Bob the Boss was a leader.  Every day, without fail, unless he wasn’t at work, he walked around and said hello to the employees.  Not much more than “hello” but he made a point of saying something.  He knew that letting them see him where the work was being done was important.  He knew that this would inspire them to work harder and better.

Every Friday, without fail, many of the employees would meet at the local watering hole.  They talked about almost anything and everything.  Like clockwork though ultimately the conversation always turned to Bob the Boss.

“Does he really think we like him walking around saying hello?”

“All he does is walk around, go back to his office and send out memo’s saying what we are doing wrong.”

“I saw him at Big Box the other day and said hello, he didn’t even know who I was and I was wearing a company t-shirt”

“I wonder when he will start having us bow and kiss his ring when he comes by?”

Obviously, the employees had a different impression of the value of Bob’s “management by walking around” efforts.

For all that it was worth, Bob thought he was a leader.  He thought that by being seen and saying hello that this would show his workers how much he was interested in them.  The problem was that the effort was shallow, incomplete and insincere.  Bob was failing as a leader and he didn’t know it.

What are some of the most important characteristics of a leader?

Self-Awareness.  Leaders are self-aware.  They know what their own emotional strengths and weaknesses are.  They know when they are overworked, when they are tired.  They know themselves so well that they can push themselves to the maximum potential and be able to sustain that. 

 Self-Direction. Leaders know how to get things done.  They can organize efforts and don’t allow “thinking about it” to get in the way of results.  They don’t allow their emotions to interfere with what needs to be done.  When decisions have to be made they make them at a speed appropriate for the situation.  Leaders are not about activity; they are about achievement.

 Vision. Leaders can create and communicate a vision.  They are able to see the future state of what they are trying to do and can reach that goal.  The vision is about a goal and not about their own personal needs or desires. 

 Ability to Motivate. Leaders do not walk around saying “do this” or “do that.”  Leaders create an environment where people want to do those things without being told.  People know what the goal (vision) is and they willing participate because the leader motivated them to do so.  People know that the leader, as a part of the team, will work alongside any of them, if necessary, to get the job done.

  Social Awareness. Leaders understand people and the people around them.  They know who the formal and informal influencers are in the group.  They work WITH these people and maximize their contributions and influence on the group.  Leaders are not alone…they see and know the value of teamwork.

 It doesn’t matter if you believe leaders are born or made.  What matters is that you recognize and master the basic characteristics of being a leader.  You do this with sincerity and without any hidden or personal agendas.  As a leader, you know that your ability to get things done through others is what makes your workplace or team successful.

 Leaders who are truly aware of their people are the most successful.  Yes, it is important to understand the bottom line, the financial Leadership is more often than not about “soft skills” rather than hard skills. Yes, a leader who understands what drives the bottom line is valuable.  A leader who understands the numbers, who understands the dollars and who understands time is critical.  But more importantly, a leader must still know their people.  All businesses face the same challenges; weather, economy, laws, regulations, etc.  The successful businesses know that it is their people who will overcome those challenges and excel.

Do your leadership competencies meet these characteristics?   Are you a Leader or are you a Bob?