When I was a kid, my dad had an old, big radio. To find a station (usually a Cleveland sports broadcast), you would manually turn the dial or "tune" the radio, often scrolling too far one way and slowly dialing back to pick up the correct AM or FM frequency. Unlike the digital, automatic tuner in my car today, older models required a good bit of patience and observation to get the end result you wanted.
Leadership is the same in many ways. I had the opportunity to spend a couple hours with a group of people from work this week to talk about being an effective leader and individual at work. The group's questions led me to do some self-reflection this week on how to be a more effective leader.
I think one important characteristic of a leader is the ability to "tune in" with people; to have a good bit of patience and observation, similar to an old manual radio. Tuning in is listening for changes in their voice or tone that indicate stress, or understanding their personality to predict how certain stimuli will cause them to react and positioning your talking points accordingly. Over my ten years in the professional world, there are few times where someone has sought me out because they were concerned, stressed, or upset and took the initiative to share it with me, but I can think of many times that a pause, an offhanded comment, or a look meant that something was up and I needed to provide an open forum to talk.
There are many styles and theories on leadership. My husband was preparing for his Executive MBA leadership residency this week and going through the same Harvard cases and thought leadership articles about management styles and leadership effectiveness I read five years ago. While the content and theories are valuable, I think starting to be a good leader is as simple as being in tune with people. How do you do this? Get to know them, be patient, and observe them. Adapt what you do and how you lead accordingly. Recognize small victories in fun ways. Use FaceTime to call them once in a while so you can see each other in person if you work in different cities. Listen to them - not only to what they are saying, but how they are saying it - and try to understand the true meaning. Learn what is important to them, and make it important to you. Have fun. Help them achieve their goals. Be real. Trust people.
What about you? In your experience, what characteristics or qualities make a great leader?