3 Key Attributes of a Great Leader
Approachability, Accessibility, & Accountability are three characteristics I believe every great leader has to have in order to be a successful one, and in order to be a successful & efficient communicator to their team(s) as well. I think no matter what, at the very least, embodying these key attributes will allow even a first time leader, or a young one, to be effective and efficient in their style of leadership. Additionally, I strongly believe it will only help them set themselves up for success on a daily basis. If there's one thing I've learned in 8 years in a multitude of different management roles, between both the retail & hospitality industry, it's that employees respond proactively and positively to leaders who put them first.
You'll find that the harder you work for them, the harder they'll work for you and the company you're both representing. At the end of the day a great leader can make poor employees good, good employees great, and great employees the best. It's a matter of how you approach your responsibility as a leader and how you approach the job itself. It's about understanding that your employees don't work for you, you work for them. It's about realizing that you are in a position that provides an opportunity for you to improve the lives of those around you from the culture, the environment, the service, and most importantly, the overall potential of their growth. Their futures should be on your mind every day you step into the 'job.' Your priority as a leader should be 'How can I help them progress in their lives, their careers, and their goals.' Everyday should be about making them better, which in return, only makes the business better.
Being an Approachable leader is the most personable attribute. It allows your employees to understand that they can come to you about things that either a) matter to them, b) will have an impact on their job/duties, or c) will help them in the future. Being an approachable leader will have your team believing in you as the right person to lead them because they believe and trust in that fact that you'll be there for them if/when they need you, and to help them be successful. It allows you to motivate by empowerment & positivity instead of having your staff be afraid of you. The worst kinds of 'bosses' are the ones who lead with intimidation and those that make it hard for their employees to come to them with anything that's bothering them or that they need help with. Being an approachable leader allows you to not only earn the trust of your employees, but it makes you more likeable as a leader as well. The more your employees like you, the harder they'll work for you, trust me. I'm only 29 and I know the difference between the two, having had found out the hard way being a hot-headed, young leader in my early 20s.
It's neither easy nor hard to be an approachable manager of a team. On one hand, the 'easily approachable' manager often becomes a pushover and ends up with employees who walk all over them. There's a time and place to be friendly with your employees, however there's also the responsibility of knowing how to have the difficult conversations with them as well. This includes annual reviews, coaching and documentations, coaching up on the spot, departmental meetings, how you communicate down to your staff, your open-door policy, etc. There's a way to portray yourself and regulate the optics which matters greatly, because in the world we live in, perception is reality. If you come off as a dick, that's how you'll be perceived. If you can't manage a meeting of X number of employees, they won't believe you can get the job done under pressure or handle multiple problems at a time.
Being an effective 'Approachable' leader means that you know how to speak differently with each employee as you have to approach each one of them based off of their personalities. It's crucial in getting through to so many different personalities in different ways especially with a bigger staff. Some people have the skill to do so right away, while other leaders take more grooming into the art, and that's exactly what it is. Speaking to people is an art. It's not fake. It's not bullshit. It's genuine and real, but it takes time to be an effective communicator.
On the other hand, simply put, don't be a fucking dickhead to people. If you're an absolute jerk nobody is going to want to work for you, and nobody is going to like or even respect you. It's called kindness and if you plan on being a leader at one point or another in your life, if you aren't kind to people, you will fail 100% of the time as a leader. Nobody wants to work for a jerk. It's not that hard to be approachable. Be a good person with genuinely good intentions for those around you, but also know when it's time to be a strong leader and make tough decisions and conduct those difficult conversations. Lastly, you should always have that open-door policy. It's important for your staff and colleagues to know that when they need to come to you, you'll be there.
Next up is Accessibility, which should have been a given based off of the open-door policy hint. The best kind of ability is availability. Being accessible allows your team to know that you're available to them when they need you, when they need answers, and when they need reassurance. Making yourself accessible shows not only your employees, but also shows your employer that you're an approachable leader who has the employees' best interest in mind. It confirms that you're the kind of person who will be there for your employees and allows you to be portrayed as trustworthy, and someone who will be available when needed, and even when it may be inconvenient for you.
It's important for those that work for you to know they can come to you and reach you when they need to. Of course, there will be times it's just not logical enough for them to be able to reach you. Nobody should ask you to be available to talk to your employees when you're off or out of town unless you are THE leader. There are also, of course, some of us who are salaried managers who, no matter what, always have time or make time to get back to employees/other managers/coworkers if need be, regardless of the hour of the day. If you're an over-communicator, like I believe myself to be, sometimes you just don't realize the time of day when sending emails or texts to staff. It's normal especially when you go above and beyond to communicate properly.
