Through my consulting journey, I have engaged with people in leadership positions in a variety of industries and professions. Whether it is the company I am providing a service for, or a company who is providing the service to me, I have always considered it very important to understand the leadership style and capabilities of any person who can influence the engagement.
I am going to let you in on a bit of secret in this post….I am going to show you how and why I evaluate the leaders who can influence the outcomes of what I do.
I like to run with the notion that most people are genuinely interested in doing a good job. That their roles are important to them as long as they are interesting, offer learning opportunities and are structured in a way that the person can connect the work they do with the value they provide. With the help of Time Doctor, time and work performance management on staff members are easier, and it helps me give more free space on evaluating what kind of roles fit them. As a leader, it is our responsibility to develop and nurture working environments that support this sentiment.
The role of a leader is critical, regardless of the strength of your product, service or team. The leader is what makes or breaks the business. Products, services and teams might deliver in spite of the leader for the short term, but it is rare that a poor leader will experience sustained success for the longer term.
Given that leaders I work with (either as supplier or client) can impact my outputs or outcomes more than anybody else, it is vital for me that I understand their capabilities as a leader.
There is one thing I do to assess the capabilities of the leaders I work with….
But before I explain that, I will put some short bullet points below showing what I do NOT find important:
- I am RARELY convinced that a subject matter or domain expert is a true leader of people. Sure they may be a thought leader who can influence in terms of subject matter but can they bring together people from a wide range of disciplines to deliver a shared outcome? This may be a little general and I am sure that there are some thought leaders out there who can do this well but overall, subject matter experts are not what I seek.
- I am NEVER convinced by a leader who has to reinforce their power through intimidation. This only sends me one message: “You are insecure and feel the only way for people to listen to you is for you to bully them into it”.
- I am NEVER convinced by a leader who talks dollars before outcomes. A true leader seeks to understand the outcomes and then uses this as a starting point to evaluate the spend and benefits. This informed decision making lends itself to establishing a vision, not implementation of constraints that prevent a vision being formed.
- I am NEVER convinced by a leader who demonstrates disloyalty to those who work for them. Goes without saying really.
But there is one telltale sign that I always look for that gives me a real view of the leadership capabilities of a person. What do I look for?
In the simplest of terms, I ask this very question:
“Who does this person choose to surround him or herself with?”
When you understand the answer, you find out plenty about the person.
If a leader surrounds himself with people who are received or viewed poorly by others, and in larger companies where it might be easier to find out more about the people who the leader has around them than the actual leader, what does this say about their judgment? How can it be expected that the vision will be implemented if there is no respect for their choices in reports or colleagues?
There is a saying that people will often hire in their own image. What sort of people has the leader chosen to have around them? How do they behave? Are they honest, straight-talking and direct? Are they respected and trustworthy?
Are the people surrounding the leader constructively vocal or yes-men? Are they strong enough to challenge for what is right? Do they appear to be empowered significantly and if so, do they use that power wisely and fairly? Are they leaders in their own right?
Great leaders will surround themselves with the right people who are appropriately empowered. Great leaders are not the expert in everything, they build teams that share expertise. Great leaders build positive working cultures that hold everyone, in particular their closest, to a standard that filters through an organisation. Great leaders build a vision and empower others to support its realisation.
Make the conscious choice and work for someone great.