Do you have what it takes to be a true leader?

Leadership is how a person influences others to accomplish an objective and how they direct the organization in a way that makes it more cohesive and coherent. Leaders do this by applying their leadership attributes, such as beliefs, values, ethics, character, knowledge, and skills. Although your position as a manager gives you the authority to accomplish certain tasks and objectives in the organization, this power does not make you a leader, it simply makes you the boss. Leadership differs in that it makes the followers want to achieve high goals, rather than simply bossing people around.

Now let’s look at specific traits that demonstrate a successful leader:

Visible – Visibility creates credibility, credibility creates trust, and in order to have trust you must be visible. By circulating around the workplace, you will appear more approachable and available. There’s a very official term for this style – Management By Wandering Around (MBWA) and it works!

Consistent – Don’t be a tyrant one day and a pussycat the next. Flip-flopping between styles confuses employees. Stick with one style of leadership. Those who look to you for leadership must know what to expect on a daily basis.

Initiate – Try initiating conversations to help find better solutions. Asking questions is a great way to initiate conversations. Try asking open-ended questions. For example: What can we do better as a company? Don’t always dictate change. Initiate change by creating an atmosphere where creative ideas can flow freely. Encourage suggestions for improvement and reward good suggestions. Continually strive to get better.

Positive – You set the tone for your environment. An optimistic attitude from a leader can carry over to others. What type of tone are you setting? Is it one of optimism or one of pessimism? Confidence is contagious and so is the lack of it. Remember, employees mirror the tone that leaders set.

Responsible – Leaders accept challenges as well as successes. If an employee makes a mistake, it is your responsibility to help him or her improve. Employees will never respect a leader who deflects criticism toward the team. Successful leaders think of themselves as “we” not “I”. It is a leader’s responsibility to ensure that everyone shares in the team’s success.

Listen – The most important characteristic of a leader is being a good listener. Focus on the needs of your employees. Often people feel afraid of or intimidated by management. Make sure you show people you are willing to listen to what they have to say, that they are important and worthy of your time.

Open the doors of two-way communication. Don’t fall into the trap of telling others what to do without considering their opinions. No person – at any age – enjoys being told what to do. Even if you know the answer, listen respectfully and hear out a question. This will help you open up communication between you and the workers.

Recognize – Most people care more about recognition from peers and their bosses than about money. When an employee performs well, let him or her know. Each day give five sincere compliments to various workers in your section. Be on the lookout for something they did well and give them a bit of praise. Happy people perform better. Create awards and rewards of performance.

Communicate – Good leaders are good communicators. They clearly convey their message in a way that connects with the listener. Good leaders understand that you tailor your message to the needs of each worker. If someone is analytical, construct your message focusing on facts and data. If someone is more relational, construct your message in a way that conveys emotion and focuses on how the change impacts people.

Fun – A successful leader has fun in the process. Lightness can complement the seriousness of the job. A fun environment doesn’t indicate a lack of professionalism. In fact, a fun environment contributes to the team’s results and retention.