There are many attributes that make up a great leader. Some of the most important traits can be summarized in five levels: title-driven leaders, relationship-driven leaders, performance-driven leaders, mission-driven leaders and the ultimate level is servant leaders.
Level 1: Title-Driven Leaders
Anyone can have a title, or be given one, even if they don’t have what it takes to lead, so a title-driven leader is the only level of leadership that doesn’t have to be earned. Anyone can be appointed to a position but not everyone has what it takes to lead. Title-driven leaders may be calling the shots but it doesn’t mean their team wants to follow them. Titles give people an opportunity to lead but their character, knowledge, skills and execution will determine whether others will follow.
The litmus test for a title-driven leader is whether the people under them would volunteer to follow them if they lost their title. If the answer is no, they are a boss, not a leader, because their team will only follow them because of what’s on their business card, not because of who they are and what they do.
Level 2: Relationship-Driven Leaders
Relationship-driven leaders love their team and their team loves them. They earn the admiration of their team by building bonds based on trust. Trust is the foundation for any relationship and it is critical to establish if you want to be a great leader. The best way to be trusted is to be trustworthy, to be a high character leader who cares about the people you lead and serve.
People don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care. Relationship-driven leaders care deeply about their people and they show it, not only through words but through actions. Great leaders value their people by listening to them, including them, valuing them and trusting them. These leaders care about their people personally, not just professionally. They seek ways they can help them rather than solely focusing on what they can get out of them and, as a result, they build authentic bonds and friendships that last.
Great leaders recognize and appreciate their people and their work. They spend less time trying to catch people doing something wrong and instead try to catch them doing something right — and then they appreciate and encourage them, often in public, to promote positive and productive behavior.
Level 3: Performance-Driven Leaders
Michael Jordan said, “Some people want it to happen, some wish it would happen, others make it happen.” Performance-driven leaders are doers — action takers who get it done. They realize what they do is more influential than what they say or ask others to do. They don’t let fear stop them from trying and they don’t let obstacles impede their progress. They refuse to quit. They find a way to persevere. In short, they make it happen.
Performance-driven leaders perform when it matters most. They are game changers because they have the knowhow and skills to put points on the board when their team needs them and they assist others in doing the same. Performance-driven leaders are hard workers who set the pace for the team and they possess the skills needed to deliver results for an organization over the long term. This garners a deep-seeded professional respect from others and attracts and retains great talent because everyone wants to be on a winning team.
Level 4: Mission-Driven Leaders
Mission-driven leaders are driven by a mission greater than themselves; to make a positive impact in the lives of the people they serve — customers, employees, vendors, partners and the world at large. Great missions attract great people who want to be a part of something positive, not only to make money but to make a difference.
If it’s only about a paycheck, you’ll attract people who will jump ship for a small raise or a better office. If it’s about something bigger and better, you’ll attract bigger and better people. Great leaders are mission driven and they help their team find and fulfill their personal missions, not just what’s best for the company. By doing this, they create a happier, more productive culture and workplace with people who work harder and smarter because they are on a mission that matters to them, as much or more than money.
Level 5: Servant Leaders
Before you’re a leader, it is all about helping yourself grow. When you are a leader, it’s all about helping others grow, and that is the signature of a servant leader. Ronald Reagan said, “The greatest leader is not necessarily the one who does the greatest things. He is the one that gets people to do the greatest things.”
Servant leaders not only perform well themselves, they lift the performance of others, by investing time and energy in developing how their team thinks, works and lives. When done well, they create a leader farm, where they plant seeds of greatness into the leaders they are developing and fertilize them with the right blend of encouragement, development and accountability.
One of the most effective ways they develop their team is by developing themselves. They create an environment that encourages their team to have a passion for constant, never-ending improvement. That is why they are forever students who continue to get better over time and they inspire other leaders to do the same.
The bottom line in leadership isn’t how far we advance ourselves but how far we advance others.
The greatest leaders know their purpose and they help others achieve theirs. They are not just interested in success at work; they seek success in life. They are driven to make a difference in the lives of others. As a result, they build healthier cultures and more productive businesses that generate a bigger bottom line and a happier workplace for themselves and their people.
I hope that these insights help you improve the impact you have in the lives of the people you lead.
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