What makes a leader? Below are some guidelines based on my experience in the workforce:
- Put Others First: This is an inherent trait of a good leader; you care more about your team than yourself. For a good leader this comes naturally.
- Don’t Ask Of Others What You Are Unwilling To Do Yourself: My very first manager at AroundCampus Group taught me this during my first experience managing interns. It’s not enough to simply have and state this philosophy—you must also demonstrate it. Example—you need to ask everyone to take on a few extra assignments to meet the deadline. Make sure you allocate some to yourself as well. How do I know this is true? Said manager was always willing to put herself in the trenches with the team, garnering her instant respect and admiration.
- Actually Care: This may sound silly, but hear me out. A true leader isn’t just going through the motions; he or she genuinely cares about the outcome of the project. If you can’t convince yourself to care, you should probably reconsider your role in the project.
- Be Productive: Every office has slow days now and then. But a true leader will always find a way to be productive. Leaders do not wait to be told what to do; they seek out and do what needs to be done without prompting. Even if it’s a simple thing (organizing the break room, filing old paperwork, restocking the printer), it’s more productive than sitting at your desk staring at Facebook.
- Exemplify Good Character: This is easily overlooked and hard for everyone at times because we are all human! Strive to be a person that others look up to both inside and outside of the office. If you go out with your team to lunch and do something silly like take up two parking spaces or tell an inappropriate joke, don’t be surprised if it becomes harder to command respect. It’s easy to get caught up in the urge to be liked, but ultimately teams need a leader that will provide dependability and structure (and structure provides security). Resist the urge to act like a fool. (And if you can’t, avoid situations that will tempt you.)
- Listen: Really listen. Stop what you are doing, look the teammate in the eye, and really hear what they are saying and contemplate their point of view. Are you getting feedback that a process or procedure is ineffective? Ask for their suggestions to remedy this and implement the change if appropriate. Regardless, make them feel heard and that their thoughts have been considered. Not only will this foster effective communication and problem solving, but you will earn trust and respect.
Think back to some of your favorite teachers, bosses, and other mentors. What traits did they possess that made you look up to them as a leader? What advice do you think they would give?