By Patrick Gallen, Partner, People and Change Consulting at Grant Thornton
Leadership requires humility, the ability to listen, inspiring trust, and role-modelling work-life balance. Leading others also requires good character and an ability to have honest, constructive conversations. A great leader gets results by offering a vision, aligning actions with achievable goals, celebrating wins and leading through change.
Leaders must model the work-life balance your company says it values. People need to see the boss take a holiday!
Everyone talks about work-life balance, but hardly anyone achieves a perfect balance. To make it to the top in a competitive corporate culture, you must work harder than everyone else. The line between work and personal life blurs. You will be less productive if you don’t take breaks, but nearly 24% of Americans take no vacation at all, according to a recent study.
When leaders themselves don’t have a life, they not only look pitiful in the eyes of their teams, they also set a very poor standard for how others behave, consciously or unconsciously.
You can’t just advocate work-life balance; you must model it for your teams. No one will aspire to your thankless, no-holiday job. The most influential people are models of work-life balance. Admit that you struggle with it, so your colleagues see you, too, are vulnerable to overwork.
As a leader you don’t have all the answers. Show more humility by listening better and not overreacting. The opposite of humility is arrogance, and through arrogance you can quickly lose credibility.
There quite a few studies that show humility is the quality that good leaders value the most. Humble leaders don’t need outside validation.
They are outward-looking and seek to help others. They find that being humble builds character.
However, humility requires listening to others. Many of us are good at asking lots of questions, but not giving our people space to share their ideas. When you don’t listen, you fall into making assumptions and evaluating, advising and probing according to your experience – not based on what the other person tells you.
If you’re an effective leader, you already have a reputation for driving results. The question is, what kind of reputation? Demonstrate empathy by taking the time to understand someone else’s needs, goals and pressures. Wait for people to ask you for advice instead of offering it unsolicited. Don’t interrupt during conversations, because that shows disrespect.
Part of good listening is knowing how to regulate your emotions. If you hear something that upsets you, step back instead of reacting. Take responsibility for your reactions. To be prepared not to overreact, examine your values and anticipate what might trigger you.
And finally – be trustworthy and don’t overcommit. Do your colleagues trust you? Do you trust them? Corporate cultures have evolved to be more transparent, so the level of trust will be obvious as well. To be part of creating trust, declare your intentions up front, and expect others to do so as well. When you make a commitment, you build hope; when you keep it, you build trust as a leader.