What makes a great leader? A leader who really deserves that label will have a very clear vision of the company’s goals. She knows how to communicate with staff and is patently honest. Being open to suggestions and having extensive expertise are other great characteristics.
“A leader is one who knows the way, goes the way, and shows the way.” — John C. Maxwell, Founder of INJOY Maximum Impact.
7 great leaders tell us how they motivate their staff.
1. Great leaders build confidence in tough times
The greatest challenge is when things start to get tough. Steve Jobs showed he was a great leader when he managed to turn Apple around. In spite of the severe downturn in 1996, he insisted on introducing new products such as the iMac and the iPhone.
An essential building block here is when the staff fully knows what the risks and dangers are. This open approach paid off handsomely in the case of Apple.
“The people who are doing the work are the moving force behind the Macintosh. My job is to create a space for them, to clear out the rest of the organization and keep it at bay.” — Steve Jobs
“There’s this thing in technology, almost a disease, where the definition of success is making the most. How many clicks did you get, how many active users do you have, how many units did you sell? Everybody in technology seems to want big numbers. Steve never got carried away with that. He focused on making the best.” Tim Cook, CEO Apple.
2. Great leaders create an open environment
How many leaders actually encourage their staff to express their views on goals, policies, and procedures? But when they do that the rewards are handsome. There is much more collaboration and team spirit. This is pure gold when you compare it to the atmosphere in some companies where there is still patriarchy of power and privilege.
Marilyn Hewson, the CEO of Lockheed Martin firmly believes in the power of listening to cultivate an open environment.
“In times of uncertainty, employees crave clarity. As a leader, you won’t always have all of the answers — no one expects you to — so you must be open to listening and learning from others. Once you understand a particular challenge and outline the options, you have to be confident in making bold and optimistic decisions.” — Marilyn Hewson
3. Great leaders build their employees’self-esteem
Who is up there when a worker reaches a sales target or has actually beat a tough deadline? Leaders are in there and the first (not always possible) to give praise and kudos for a job well done. When these achievements go unnoticed or are bypassed, the workers’ self-esteem will invariably take a knock.
A great way to make this go viral is to give awards or gift cards and let all the staff know. Another key feature in building a worker’s self-esteem is to ensure that their talents are a workable match for their responsibilities.
“When we’d sit down to evaluate associates, we’d spend 20% of our time talking about the things they did well and 80% on what needed to be improved. That is just not effective. We ought to spend and energy helping people determine what they are gifted at doing and then align their responsibilities with those capabilities.” — Todd Mansfield, CEO Crescent Communities.
4. Great leaders keep staff in the loop.
Leaders know that there should be inclusion at every level. This is what keeping everyone in the loop is all about. They really know what is happening at every stage of the company’s production.
These could be strategies, skills training to meet changing needs and also emergency procedures. This gives them a sense of empowerment and they feel they have a vital role to play in the company.
Employee engagement was really bad at the Campbell Soup Company. Then the ex CEO Doug Conant started on the long road to economic recovery which took 10 years. He was successful but only because he made employee engagement a top priority and it worked.
“Don’t just let your career happen to you. You need to be strategic about how you define your leadership journey and where that takes you. I think leadership is service and there is power in that giving: to help people, to inspire and motivate them to reach their fullest potential.” Denise Morrison, current CEO Campbell Soups.
5. Great leaders ask lots of questions
Most great leaders know the best way to connect with their staff is to ask questions. These questions will open their minds and help gain perspective. This is so much better than remaining in a cocoon convinced that what you are doing is absolutely right. Many ineffective leaders are afraid to ask questions because their ego or lack of confidence is acting as a barrier and that will hinder their progress.
“You don’t have to always be the smartest person in the room, but if you listen and absorb what you are hearing, you will be ahead of the game.” — Cathy Engelbert, CEO Deloitte 2015–2019, now with WNBA.
6. Great leaders take risks
Sir Richard Branson (Virgin Group) is no stranger to risks and he says that being an effective leader goes hand in hand with taking risks. He tends to weigh up personal qualities more than paper qualifications. That is a typical risk he likes to take when hiring staff.
He is a great advocate of promoting his own staff within the company rather than seeking external candidates. His book The Virgin Way: Everything I Know About Leadership (not an affiliate link) reveals many other strategies he puts into practising great leadership.
“It is only by being bold that you get anywhere. If you are a risk-taker, then the art is to protect the downside. Never be frightened of taking risks and always follow your instincts!” — Sir Richard Branson
7. Great leaders are passionate about change
Indra Nooyi who was the CEO of PepsiCo for over 12 years was committed to her company making healthier snack and beverage choices such as cutting sugar, salt, and fat in the products.
She managed that so successfully that the company achieved 80% sales growth. She was so passionate about this need for change that she was able to involve all staff in the challenge.
“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
“Just because you are CEO, don’t think you have landed. You must continually increase your learning, the way you think, and the way you approach the organization. I’ve never forgotten that.” Indra Nooyi.
The secret of a great CEO is whether she can understand human behavior and use her emotional intelligence (EQ) to motivate and challenge staff. Sadly, it seems that CEOs overall are scoring very badly on the EQ scale according to this World Economic Forum article.
“Leadership is not domination, but the art of persuading people to work toward a common goal.”
― Daniel Goleman, Emotional Intelligence
You might also want to read my other stories on management