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As the saying goes, hindsight is 20/20.  Looking back over the years, I can certainly find something I have learned from every leader I have served.  Some are positive, and I strive to emulate those traits; others … not so much.

So as I approached this post, I couldn’t help but reflect on how others might perceive my leadership abilities. Admittedly, this has been a more difficult exercise than I originally had thought.  The idea was clear in my head, but it never quite seemed to crystallize as I wrote.  I mean, who wants to readily pursue a train of thought where the answers you get back are not the answers you were hoping for?

But then again, I once heard that you won’t know up to 40% of yourself unless others to reveal it to you. I believe that.  It’s why some organizations do 360 reviews (it is so powerful when you not only get feedback from your boss, but your peers, your direct reports, other others within the organization).  It’s why tools like Myers-Briggs, DISC (among a host of others) exist.  It’s why many executives in large organizations have coaches (because those within the organization may fear retribution if they speak honestly).

Regardless, after nearly two weeks of wrestling with this post and reading countless articles related to the topic, I finally landed on an approach that seems to work.  These questions/bullets represent the traits I’ve admired most not only in well respected leaders past & present, but also in leaders I’ve served within my career.  Answer them honestly about yourself.  Better yet, have others answer them about you.

Are you the type of leader who:

  • Shows respect in both behavior and words
  • Respects the opinions of people who disagree with you
  • Willingly admits when you don’t know something
  • Gives credit to others and accepts responsibility/accountability when things don’t go quite so well
  • Accepts ideas/solutions to problems even when they are not your own
  • Thinks of yourself less, not less of yourself
  • Appreciated/Content are those who show humility (poor in spirit)
  • Understands, and can admit, your own shortcomings
  • Has a desire to not only improve yourself, but also the organization
  • Sees problems within the organization as opportunities
  • Readily understands what the problems are that need to be solved and can articulate how to address them
  • Shows genuine interest in your employees and the work they do
  • Appreciated/Content are those who seek continuous improvement (mourn)
  • Demonstrates consistency, composure and equanimity, especially when things get difficult
  • Controls your temper in the workplace
  • Seeks to know why something went wrong before reacting
  • Understands power, but more importantly is restrained in the use of that power
  • Does not demean coworkers with words or actions
  • Uses emotions wisely to work through conflict
  • Appreciated/Content are those who are patient, mild of temper, restrained (meek)

Can your employees says this about the type of leader you are:

  • When asked to do something, I know it is for the right reason
  • I trust my leader(s) to make decisions with the best interest of the business in mind; not personal gain
  • To the best of my knowledge, my leader(s) act ethically in all aspects of their life
  • My boss earns the respect of everyone in the organization
  • Appreciated/Content are those who seek what is right or justifiable
  • My leader(s) understand nobody is perfect and mistakes will be made, and these are coaching/learning opportunities
  • They model compassion when dealing with difficult situations with their employees (either personally or professionally)
  • Long-term improvement/growth is important to my leader(s), not just results
  • I can easily admit to my boss when I have done something wrong
  • They provide cover for their people to innovate and sometimes to fail
  • Appreciated/Content are those who show mercy and are compassionate
  • When problems arise, my boss seeks to understand how to prevent it from happening again rather than immediately passing blame
  • They reconcile conflict by collaborating rather than avoiding, competing or accommodating it
  • They promote healthy conflict about ideas and solutions
  • They hold meetings to problem-solve instead of meetings designed just to inform or to persuade
  • Appreciated/Content are those who collaborate to resolve conflict (peacemakers)
  • My boss makes it evident that they live the organization’s mission statement
  • Yes means yes, and no means no
  • My leader’s motives are aligned with both their words and actions (must have both aligned)
  • My boss is truthful.
  • Appreciated/Content are those who demonstrate integrity (pure of heart)

In a nutshell, effective leaders should be humble and demonstrate self-control; they should continuously seek improvement (of themselves and those around them); they should demonstrate integrity and transparency; they should handle conflict and encourage collaboration; they should be firm yet fair.  And in the face of adversity, challenges, resistance, they should demonstrate compassion and courage.

Finally in closing, no I didn’t spell ‘attitude’ incorrectly in the post title.  As the italics indicate, these ideas have been around a long time encapsulated in the beatitudes.