Are you a true Leader? Do you encourage your people?

True Leader

True Leaders!
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Are you just a manager or are you a true leader? As a leader you must focus on

  • People not on transaction
  • Success and not on failure
  • Future not on the past

If you are a true leader you are a people person. A leader encourages and rewards people. A leader pays attention to people.

Ask yourself the following 5 questions and check if you are a true leader:

1 How do you handle phone calls?

Do you really give your employees undivided attention?

Assume you have a meeting with one of your employees: Does your employee have your full undivided attention? What if your phone rings?  Do you take the call during the conversation? What’s your answer?

A lot of managers respond:

“It depends who is calling and if it is important!”

Others say:

“No, of course not. I don’t take the call”

You know what a real leader says?

“My phone is never ringing when I am in a meeting with one of my employees. I will always turn it off. Calls are forwarded to my secretary. If it is really important she will let me know.”

How you handle phone calls in a conversation shows if you really are a leader. So, turn off your smartphone when you are in a conversation – always!

2 How do you handle emails?

I know managers who process emails during meetings on their Smartphone. Are you doing this as well? What is the point of this?

If brain research has taught us anything in recent years it is that multi-tasking is neither effective nor efficient. I can either read my emails or I can participate in the meeting!

If the meeting is not important, if it is not an effective meeting – why the hell are you as the manager present at the meeting? If the meeting is useless, why not cancel it?

You may say:

“Well, the meeting is important but some emails are important as well! I need to read them!”

What? I assure you: Urgent and important issues will never be sent by e-mail. If someone has an urgent matter for you that is also important, they will always contact you in person, or they will call your secretary.

Believe me: You will not be notified by email if your house is on fire. If you suffer from email overload click here.

3 How do you communicate?

True leaders inspire their people. How do they do that? True leaders take care that their message is understood. That is the most important key to the success of a business leader. A true leader communicates clearly.

Unfortunately lots of managers talk to their employees like that:

“The financial uncertainty and lack of confidence in the market place has been increasingly challenging, but due to our strategic fit, our synergies achieved and our core competencies we think outside the box to add more value and have a win-win situation with our customers to sequentially leverage our efforts and to improve our bottom line. – Let’s go for it!”

Lots of managers just talk but they don’t really say anything. In business presentations they use buzzwords to sound intelligent, but in the end it is just boring and blah blah.

A true leader tells it like it is and he gives complete, understandable information. True leaders are specific and they use plain English! They want to be understood.

Clear communication is the most important key to success of business leaders. So to grow into a true leader, you must learn how to be crystal clear in your communication.

Don’t use buzzwords! Be specific and use plain English.

 4 How do you manage your day-to-day tasks?

How much time do you spend with operative management like administrative stuff, budget controlling, day to day work? Most managers tell me that they spend about 90 % of their time with these operative tasks.

So they only spend 10 % of their time with leadership tasks – with the future of their business, with vision, goals and strategies with talking, informing and inspiring employees.

Why do these managers only have 10 % of their time for leadership? Most of them do not understand how important it is. They do not delegate. They want to be involved and to be in control of everything.

But as a manager you have to delegate most of the operative tasks to your employees. That is why you are a manager. Otherwise you do not have the time for the important tasks: the leadership tasks.

Try to spend at least 50 % of your time with leadership tasks. Therefore, think about which of your daily tasks can you delegate?

Do you really need to

  • decide how many pencils your company need to purchase?
  • control all company bills in detail?
  • read and sign every paper?

Don’t be a micromanager, but strive to be a true leader!

5 How do you earn trust?

Leadership is about trust. But trust has to be earned.

Some managers think their employees will trust them because they are the managers. Other managers behave in a friendly way and talk nicely.They think that this will help them to earn the trust of their employees. – But all of that is nonsense!

The only way you earn trust is by walk the talk! Do what you say you would do, don’t make empty promises. True leaders don’t break their word!

Now, lots of “wanna be” leaders tell me:

“I know that and of course I behave like that: I am a true leader. I always stick with my commitments.”

Really? What’s about that promise you gave to your employees about the 5 % salary increase?

“That is not my fault. My boss in our headquarter refuses to make any salary increases this year.”

Aha, so why did you promise something which is out of your control?

If you want to be a true leader: Don’t take the easy way. Only promise what is under your control and what you can keep.

