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An evergreen topic of interest to professionals in the corporate world and students of business schools alike, the mere thought of leadership conjures up several images.  At the same time, how many times have we heard from folks that Mr. X is a great leader but a really bad human being? Based on several years of experience and intense conversations from teams on the values that would help them rank a corporate leader highly based on his or her personal traits, here’s my take:

Simplicity – The best leaders I have worked with have always kept things simple. For example, in one of my first jobs, the CEO said something simple that set me off on the right path from day one of my career: “Will you let your job drive you or will you drive your job?”

aspects_of_leadership_from_the_other_sideCaring – To my mind, this is the real differentiator between the ones who really make the cut, and the ones who don’t. The best leaders accomplish extraordinary goals simply because their teams want to see them succeed. An example that comes to mind is that of my friend’s whose manager sponsored a night at a suite in a swanky hotel (with a candle light dinner, cake, and a bottle of wine thrown in) when an important office meeting prevented him from taking leave on his wife’s birthday.

Genuineness – The art of smelling a phony is not restricted to leaders. People down below are equally adept at catching a fake leader. It amazes me how many times I see leaders who don’t walk the talk, and continue to make the same mistake over and over again. A case in point is a leader who positioned himself as an employee-centric leader but did not even let his female subordinate work from home (despite a company policy to that effect) on the rare occasion that she had to take her son to the hospital for a check-up.

Diligence – A point which may take you by surprise is that as much as we love our Fridays and come to office with Monday morning blues, rarely has any employee expressed a desire or a wish for a manager who does not work hard. On the contrary, even if it is a grudging admiration, people love to work for a leader who possesses that most elementary of qualities, namely, the ability to simply work, and work hard.

Empowerment – No matter how well it is fed or looked after, no bird likes to be in a cage. Similarly, I have never seen an employee feel good about micromanagement, no matter how good the manager was or how important the task was. Leaders need to remember that leadership is about direction, not directives.

Emotional Stability – How often do we think about approaching our bosses after checking out their moods? While the pace of corporate life rarely allows us this luxury, we need to question the very need for this requirement. After all, employees and leaders share a mutually beneficial relationship, with each riding on the other for success. I remember an example being cited at a recent conference wherein one leader (whose default facial expression was a frown) received news about an important business deal late whereas his peer (who was ever-smiling) received similar news in time to make the right intervention.

The moot point is that we need to remember that we are human beings first and leaders next. Most importantly, the mind does not form perceptions based solely on logic. Emotion has a huge role to play. Hence, the importance of personal traits and values. The other side of leadership is not the weaker side. In fact, for all that we know, it is the default side of leadership.

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