Whether you seem to be a “born leader” or are uneasy with the role of leader and need to develop leadership skills methodically, you will discover valuable insights through a self-assessment. You will want to examine your skills, traits, competencies, abilities, and experience. Since the days of the ancient Eastern and Western philosophers, such a rigorous self-assessment has been seen as the starting point for success.
“Know thyself” is a key lesson of life.
The first element of a self-assessment exercise is an examination of what senior management most likely expects of you in your role as leader. Give yourself an “S” for strength or “D” for a trait that needs development. At the end of this exercise, add one or two traits that may be unique to your organization.
- Work diligently and selflessly to achieve organizational goals for performance, quality, service, profits, and civic responsibility.
- Seek out the tough jobs and take full responsibility for the outcome.
- Tackle problems head-on and find ways to overcome obstacles.
- Handle difficult employees effectively and transform them into productive members of high-performing teams.
- Align the efforts of individuals and teams with the organization’s vision, values, and objectives.
- Handle crises and rapidly changing situations smoothly.
- Forecast and manage change; overcome resistance to change.
- Plan carefully and intelligently in ways that show foresight and initiative.
- Make clear, timely decisions that address critical problems directly.
- Create a climate of open communication and trust at all levels.
- Enhance the productivity and loyalty of all members of the group.
- Stimulate employees to show greater responsibility and accountability.
- Show high levels of personal energy, initiative, and integrity.
- Possess this trait unique to my organization: ____________.
Just as important in terms of your effectiveness as leader is what your direct reports expect of you. List a few traits that you believe they would want in their leader. Better yet: Ask them. Consider both the differences and similarities between what senior management expects and what your direct reports expect. For instance, direct reports are likely to have expectations that a leader should be able to:
- create a healthy work environment in which they can perform their job
- manage the performance and relationships in the work unit
- understand their needs and desires
- leave them alone to do their job, but be available and supportive
- provide answers to their questions
- make decisions fairly and in consideration of their needs
- help solve their problems
- protect them from outside distracters and problems
- fight for their needs and interests
- provide them with the information, time, and resources needed to do their jobs.
Rank yourself on how well you meet these expectations as well. Where do you earn an “S”? Where do you earn a “D”? In summary, let’s compare what senior management expects from its leaders and what qualities the leader’s direct reports (i.e., followers) look for.
Senior management tends to look for:
- technical skills (the ability to handle the technical aspects of the work)
- management skills (the ability to plan, organize, support, and guide work)
- interpersonal skills (the ability to build solid relationships and strong teams)
- desire (the controlled ambition to be the leader of an effort to achieve goals)
- character (the poise, judgment, and integrity to handle tough situations well).
Followers expect and respect someone with:
- competence (the demonstrated ability to get things done)
- credibility (the personal qualities that project trustworthiness).
Excerpted from AMA Business Boot Camp: Management and Leadership Fundamentals That Will See You Successfully Through Your Career edited by Edward T. Reilly, © 2013 American Management Association. All rights reserved. Published by AMACOM Books (www.amacombooks.org), A Division of the American Management Association.