Are you a manager or a leader? There are many differences between the two, but the most dominant one is that leaders have people following them, while managers have people working for them. Leaders can influence people to believe in themselves and motivate them to take initiative and ownership, can work in an unstructured environment and are more long-term focussed. Managers focus on execution, delegation and control, aiming at making employees as efficient as possible. Management skills are easier to learn, although, people who are used to structuring their work, will find this easier.
Are leaders born or made?
There are some personality traits that make it easier to be a great leader. For example, in our interview with Lisa, the founder of Female Founders, she says that the #1 trait that makes her a good leader is simply to “genuinely be interested in people”.
Some other characteristics are empathy, the ability to deal with people and to get people on board with your ideas. Those characteristics can be learned only partially. However, there are many other factors playing a decisive role: it’s not just about soft skills, but also about what you do and how you treat others – and these can definitely be learned!
A great leader is someone who behaves as a parent and is able to make people feel like the company environment is their family. Simon Sinek, in his book “Leaders eat Last”, spoke about a concept called the circle of safety. It means creating an environment where people feel safe, have a sense of belonging, shared values and where cooperation and trust are high. Only this way can a company be equipped to fight the dangers coming from the outside. In order to achieve this, a leader has to protect the people and prioritize their well-being, as well as be willing to make sacrifices for them.
But what makes a great leader?
You might feel like you have all the skills needed, but some of them just tend to slip away in the daily operational tasks. Make sure you:
- Listen to what others have to say. For Oliver Holle, the founder of Speedinvest this was one of the most important learnings. He got used to listening to other people’s feedback and stopped sticking just to his own opinion.
- Acquire good story-telling skills: a good leader needs to be able to excite and motivate people
- Be self-reflective and always try to improve the processes around you
- Show recognition towards your employees;
- Acknowledge successes and congratulate for great accomplishments;
- Just like Katharina Klausberger, the founder of Shpock suggests, giving responsibilities and allowing your employees to take ownership is key;
- Let people develop personally by offering them learning opportunities;
- Accept and embrace diversity. The benefits of diversity in the workplace are undeniable: many different views & different skillsets can greatly contribute to your team’s success.
- Be honest in good and bad times: be transparent in case a project has not been carried out as it should have or, in case of crisis communicate clearly what went wrong;
- Don’t give orders but provide directions in order to help your employees to figure out problems by themselves;
- Empower them to take decisions and also make them accountable for those.
One interesting leadership style, coming from the military field, is the so-called eye-ball leadership: this involves taking the time to spend with people and get to know them. Walking with your team, understanding needs, and knowing how they work is needed in order to provide a better environment and resources to do their job. If you’d like to fully understand your employees and their behavior in a team, then make sure you checked out our Startup Anatomy Team Process!
Remember, being a leader has a great responsibility, and as you see, many skills have to be met. But don’t worry if you don’t possess everything, it’s a learning curve after all. The founder of Trending Topics, Bastian Kellhofer also experienced, that as a leader, you can still make many mistakes but what’s important is to show your team that you’re still trying to be the best leader you can be!
A good leader doesn’t have to be famous
There are many well-known leaders to admire, but the ones you worked with are those who you can really relate to the most. A great leader who I met in my life is my ex-boss. I appreciated the fact that she trusted us, as well as we trusted her. She offered her help, but if she thought you have the ability to accomplish a challenging task on your own, she would push you to expand your boundaries and go out of your comfort zone. She was neither a babysitter nor a hand holder unless you needed it. She always tried to spend time with us and got to know us, and thanks to her personality she became the perfect example for us.