June 15, 2015
What does leadership look like at your company? Are the leaders the people who always have a metric or a piece of supporting data ready? Are they charismatic and outgoing? Are they the people who always speak up in meetings–whether they have something to contribute or not? Maybe they’re the people who constantly complain about how busy they are and how many hours they work.
Leaders can be good or bad, effective or ineffective. And leaders are not just the executive team. Even junior workers can exhibit leadership traits in their interactions with coworkers. The distinguishing feature of leaders is that others follow them–whether from coercion, loyalty or desire.
Your mission is to define what leadership is at your company and to decide how you want to work within–or work to change–that definition.
Start with values
Your company values will dictate which individuals it holds up as leaders. If your company emphasizes teamwork and respect for each other, it will likely reward employees who manifest these traits. If your company stresses the need to dominate the competition and be No. 1 in its industry, it may reward go-getter behavior and (calculated) risk-taking. Take a look at your company’s stated values and try to map individuals who seem to fit them well.
Simply Hired has found that companies use the following synonyms for “leader” in job descriptions: strategic thinker, goal-oriented, assertive, self-starter and effective communicator. Try using these words as you look at different personalities in your organization.
Look for examples and counterexamples
Next, think of specific people who receive implicit praise such as head-nods during meetings, have their ideas reiterated by others and receive more responsibility or high-profile projects. Which employees don’t seem surprised by company news? Who do the executives know and greet by name in the hallways? It’s likely that these are the leaders in the company. Look at traits that these leaders share. Are they outspoken? Calm in a crisis? Able to resolve problems quickly? Quick to praise others and share credit?
Once you have identified common traits among leaders in your company, avoid confirmation bias by seeking out counterexamples. If you notice that people who speak out frequently in meetings receive positive reinforcement, can you find examples of people who speak out but do not receive the same reactions? Use these observations to refine your definition of what a leader is in your company.
You may discover that you don’t particularly agree with, or like, what constitutes leadership at your company. Perhaps a few employees influence meetings and team collaboration through gossip and hostile posturing a la Mean Girls, or employees are rewarded for working 16-hour days, and are punished if they don’t. If you disagree with how your company identifies leaders, you have two options to mitigate the situation: Find a new company that better fits your values or work from within to help shape your company into a more positive environment.
Create an action plan
Once you have identified leadership traits that are worth expanding in your company, put together a plan. Look at ways you can incorporate these traits into your own work, how you can encourage leadership behavior in your team and what you can do to craft job descriptions and hiring strategies that attract leaders.
According to a report from the Society of Human Resource Management (SHRM), over half of HR professionals (54.8 percent) say the most frequently encountered obstacle to career advancement is HR’s not being held in high esteem by the organization.
Stay with us through our leadership series this month as we look at ways to nurture the leadership capabilities of your company as well as provide strategies to help you further your own career. Together we’ll develop the leadership skills necessary to raise the esteem of HR and talent acquisition.
You can read the previous articles in this series here:
- Follow the Leader, Build the Perfect Leadership Environment
- How to Define Leadership in Recruiting (And Why It Matters)
- How to Become a Leader Your Employees Can Count On
- How To Prioritize Soft Skills and Fit