Work hard to keep your promises all the time – even if the action you promised seems to be not important.

If you promise your employee that you send him an email feedback on Monday, you better make sure that he receives that email on Monday and not on Tuesday morning.

Always keep in mind:

“Most people give trust away slowly but they take it back quickly. It often takes years to build trust and it can take seconds to destroy trust.”

So, if you want to be a true leader:

“Keep your promises – always – even the very small ones! Only make a promise if you can keep it.”

But there is more about true leaders…

True leaders need disagreement

It is quite natural: If you have a great idea, it feels good when others telling you:

“Waoh, That’s a fantastic idea.”

It is so good for your ego, isn’t it?

But be careful: If your employees tell you always how great you and your ideas are, something is going terribly wrong.

Avoid the Yes-Man-Mentality

Managers often tend to surround themselves with people who agree with them and who think like them – or at least always saying “Yes” to all what the boss presents.

That is dangerous. True leaders do it differently. You need people in your team who are not like you. You need people who challenge your ideas, who think differently and who may suggest even the opposite way of your presented direction.

Do you really need redundancy?

Gen George Marshall said once:

“If you and I agree all the time, one of us is redundant!”

Good disagreement is central to progress. If you don’t allow dissent, you produce a company culture of stagnation, fear and frustration. The result: Employees with good ideas leave your company or they mentally resign. They sit back and protect their jobs by agreeing with everything you suggest.

If that’s the case you have surrounded yourself only with “Yes–Men!” That’s not what you and your company need. Avoid it by all means.

You need controversial discussions!

Ideas need to be discussed – controversially. You need to encourage your people to challenge you and your ideas. Encourage disagreement and use it to empower collaboration and decision making.

Disagreement vs Disrespect

There is a difference between disagreement and disrespect! Don’t confuse the two.

As the manager or as the subordinate: Be honest and tell what you think, but do it politely. Disagreements should not become personal.

However, if the decision is made after discussions and balancing pros and cons, dissent must stop. Once the decision has been made, the employees need to understand that they have an obligation to support the decision – even if they disagree with the decision.


A true leader asks the right questions correctly

Any salesman worth his salt knows: He who asks questions leads. This is old news. But in spite of this, many managers are not aware how important and helpful, but also powerful correctly placed questions can be.

The controlling nature of questions is impressively put on display during interrogations, as shown in crime dramas.

For instance, a suspect is questioned by a police officer. The police officer applies increasing pressure by asking short questions in rapid succession. The suspect is increasingly pressed into a defensive position, from which he desperately attempts to explain himself. The same happens to the poor employee who has to defend himself against the staccato of pressing questions from the Chairman after a presentation.

Questions as a demonstration of power

Some managers use these pressing questions intentionally to demonstrate their power. But others are not even aware that they present themselves as far too dominant, and are perceived as a threatening inquisitor and attacker. This is very damaging. Such behavior is perceived as showing little regard, and will frequently trigger fear, demotivation and frustration. True leaders don’t do this.

When a behavior pattern of authoritarian questioning becomes part of the company culture this results in submissiveness and sandbagging. These companies can forget about innovation, out of the box thinking and commitment.

How can questions be defused?

How can multiple topics be explored by questions, without the questions feeling like an interrogation? Several options exist. The most important point is: allow the other person to finish, and insert pauses between the questions. Consider: The shorter the question is formulated, the more pressing it is perceived by the counterpart.

You can attenuate your questions by preceding some of your questions with a personal statement. Instead of asking:

“Why did you make the decision this way?”

try saying:

“I can see that you were in a tough situation. What led you to make the decision this way?”

You can also briefly introduce the background of your question with one or two sentences before asking the actual question. This keeps you from constantly badgering your employees with short questions.

Avoid countering with “why”

Pay attention to the classic “why” question. In combination with a pointed question, this is almost always perceived as an attack. Posed as a single word question, “why” achieves maximum confrontation. In the end you can counter any response with “why?”. Avoid this at all costs.

Expressing esteem with questions

Questions can be used to structure and control conversations. Focused questions can also be a terrific way to get others to think. But this will only work if your counterpart feels that you hold him in high regard. You will not achieve this with a barrage of questions.

The inspiring quote

“Leaders don’t create followers, they create more leaders!”

Tom Peters