Original Spanish version published in El Comercio newspaper (Peru) on August 6, 2016
Organizations are always seeking to hire leaders. As a manager coach, I have to address the subject of leadership with people either looking for a better management position or seeking to secure one. I’ve learned that I can only speak from my own experience leading various organizations, although I always try to learn from leaders who I admire and read up on.
What, in my experience, works? Knowing which “magic button” to push on each member of the team –or board of directors– and entrusting them with a mission that inspires them, becomes a legacy they can leave to others, something that truly engages them. My formula? I engage people that are better than me and try to keep them happy, committed, and motivated. And if they’re happy, I’m even happier. My definition of leading? Taking care of my team so that they will take care of results.
I’ve had the privilege of knowing and working with the leaders of more than 900 client companies in 23 years and have met many who I deeply respect and admire. What have I learned from them? Mainly that leaders are very clear as to where they’re going, how they intend to get there, and when, even if this puts a great deal of pressure on others.
I’ve seen leaders exude inner confidence but also modesty at the same time. They’re never arrogant; no one respects or admires the arrogant. They make bold decisions and take risks, but never blame others for their shortcomings. They take responsibility for their mistakes, learn from them, and move on to greater achievements.
I have seen how they genuinely care for their people and understand deep down what Jack Welch taught: Leadership is not about you. It is about the people who work for you; and what he so wisely said: “Your success as a leader will come not from what you do but from the reflected glory of your team”.
The leaders who I admire are great listeners but they also make their own decisions, even if it means disagreeing with others. They follow their instinct, which is well-honed because they have always relied on it. They are authentic, they always practice what they preach and are consistent with their values, which is why they inspire trust in others.
They are great motivators, but are never satisfied with simply reaching a goal. They always strive for, expect, and demand more, especially from the best people in their teams. They’re not patronizing because this wouldn’t allow others to grow. They’re always concerned about the development of a new crop of leaders.
The leaders who inspire me make unexpected connections –their ideas are unconventional and they dare to express them, even if they’re not clearly understood at first. They constantly learn –they’re well informed on a great variety of subjects, and they always make reading a priority. They seek their peers out and establish networks. They fearlessly challenge the status quo.
They protect their people from real danger but make them face reality. They don’t shy away from the truth, no matter how hard it may be to accept.
The leaders that I admire most have a lot of energy which is inspiring and contagious. They persevere and strive for their vision, sometimes even stubbornly. They go as far as they set out to, but it’s clear to them that the most difficult thing is to lead oneself. This is why they are disciplined, polite, and down-to-earth. They’re great role models to me and my country. Peru needs many more leaders like this!