CEOs must be especially agile in this age of rapid change and increasing knowledge if they want to lead an exceptional team and top company.
The business world is changing. The coveted leadership qualities of the past–being experienced, decisive, authoritative and focused on command and control–don’t work with the changing world and increasingly diverse workforce. Innovation is critical for success in today’s constantly expanding marketplace, and we need leaders with traits that put innovation at the forefront. With technology evolving at such a rapid rate, businesses need an equally evolved workplace that produces great ideas, great collaboration and something that will provide a competitive edge.
In order to inspire this in a team, a leader of the future needs to develop these five traits in order to be great:
1. A people-first attitude
Most leaders want to put the customer first. While I won’t argue that the customer is important, we can’t forget about the employees. They are the ones that are thinking about the customer, developing products for them, or managing them. If you take care of your people first, your customers get better service. This strategy is based on the premise that if your employees are happy and engaged, the customer benefits.
Shawn Achor, the author of Happier, said in a recent Washington Post article, “Happiness is such an incredible advantage in our life. When the human brain is positive, our intelligence rises, we stop diverting resources to think about anxiety.
Our creativity triples. Productive energy rises by 31 percent. The likelihood of promotion rises by 40 percent. Sales rise by 37 percent. These figures are all from studies we’ve done in places like Nationwide Insurance, UPS, KPMG.”
Putting people first is not only a good strategy for business growth–it is also a magnet for top talent. A people-first culture is what the new generation of workers is demanding.
Leaders of the future are all about motivating their people to be innovative and create new ideas. In order to do this, it is important to relinquish total control and power. Humble leaders are accessible: they sit among employees and initiate dialogue with them. The CEO sitting in the corner office with the door closed is a vision of the past. The more accessible the CEO is, the more she becomes a beacon for her company culture and people, and the more loyal employees will be.
3. Consistent values
If you’re going to be a great leader, you have to walk your talk–all the time. Leaders of the future know what they value, declare what they believe, and back that up that with their behavior on a daily basis. They are committed to demonstrating that what they say is what they will do. This is a critical point, because employees don’t do what their bosses tell them to do; they mirror the behavior that is being modeled for them. If a leader says career development is important and then doesn’t back that up with a plan, goals and real action, then he or she won’t be followed for long.
4. A clear mission and purpose
A leader of the future needs to be the voice of her business and provide clarity to her team about why she does what she does. If employees don’t know what their leader’s personal mission and purpose is, they are less connected to them. They are therefore less loyal and energized to follow and support them in any way possible.
Author and thought leader, Simon Sinek says “People don’t buy what you do; they buy why you do it. And what you do simply proves what you believe.” The same principle applies to people being motivated by their leader. Explaining your why allows people to determine their loyalty and commitment to your mission.
5. Insatiable Curiosity
Curiosity is typically defined as: eager to learn and know, inquisitive. But Stanford University psychologist Carol Dweck discovered an essential quality of success that is an extension of being curious: a growth mindset.
She notes, “In a growth mindset, people believe that their most basic abilities can be developed through dedication and hard work–brains and talent are just the starting point. This view creates a love of learning and a resilience that is essential for great accomplishment. Virtually all great people have had these qualities.”
Having a growth mindset allows a leader to be open to new ideas and new perspectives. Being open-minded, curious and expansive in your belief in others’ abilities will ensure that you motivate others to share their ideas regularly and also hear ideas you may not have otherwise come across.
It’s time to face reality: the business world is evolving at a rapid rate and businesses are having to be more nimble, innovative and forward-thinking. This calls for a new type of leader, one that is open and agile in character.