As today’s economic and political environments are full of more moving parts than ever, and competition is causing even more sweeping industrial changes, the ever-present challenge of innovation remains the same: adapt, or die. The organizations that will be best equipped to adapt to the new economy are those with the best traits at the helm. What does the modern leader need? While the literature has lots of differing answers, here are ten qualities that should serve as the foundation for the modern leader.
A significant portion of the Innovation for Growth HiOP will help you be more comfortable with being flexible. It’s no wonder that flexibility is a highly sought-after skill not only in leadership roles but all the way down to entry-level and internship positions. Fast Company said it best when it started off an article about essential leadership traits with flexibility: “leaders have to be able to change course; that is, first make sure their businesses will survive, and then find a new way to reach their goals.”
As is the aim of Innovation for Growth and all our other HiOP programs, constant, lifelong learning is the hallmark. John Jantsch, on his Duct Tape Marketing blog summed it up like this: “Today’s teacher understands the speed of change and further understands that in order to have any reason for people to follow, they must provide a sense of what’s next, what’s ahead – the only way to do that is inquire vigorously, every day.”
How else could you get your team behind you if it were not for good communication? This not only shines through in words because we have all seen those people who have a great script but don’t have the results to show that they followed through. It’s no wonder that Fast Company says those “…who communicate well are those who not only share their thoughts with employees, but also let their strength and personal character show through in their communication, and empower those who work for them by defining the company’s goal and showing how to get there.”
To get people to follow you, motivating them to do so is a must. But this should be achieved not just to advance the leader’s individual goals; you have to take everyone else’s into account. Building relationships are important for getting employees to coalesce and fight harder for achieving the greater good for the organization. And, as leaders effectively network, they must also have the company’s best interest at heart. This will, as Deep Patel in Forbes explains, build vast networks that cast a wide net from a leader and his or her organization’s particular niche “…leaders establish impactful relationships with customers, clients, partners and even competitors.”
While we as humans often want to have total control, that is easier said than done. Knowing how to properly delegate is a critical quality because it exemplifies how well you, as a leader, understand your team. It is not merely assigning tasks to someone within the structure without any regard for whether the person you assign the task to can do it. If you hand off tasks to the best-equipped person, you’ll prove HR C-Suite’s point that “[g]reat leadership capitalizes on the strengths of the team to deliver strong results for the business.”
This factor is one that can often plague organizations, and it’s because, as Fast Company says, credit must be given to whom and where it is due throughout your workforce. And, on the flipside, the leader must be the first to take the blame when something goes awry. In their words, when these two circumstances happen: “a leader is born.”
You probably already know this, but setting clear goals is fundamental for any leader’s agenda. Write them down, but remember, as Deep Patel in a recent Forbes article warns, achieving these objectives won’t happen overnight. That’s when the second part of what Angela Duckworth defines as grit: persistence. It is fantastic if you feel passionate about something, but if you lack the follow-through, it is effectively useless. As Patel puts it, “[i]f you give up, so will everyone around you. To be a successful leader, you must be willing to keep going when others are tempted to throw in the towel.”
This is just a figurative way of leading by example. As many of these cliché sayings go, actions speak louder than words. If, as John Mantsch claims, people don’t want to follow you based on the way you behave, that no longer suffices to get people to do what you would like them to do. No words are needed to exemplify leadership that will get more people in your organization to follow you.
At the heart of integrity is truthfulness. As Brian Tracy‘s infographic shows us, you need always to tell the truth to everybody in every situation. In an era where we see some of the most influential people in the world regularly not telling the truth, a lack of integrity does not make you many friends.
At the heart of what we’re going to cover in Innovation for Growth is what Deep Patel calls acting strategically. To put this into perspective, this quote from his article hits the nail right on the head: “According to a Harvard Business Publishing report, Leading Now: Critical Capabilities for a Complex World, “Leaders must always be prepared to adjust their strategies to capture emerging opportunities or tackle unexpected challenges.”