In Part 1 of this series, Improving Leadership Skills for a Better Career, you read a summary of the responses after I sent an email to 100 of my friends and colleagues all over the country in various stages of life and career. I asked them for one word or short phrase of their definitions of leadership. To me, the responses show personality, ability to follow directions (or not), creativity, thoughtfulness, maturity, and lack of experience in leadership. Here are verbatim responses:
“Integrity, commitment, and willingness to do whatever you ask of others.”
— VP of HR, Supply chain/consumer products
“To be a compassionate and pro-active listener.”
— Project Coordinator, Computer Industry
“I think being able to know where each member of your team's strengths and then approaching them in ways they will respond to. So if someone on the team is more analytical then giving an assignment that is geared towards analysis or asking direction from them in this area is a sign that the Team Manager knows his/her team strengths. At the same time giving team members ways to develop other strengths such as presentation or writing skills is a sign of a Manager that is thinking of his/her employee development.”
— Recruiter/Sourcer, many industries
— Educational consultant, former principal, and teacher
- Inspect what you expect
- Constructive feedback”
— Director of Digital Media Specialties
— Insurance company owner
“Hard to pin it down to a single characteristic. There are many things I like to see, but: The most important characteristic of a good leader is that he/she makes good decisions.”
— Engineering Professor from major Texas university
“Leads by example and willing to roll up sleeves and do the work.”
— Recruiting Manager, healthcare
“To clearly communicate where we are going (direction) and how we are going to get there.”
— Project Manager, Consumer Goods
— Project Manager, Construction
“Compassionate listener with a good moral compass.”
— Hardware Manager, Telecom
“Should be charismatic and inspirational.”
— Product Manager, Semiconductor
“A true leader has the ability to use experiences to empathize with all those around them (not sympathize) and offer guidance and direction while building the team.”
— Consultant, PR, Non-Profits
“I heard Gen. Norman Schwarzkopf speak on leadership. He said a good leader chooses to do the right thing.”
— Sales, Medical Devices
“The first thing that came to mind was charisma and second, more thoughtful answer, is authenticity.”
— HR Director, Computer Business Services
“Respect for others.”
— Job Seeker, Administrative
“Walk the talk.”
— Agency Recruiter/Manager, Finance and IT
— CEO, IT Recruiting Agency
— Counselor, Outplacement
— Software Engineer, new supervisor in IT/Telecom
- “To find, recognize, and secure the future.
- Understand fundamental change.
- Recognize complexity of systems and how small changes can cause extreme challenges.
- Charasmatic Leader; Style of Leadership can have profound impact on productivity.
- Power of Vision; Visionary Leadership — Shared Vision is the single most valuable asset to building success.
- Be aware of the political environment around me.
- Get into a people management role.
- Look for self-development activities.
- Focus on results-driven performance.
- Speak my mind.”
— Consultant in Cyber Security
“Lead by example not by words and know his people like family.”
— Senior VP, Sales and Marketing, sensors for various applications
- “Reward the performers
- Motivate the laggards, and
- Assuage the prima donnas.”
— Manager, telecom
“Management is by and through others, build a good team and then lead it.”
— Program Manager, IT
“Moxie and… Defined on dictionary.com as
- vigor; verve; pep.
- courage and aggressiveness; nerve.
- skill; know-how.
That about covers it!!!!!”
— Employment Attorney
Leadership means being extraordinary, compassionate, able to make decisions, and confident. I am grateful to my colleagues and friends for their responses are insightful and thought-provoking. I urge you to take time to make your own list of what leadership means to you and then act on it. Since the majority of the responses came from the Texas area, I think it would be fascinating to see if people in Boston, San Jose, and Orlando would answer differently. The bottom line seems to be that we all should be working to be better leaders regardless of our job titles and responsibilities.
The graphic is a compilation of all the comments from the participants in this unsophisticated commentary on what leadership means. A big thanks to Wordle.net for allowing us to use their software to produce it.