(As originally published in Croatian business portal Poslovni dnevnik (http://www.poslovni.hr/after5/pravi-lider-preuzima-odgovornost-za-uspjehe-ali-i-promasaje-318424) on 27th, September 2016.)
R. Michael Anderson is the founder of the Executive Joy Institute, a company specialized in teaching and educating organizations, leaders, and individuals, with the goal of increasing their levels of success by acquiring knowledge in psychology and emotional intelligence. He has taught leaders around the world, from Panama to the Philippines to Australia and Mexico, and he has worked with numerous corporations, including Microsoft, SAP, Stanford University, Vistage…
During his career he founded three international software companies, he is a contributor at Entrepreneur.com, and his book „The Experiment“ has become a bestseller on Amazon in the area of business consulting about leadership and creativity. He has been chosen as the Social Entrepreneur of the Year in San Diego in 2013. As a part of his project Leadership Tour, Anderson will give a lecture in Zagreb on October 3, and in Rijeka on October 5. When asked about the qualities a leader should possess nowadays, he lists authenticity before all else. „Simply said, a leader has to be himself. When you behave in a way that is not natural to you, you lose a part of your personality. Another quality a leader has to have is the ability, to tell the truth. Namely, when everything is right and a team/company/corporation achieves desired results, it is easy, to be honest. But, when there are challenging times in a team, or when changes happen in the company, or on the market, one should be strong enough and tell the truth. A leader takes responsibility for both success and failures. Team members will know how to appreciate his effort and engagement during hard times, which will definitely bring better results and atmosphere in the long term“, says Anderson.
He adds that a real leader has to have a vision, he/she has to know in which direction he/she is leading his/hers team or a company. The vision, warns Anderson, can be blurry at times, but a real leader will find a way to flesh it out when it is most needed. „Leadership is nothing more than taking responsibility with the goal of directing risk. A leader who can do this process better will have better quality results in the end. In order to succeed in that, one needs to have self-confidence and courage“, says Anderson, noting that being a leader is extremely demanding. When the leader sees that the ship is heading in the direction that was not planned, the leader should take all the steps possible to take it back to the right direction. Sometimes that requires a certain dose of courage, he says, since one should know when and in which moment to make what type of decision. „Besides courage, the ability to motivate others and oneself is also important, which is an ability that will lead the entire team when that is most necessary. In the end, I would list influence as one of the characteristics a leader has to have. Experience, knowledge, and skills that leader possesses have to be developed enough so that each team member feels open enough to approach the leader at any moment with the goal of getting information and knowledge that he/she needs“, he says.
He remarks that leadership can be learned, and trained. It is rare for a good quality leader to just be born as such, that requires time and work on oneself. „I remember my beginnings. I was not successful in leading people because I thought I knew everything. That arrogance had its source in insecurity. In fact, I was afraid that I do not know everything, which created a feeling of insecurity. Some of the bad leadership characteristics, such as micromanagement, lack of communication inside the team, treating people as less worthy, have in a lot of examples their source in insecurity in one’s own knowledge and competencies. This is why at my workshops I teach people how to increase one’s self-confidence“, explains Anderson. Another quality that makes a good leader is the communication ability or the approach in which the focus is placed on another person, their needs, and desires. When you put the process in such a way in your organization, every person will feel comfortable, which contributes to a greater feeling of belonging to the organization, says this expert.
„In order to get to this level, I read a lot of books, listened to various speakers, found mentors from whom I could learn, and surrounded myself with people who think and act similar to me. This way proved very successful, so I still apply it“, says Anderson. Leadership has, he says, advanced in the past 10 years, and that’s the way it will, he predicts, be in the future. Previous examples of bad leadership have their source in the so-called top-down approach in which the leader does not pay enough attention to the communication with the people he leads, and does not give them enough incentives to do a good job. That way, an employee or a team member thinks of a job just as something they have to do routinely in order to get their salary or be done with the job as soon as possible.
„Nowadays we are exposed to the rapid technology advancement, and we can see that millennials do not want to simply take orders from their leaders. They want to grow personally and professionally by having a leader who knows how to convey the vision, mission, and strategy. That way, energy, optimism, and passion young people feel can be used in the best way possible, where both sides advance and create value for each other“, says Anderson. In order, however, for the leader to be satisfied with their job, they have to create a favorable atmosphere and environment around them. The issue for many leaders is exactly that they don’t have such an environment, but Anderson remarks that often they are to blame for that. When such situation happens, the leader is not a leader anymore, but a manager who works only to get his/her salary.
“On the other hand, in order for the leader to be satisfied with their team, in my personal experience, they have to be very specific and concrete in their approach to the team members. That way the people who get approached can understand better what is being asked of them. Also, my experience so far has taught me to pick my team people who are very independent, which means they will take the initiative when that is necessary and show they want to put in extra effort if that is needed in order to get the result. Those people have the ability to give honest feedback and opinions in which they will tell their true experience and impression of an idea or a suggestion I give without holding back“, Anderson concludes.
„Give people freedom“
“Experience has taught me that you need to provide freedom to the people you lead so they can show their true face and character, which will give them the opportunity to develop into the people they want to be. Giving positive feedback represents an important item in the entire process because it gives the person a feeling of importance, satisfaction, and pride when they do good quality work. Everybody wants to do a good job, and in order for a person to do that, a leader must create such an environment that will motivate the person to give their best. The most important thing is to show the person that you care. When you are building the relationship with the people you lead, tell them that you want to know where they want to be personally and professionally in a certain period of time. Show them the desire to help them on that road with your knowledge and experience. By asking the right questions, you can direct a person and help them develop much faster with your help“, recommends Michael Anderson.