Many organizations define leadership attributes that they both measures against and build development around. These are sometimes described as competencies or values, and there is often a strong alignment with the culture an organization wishes to develop. Looking across different organizations, there is often so much similarity in these lists of attributes that a cynic might wonder why consultancies are paid so much to define them!
Stepping back from the obvious words like integrity, agility and collaboration, there are some words that seem very attractive leadership attributes but which rarely make the top 10 list. I have suggested 3 of them below:
Sometimes viewed as a ‘weak’ word, kindness evokes qualities that most human beings admire and respect. When was the last time someone was kind to you and it made you resent them? And when was the last time you showed kindness to someone else and it left them in a worse state? I recall working for a great boss who invited his team into his office one at a time to encourage them to update their CV and activate themselves in the job market. This was all because he had advance warning of a significant down-sizing that was around the corner. His rationale for showing kindness and consideration to his team was his concern for them and their families. A gesture I will never forget!
Of course the minute the word ‘generosity’ is used, some people jump to thoughts of compensation as the outcome. But generosity comes alive in so many more ways than this. For example, generosity to strive for a job-sharing arrangement so that two working mums could enjoy their new babies as well as remain in active employment. Seeing these two mums enjoy the best of friendship, family and productivity, and overcome the challenges of two people sharing one job. Actually, my experience of this was incredibly positive – 2 perspectives, vibrant energy, commitment to collaborate and grateful mums! I still remember the gift they gave me when I left that organization.
How often do we hear of leaders who bend with the winds of convenience, or who say one thing and do another? The example of walking the walk and leaders who have a red thread through their behavior and words is very appealing to employees who want to invest their trust in someone. And often with consistency comes honesty. An ability to own up to short-comings when best endeavors don’t always have a positive outcome. I recall working for a CEO who promised to support an organizational change program and turned up to lead off daily events almost every day of the month. The consistency of his attendance proved to everyone his commitment and passion to make the initiative successful.
When leadership attributes are defined, I wonder how many organizations would have the courage to submit words like kindness, generosity and consistency to their top 10 list. But when we consider leaders who have most impact on employee engagement and productivity, I suggest that these 3 attributes rank very highly.