there are so many on- point “R” words as you’ll see. I also purposely used the word leadership versus leaders for two reasons. One, I don’t want the self-critical to eliminate themselves from the ’ucket of great leadership.’ And two, living out the below traits and values can definitely help anyone become a great leader who’s willing to work at it!
Read on for the traits I consider to be associated with great leadership; and take the time to honestly and thoughtfully assess yourself as to where you stand. I think you’ll be both pleasantly surprised while also experiencing a few ‘aha’ moments regarding your own progress. So let’s get started.
The Ten ‘R’s’ of Great Leadership
Great leadership is about driving outcomes and results. Want to make solid decisions on things? Drive results. Want to prove your worth to any group? Champion outcomes. Don’t get me wrong. Planning, processes, and initiatives all have their place, but results trump everything. Results, or lack thereof, is what gives you hard data on what’s working or not working, period.
Self-Assessment: Do you have a results-oriented mentality? If not, what can you start doing today to develop one?
Strive to resolve any/all problems getting in the way of your success. Be resolute on attacking problems and bottlenecks that stump progress. The greatest inventors and innovators of our generation were great resolvers of problems. The Wright Brothers wanted to fly. Edison wanted light for the dark. Ford wanted every family to have a car. Zuckerberg wanted to connect the world. What got them to their end goal? They were resolute on resolution. A resolution mindset will give you the courage to confront un-resolved problems and will-power to stick it out until resolved.
Self-Assessment: What issue or problem deserves your re-focus again and finally needs to be brought to resolution?
Great leadership is about admitting that you didn’t get to where you are by yourself. It’s about team, peer and stakeholder recognition just as much as patting yourself on the back. How often do you take time out to simply say ‘thank you?’ Asked differently, when was the last time you took time out to say ‘thank you’ to your people? Recognition doesn’t have to be monetarily related. A ‘thank you,’ a handshake, a verbal communication, a written letter, or any other form of gratitude can go a long way in demonstrating others’ value.
Self-Assessment: Who do you need to say ‘thank you’ to in the next week?
Great leadership is about having great relationships. Yes, I’m also talking to you non -‘touchy feely,’ extremely task-driven folks, as well! Relationships matter, period. Look behind the ‘curtain’ of highly successful organizations and you will find great relationships in every one of them. And it is impossible to have great leadership if you don’t have great relationships. Great relationships are all about caring and trust. At least to the point that others legitimately support both your vision and you as a human being.
Self-Assessment: Where do you have some relationship building to do/improve upon?
Great leadership is about being relatable. How is this different from relationships? Being ‘relatable’ has everything to do with your approachability. Said differently, you must be someone people like to work for, or with. Being relatable means you possess enough EQ (Emotional Intelligence) to be able to express empathy when appropriate; sternness, if you need to; even shut up because you realize you might be shutting someone done. Being relatable means most people view you as someone that is easy and enjoyable to work for, and with.
Self-Assessment: Not an easy pill to swallow if you can’t instantly say ‘yes,’ but are you viewed as ‘relatable’ to your peers, employees, and bosses?
Reliability is about trust. Do you do what you say, and say what you mean? If you say ‘I got it,’ will it really be done? Are your words and actions as good as gold? Great leadership means being close to 100% reliable. It means letting your ‘yes’ be a genuine ‘yes’ with follow-through. I’m not saying that you can’t say ‘no,’ the furthest thing from it. But it does mean committing to what you say you are going to commit to, and proving to others that you can be depended upon to deliver.
Self-Assessment: With whom can you build more reliability and in what areas? Once identified, quickly close the gap by seeking direct feedback and deliver on the ‘promise.’
Great leadership is about being real. While no one (except maybe yourself) expects you to be perfect, others do expect you to be genuine, honest, transparent, truthful, and even humble at times. This can be a tall order sometimes, because the truth can hurt. But you rarely have to ask for ‘forgiven-ness’ when telling the truth.
Self-Assessment: Strive to ‘keep it real’ when communicating with people regarding issues. Your clarity and transparency will help empower your people by allowing them to make better, more informed decisions.
Great leadership is about being realistic. Having stretch goals are one thing, but making commitments before realistically assessing budgets, capacity, human resources, competency, and talent is called a ‘false promise.’ Make sure what you commit to – and what you commit your people to – is realistic. Don’t over-commit and end up using every waking hour to deliver on an unrealistic request you accepted. I know this is easier said than done. But not being realistic on what you can and can’t do is unsustainable in the long run. You will burn out. I guarantee it.
Self-Assessment: Look at your goals and priorities…are they realistic? Do you need to re-calibrate?
Great leadership is about being relevant. Relevancy simply means being able to separate what’s most important from what’s not so important for the time being. I say ‘for the time being’ because you and I both know that everything is important in the company’s eyes! Great leadership is about mastering the art of focusing on the right things at the right times, and not allowing yourself to get bogged down by the multitude of priorities. This can only happen if you are living out the aforementioned “R’s” of great leadership! Determining what’s most important also means you are in tune with your environment, your stakeholders, and your company.
Self-Assessment: In terms of overall success, what’s most relevant to your team, your stakeholders, your company, to you?
Great leadership is about being repeatable. This simply means you are not a ‘one trick pony.’ It means you are consistent. It means the ‘success stories’ you’ve created are sustainable and are multiple. You don’t have one success to your name, but many. Being ‘repeatable’ takes time, is built through experience, and takes discipline to stay the course.
Self-Assessment: What can you do to build a ‘repeatable’ track record of success?
Your Ongoing Challenge!
Whew! That’s a LOT of R’s to great leadership! Do not fret! ‘Greatness’ is not built overnight. In fact, it’s built on experience and application. With that said, treat your leadership development as a marathon with long-term conditioning and practice versus a sprint that relies on brief, quick explosions of energy.
And start today to be vigilante about the 10 R’s of Great Leadership. Honestly assess where you are and take each one down one by one! Your success, and your company’s success, depends on it.
I’m Here to Help You Own It: Privately send me your challenges, questions and comments at firstname.lastname@example.org. I can’t guarantee I’ll have all the answers, but I will be candid, truthful and genuine. All of us can inspire, lead and achieve and drive higher performance and organizational health if we simply work at it.