True leaders inspire others to grow 

What are the characteristics of a true leader?

Well, there is no specific and complete set of characteristics that make a true leader. It varies and depends on concrete context and circumstances you happen to deal with. However, there are a few characteristics that I believe are common among many strong business leaders:

  • Strategic thinking or ability to think critically and build solutions to achieve future ambitions
  • Emotional Intelligence or ability to manage effectively own emotions. It is essential for working with people and under the pressure
  • Integrity or being consistent in behavior and decision making, taking personal responsibility for words and taken actions. It is key to gain credibility
  • Empathy or care about needs and feelings of others is essential to create a trustworthy atmosphere and boost collaboration
  • Coaching and Mentoring or abilityto identify individual gaps and provide necessary support to team members, so to help them in improving competences and performance.

How can role modeling be effective in sales?

Conceptually I don’t see it’s different in sales from any other business segment. All people striving for own ambitions are looking for motivation into the others who are more successful. Those are usually their leaders, first source of inspiration for their team members. What makes retail more specific is deep organizational structure, followed by several leadership layers. Considering that I believe role modeling has an even stronger effect and importance on this business segment. Attitude and behavior of senior managers might be cascaded through several levels. Therefore it’s critical for success leaders to act as role models of their team members. Moreover, it creates higher sense of responsibility since wrong behavior may drive even more negative effects.

How can a leader provide knowledge transfer and secure sustainable growth to his people?

I see people development among essential responsibilities of every team leader. However, in my opinion, it is much more from individual face to face coaching session. Firstly, it’s necessary to create an environment that supports and motivates personal development. In our case it’s framed by a program that specifies: 1) skills required by employees engaged in different roles, 2) tools and activities we are running to help them acquire it and 3) methodology and criteria to spot a talents and give them recognition for accomplishments. Of course, self-learning and readiness of each person to invest into themselves is the key for success, but the role of leaders is of an extreme importance in this journey. We are supposed to monitor closely performance of our team members, identify their individual needs and apply appropriate actions. I recognized a number of different approaches that tend to be very successful in building people’s competences and sustaining their professional development. Coaching is definitely a very powerful tool to overcome challenges and improve performance. Variety of technics like questioning, active listening, feedback, goal setting, action planning and follow up are required and applied to achieve a desired outcome. Besides, it happened several times in my career that I was exposing some of my leaders to different responsibilities by rotating them within the organization. It was always successful since it helps to gain new knowledge and skills, as well as broaden the understanding of the business. Engagement in projects, different from business as usual, is also a powerful method to develop people. It gives the opportunity to expose them to activities and different audiences while exploring and learning something new.

What are the most common pitfalls in leadership?

Well, during different phases of my career I was recognizing many different challenges but there are some that I would highlight as the most common:

  • Lack of trust – it may cause leaders to do micromanagement or monitor and closely control every activity of their subordinates. This implies a lower efficiency and negative work environment as a consequence.
  • Lack of delegation – some leaders are taking too much responsibilities on themselves, which may disable them to deal with all priorities, and also limit the  growth of their team members
  • Lack of communication – keeping people informed can enable them to see the “big picture” which helps to synchronize activities better and get appropriate support and engagement. In case it’s missing, the exact effect is quite opposite.

What would be your recommendation to all young leaders?

There are two fairly simple but powerful statements that have helped me many times when I was faced with some business dilemmas. From time to time I remind my team members about them, so will openly share them with you as well. The first one is “always act in a way you would in a case the company were you own” and second “treat people in the same way you would like to be treated in the same situation.”

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