Business Eye: What makes a great leader?

Alex Pratt
Alex Pratt

I’m often asked what makes a great leader or a superb manager.

The answer is simple and so often ignored. Recruit highly effective people and focus all your energies into helping smooth their way.

Hire great people.

Simple.

So many leadership and management failures are the result of placing scarce energy and attention into wasted attempts at re-engineering the psychology of ineffective people, while not fostering your highly effective talent.

This is an odd outcome because the effective team members are easy to spot due to their consistent observance of three habits.

To start with, they choose to show up in both body and spirit. Of course they work with a passion for as long as it takes rather than reading a book at their desk after their contracted hours have elapsed while they wait for the bus, but highly effective employees run much keener than the surface appearance.

They pay attention to detail; they are attentive, always listening, watching and learning. 
They know themselves and fully apply themselves.

Secondly, they choose to step up. 
They make sure they know what others need and expect of them, what good looks like, and how their performance will be measured.

They want to be accountable for what they do. They own their work and they don’t need to be told to make stuff happen.

Thirdly, they choose to stand out and speak out. They don’t settle but are always on a mission to deliver higher standards, to improve what they do and their worth. 
They don’t sit on their hands and grumble but offer ideas, challenge what needs challenging and have courage enough to constructively say what needs to be said.

The common thread is that all three habits are personal choices made by the employee, not the leader. They are all habits owned by the individual, not the manager.

They are all differentiating factors at the level of the individual, not the team.
Of course, we all have bad days, but highly effective employees live these three habits and don’t need a manager to convince them that a dirty, messy workplace, 
making the same mistake again, and not bothering to go the extra mile when the opportunity arises, represent the surest route to the bottom of the pack.