Bosses are of all kinds, but most fall under two categories.
- Those hated by the employees
- Those who have the utmost respect of their people
Rarely is there a middle ground. Employees either say, “I hate my boss” or “I would love to work for my boss even if he wasn’t my manager on paper.”
How do some leaders inspire teams to chase massive goals while some others make life a living hell for their people? How do some leaders make Mondays exciting while some others are the reason behind Monday blues? How do some leaders make people grow while some others cripple the development of their employees?
Here are 5 characteristics that set inspiring leaders apart from a demanding boss.
1. Walking the talk
The quickest way a boss loses his people’s respect is when he fails to follow what he preaches. If a leader sets rules and fails to follow them himself, employees grow frustrated, which gradually develops into resentment.
In bigger corporates, you will notice many such examples where the leader imposes restrictions on team members. But he calmly ignores them “like a boss” and considers himself above such rules. For example:
- Admonishing people who arrive late, but failing to show up on time himself
- Expecting employees to clock 9 hours in the office, but spending fewer hours himself
Team members learn from their bosses in many unconscious ways. This not only applies to the good qualities but also bad attributes. If the boss remains calm under pressure, so will the people. If a leader has a habit of arriving late regularly, the team members turn into latecomers too.
If a leader displays a behaviour regularly and then criticizes people for doing the same, employees start resenting. They may not always be vocal about their disagreement, but they start losing respect for him.
2. Appreciates and provides constructive feedback
Some leaders make it a habit to point the mistakes done by their people. They consider it a technique to help people improve. While such an approach works once or twice, no one likes working for a boss who always finds faults.
At the same time, a boss who never provides feedback for improvement does not earn the respect of people either. Employees consider him a nice boss, no doubt, but not somebody who inspires. Failing to provide the right feedback is a common leadership mistake.
An inspirational boss is lavish with his praise when things are done right. He is also straight forward to point out a scope for improvement without using any sugar-coated words. He does not use harsh words but ensures the employee realizes the mistake committed.
3. Listens and acts
New leaders assume effective speaking abilities and charisma to be imperative factors for inspirational leadership. However, communication skills are only the icing on the cake. They cannot make a lousy cake taste amazing. The ability to speak motivational words is helpful to have, but if the other attributes are missing, people will realize the fluff sooner or later.
A good leader spends more time listening to people than talking himself. He is keen to listen to concerns, ideas, and improvements the people in the team bring up. Not always does he act on them, but he analyzes which one requires attention.
That said, a leader cannot just listen to every employee and do nothing later. If a team member raises a concern, but he feels it’s not a significant problem, he tells the person why he thinks so. At times, people might bring up a problem only to vent it out, so he knows when to listen, acknowledge, and act.
4. Challenges people to grow
Some leaders want to know about every little decision and action which occurs within the team. They even consider that strength for their attention to detail. They fail to recognize their inability to delegate.
When people have to seek approval from their boss for every step, they fail to apply their own creativity which cripples their growth. Besides, employees hate a micromanaging leader who asks for an update every now and then.
An effective leader trusts his people to get the job done. Though people falter sometimes, they learn from their mistakes and come back stronger. He lets people take charge and keeps an eye only from a distance. He provides guidance and direction when they begin and lets the team figure out the nitty-gritty details themselves.
When he notices people going entirely astray, he steers them back to the right path. Allowing people to think and find answers challenges them to improve and grow.
5. Behaves as part of the team
A weak leader considers himself above his team members because of the hierarchical upper hand he possesses. He distances himself from the fun activities the team has. He keeps personal and professional relationships completely apart like the north and south pole.
An inspiring leader behaves like any other team member in terms of humility. He involves himself in some of the entertainment the team has. He also connects with his people on a personal level. At the same time, he does not get too cozy with his team members either. He knows where to draw a line between being a leader and a friend.
When the time comes to act as the person in control, he does not let any of his relationships influence his words, action, or decisions. He knows his team well enough and has fun with them such that they do not consider him an outsider. At the same time, he does not develop relationships so deep that they consider him their childhood friend.
The tips to become an inspirational leader is easier to understand, but hard to implement. Many leaders expect the team to change to adhere to their style. The right approach is to change your style to become a better leader.
The question isn’t whether you can become an inspirational leader. The question is whether you will.
Maxim Dsouza has decades of leadership experience in startups and large corporations. He has hired and mentored employees of a wide range of skillset and age groups.