How To Walk The Talk in Leadership?
In several interactions, young and aspiring managers keep asking me these questions? What makes someone a likeable leader? Is it charisma? courage? foresight? All of the above, none of the above, or a combination? If those questions had definitive answers, we wouldn’t spend so much time speculating what makes a leader truly great. The fact of the matter is that the qualities of a great leader depend on the organisation, the job, and, most importantly, the leader himself/herself.
Just because there’s no right answer for what makes a leader effective doesn’t mean that there aren’t certain qualities that lend themselves to valuable leadership. Whether it’s honesty or reliability, most great leaders should possess an uprightness and moral fiber that allows them to power through difficult situations.
1. Empower your teams
As per the Gallup’s report in which it boldly declared “the end of the traditional manager” — a wake-up call to companies still operating by command-and-control standards of decades past. In the report, Gallup revealed that today’s decentralized firms are defined by flexible workspaces and flexible work time. The evidence presented is clear that walk-the-talk managers who provide their employees with more empowerment will increase their performance.
But there’s a critical balance, which Gallup points out: “Employees still need manager support during difficult situations. Managers can’t offer autonomy and disappear.” This doesn’t mean that managers continue to spoon feed their employees. The good managers are those who work form behind the scenes and guide the employees on how to catch a fish. Then the handholding part disappears but keeping an eye and this assurance that I am always there for you does the magic.
2. Listen with undivided attention
Let’s remember that a walk-the-talk executive who actively listens to his/her people more than he/she tells them what to do. Through the famous ‘open door’, ‘open ear’ policy, leaders stay available to discuss anything with anyone anytime — whether a direct report or not — and actively practice listening more than talking. It’s not always easy to have this type of policy. It means that sometimes, I must place my own obligations on the back burner to ensure someone else has the space to freely express what’s on his/her mind.
Let’s understand this very clearly that leaders without teams are just not needed and they are nothing without their teams. If we want to become leaders we aspire to be, understand and re-read what you just read. Lead by example and share our leadership aspirations with our team. Let them know what we’re trying to achieve with our leadership style, and ask them to stay aware of it — and call us out if you slip up.
On the contrary, world outside holds others accountable. Here, we’re holding ourselves accountable for our actions. If we’ve developed an entire philosophy of leadership without considering our team’s needs, we’ve wasted our time. No leadership style works in all situations, so we need to allow your team’s input to help shape the way we lead. Using the combined knowledge of your teammates to help develop your philosophy is leadership in action.
4. Set Clear Goals
No one can achieve every aspect of his/her leadership aspirations overnight. It’s just like a New Year’s resolution — if we want to lose weight, it’s unrealistic to cut 1,000 calories from our daily diet and add an hour of exercise each day. Committing to too much is a recipe for failure. Implementing philosophy into daily life bit by bit is the best way to ensure your changes are lasting.
Let’s break leadership aspirations down into its small, implementable parts. Go one by one. Remember, slow and steady wins the race. Working incrementally, one can avoid unmanageable changes in life that might overwhelm and induce burnout. Our job as leaders is to handhold and teach people around us in a way that they feel enriched, challenged and fulfilled at the same time.
5. Make a difference in people’s lives
Over the years, I’ve observed that closely that the best leaders motivate, engage, and inspire people through actionable and practical love. This is demonstrated in how employees are treated and cared for by people-centered leaders, which has been proven to improve performance and lead to business outcomes.
It’s easy to forget that leadership is about service and making those around us better — this is how care manifests itself as a business value and transforms organisations. To assess where we stand against the high measure of a walk-the-talk leader who loves their employees, there’s one very powerful question we need to ask: What am I doing every day to improve the life of an employee in the workplace?
To sum it up, today’s employees want to see their leaders in action, leading by example. When our actions actively work against the things what we say (whether in direct conversation or through the creation or enforcement of company policies), we’re going to be viewed as a problem boss and maybe even a toxic one. Leadership and management thinking and practice have drastically transformed over time.
We’re seeing more than ever that, to fully motivate, engage, and bring out the best in people, unconventional bosses that “walk-the-talk” of leadership are instilling more human value at work and developing more human-centered workplaces for competitive advantage. These innovative management practices that appeal to the hearts and minds of employees whatever generation, are actually common sense, but not common practice.
About the Author
Muhammad Sajwani is the Founder and Managing Director of Evolve HR which aims at transforming, enriching and evolving Human Capital of Pakistan, Evolve HR thrives in challenging assumptions that hinder organisational aspirations, by creating innovative solutions that yield maximum impact, scalability & benefit to a wider base of stakeholders. As a Business Coach and Organisational Consultant, Sajwani knows how to combine business insights with people insights to transform organisations and put them on the path to growth.