Most importantly, when it comes to accessibility, you never want to be 'too busy' for either a phone call, a quick meeting, and email or text, or a sit-down with an employee. At the end of the day they come first and you work for them, not the other way around. You owe them your time and attention in order to get the best/most out of them, and you owe them the time it takes to invest in their emotional bank account, their best interests/concerns, and their future. Providing your time and attention to your employees is how you get through to them on a personal level and it helps grow their trust and belief in you. Try going an entire week without seeing your staff or talking to them and let me know how distanced they feel the following week. They won't take you seriously and won't look at you as their 'leader', just their boss.
That brings me to the third, and possibly most important attribute of a great leader, which is Accountability, in all forms. It starts with holding yourself accountable. Every great leader has a standard that they've set for themselves, a bar they've raised year after year, and their own expectations of their work and potential. Most say that their own expectations exceed any that are set by their employer or those around them, and it's true. I know the feeling and I'm sure some of you do as well, but with that comes the responsibility of holding true to that. There's no way you can hold your managers, supervisors, and especially your employees accountable if you don't hold yourself accountable first.
When you say you're going to do something, you do it. When you promise your staff something, you follow through with it. You just don't want to be the person to over-promise and under-deliver. If you expect them to behave a particular way, you better lead by example at the front of the line. When you preach about 'all hands in' when it comes to picking up the slack and cleaning during a busy time period or event, you better be right there with them, sleeves rolled up, getting dirty in the trenches. Going through those things together are what brings the team together as a whole and only makes the relationships stronger. It allows your team to realize, 'Wow, they're really in it with us, they care about us, and they're here to help." It's powerful and if you're able to hold yourself accountable to the same things you hold your staff accountable to it will only allow you to gain their trust and respect that much more. Ultimately, you'll become even more of a likeable leader.
Accountability is huge when it comes to any kind of business. It keeps people honest, ethical, and aware. At the same time, it helps remove any 'bad apples' from the garden, it eliminates any negative energy out of the power supply, and it omits any negative forces from penetrating the system. As quirky as it all sounds, accountability helps just as much when it comes to keeping honest employees as it does for the empowerment of employees. One thing I believe in greatly is allowing employees to self-police each other and hold themselves accountable so that management doesn't have to unless absolutely necessary.
I mot recently managed two bars at the Hard Rock Hotel San Diego with bartenders, bussers, cocktail servers, and bar backs. For an example, I had my employees sign off on their opening and closing checklists each shift and they got hung up in a folder outside of the office after their shift. This allows the next manager to confirm what has been done/what needs to be done, and it allows each positional employee to see what was completed out of their daily/nightly tasks. When a closing bar back comes in, they can tell whether or not the bar was restocked properly before the opening bar back leaves. When an opening bar back comes in, they can check their co-workers closing checklist from the night before to ensure they closed properly, and vice versa. This allows your employees to self-police each other in particular areas so that management does not have to jump on employees unless it becomes clear people aren't doing their jobs.
The point of this is to give the employees more responsibility in a sense of allowing them to hold each other accountable. When a manage approaches a bar back about his lack of closing duties, it comes off a particular way. When another bar back brings up the same issue and makes it known it made their shift that much harder and inconvenient, it resonates with the bar back differently because they don't want to be on bad terms with someone they work with often. It's a different relationship and allows the employees to strengthen those bonds the more they hold each other accountable. Nobody wants to work with people who don't do their job correctly or those that do it inefficiently. From current experience, it makes the employees stay on top of their game more because they don't want to disappoint one another.
At the same time, you should expect the same kind of accountability from your superiors. A great leader will ask you to keep them honest and hold them to the standard they push as well. They'll ask to be called out if you feel they aren't being truthful, honest, or sincere about a situation. They'll ask you to call out their bullshit if you feel they aren't doing something the right way. Accountability is what makes the good leaders great. It provides your employees with the notion and knowledge that you won't ask them to do anything that you wouldn't do, and you won't expect from them more than they can expect from you. It's reciprocated and respected between all parties and it makes the people that work with you be able to trust the fact that you're the right person to lead them. As a leader it's your job to take on the responsibility of any losses, mishaps, issues/challenges presented to your business. At the same time, it's also your responsibility, as a leader, to ensure the proper recognition, rewarding, and successes of your employees are magnified.
I think obtaining and portraying all three key attributes is huge and crucial to the effectiveness of any great leader. I believe it allows you to become a leader-by-example, a trustworthy leader, and somebody that people believe in. You become the type of leader that no employees want to leave, however they trust you to get them to the next level of their careers, which may happen to be elsewhere. You become somebody capable of taking a good business and making it a great one, turning a good employee into a great one, a lacking manager/supervisor into an efficient and diligent one, and maybe even beyond. You'll become the kind of leader that allows employees to look forward to going to work because they can count on you to be there for them, to have their best interests/future in mind, and to ensure everything is being done the right way. Ultimately, this is the difference from becoming a great leader compared to being just a decent boss.