The outside world often defines successful leaders by level or position in the organization, power wielded, and money earned. But there is so much more that goes into being a great leader.
There are many successful leaders today. But how many of them actually lead? Sure they may have incredible execution skills, bring in a record-breaking amount of business, and advance faster than others in the organization. But are they role models for their teams? Do they inspire employees to push out of their comfort zones, try new things, and in the process achieve much more than they ever thought possible? Those are the characteristics that define a great leader—one who gets the very best from his or her team.
When you look at Mahatma Gandhi, for example, you see a leader who has inspired and led people to achieve greatness. If he had gone against the British Raj with followers who were either forced to do it or given an incentive to do it, he could have freed a city or maybe even a state. But to really free all of India, he needed more. He needed people to be inspired and to feel that they were acting for their freedom and not because somebody else told them they had to; it had to be their choice to follow him. And follow him they did, because he demonstrated through his own behavior what they could aspire to and accomplish together—for themselves and their country.
In today’s corporate environment, you will find lots of leaders who have risen to the top of their companies because they are skilled, have put in great effort, and are successful in what they do. But they will not be truly great leaders unless they allow their employees to show their true potential and demonstrate their capabilities.
How do you do that? I say, channel Gandhi and be more inclusive in your approach.
Catalyst research shows that inclusion matters, and is linked to innovation and helpfulness. In its report Inclusive Leadership: The View From Six Countries, Catalyst spells out the four attributes that help leaders get the best from their teams. They are:
1) Empowerment: Enable direct reports to develop and excel. Let them evolve while monitoring them from a distance.
2) Accountability: Demonstrate confidence in direct reports by holding them responsible for performance they can control.
3) Courage: Put your personal interests aside to achieve what needs to be done. Act on your convictions and principles, even when it requires personal risk-taking.
4) Humility: Admit mistakes, accept and learn from criticism and different points of view, and seek contributions of others to overcome limitations.
Gandhi modeled these behaviors, and so do many other great leaders. You can too! It’s about making a choice to lead inclusively. And believe me, you have the choice!