In my reflection time during the holidays, I was taken by how much our working worlds have changed permanently during the pandemic. We are at a moment in time where views of leadership and the expectations from our teams are changing. Old ways of command and control leadership styles from the Industrial Age are not appropriate for the work of the future. Developing and encouraging our teams on an individual basis are becoming the new expectations of leaders.
In interviewing various leaders across industries and positions for my last book, I noticed a few themes emerge that defined a great leader. Now more than ever, I believe we are in a leadership crisis and the one attribute that I see lacking is decency. Having a quality of decency means you are honest along with having respect for other people. We have lost our moral compass when it comes to leading others in organizations, and it shows by how many employees are choosing to leave their organizations.
So, you might be asking, what can we do to right this ship and keep our best talent? Here are some thoughts on the key attributes we need in leaders right now that helps demonstrate decency.
Self-awareness. By far, this is the number one skill leaders need to be effective. This starts by having a clear understanding of yourself, including your strengths and weaknesses. This skill seems to be the foundational trait of great leaders around the world. It is also one of the tenants of emotional intelligence.
Empathy. It may not surprise you but being empathetic to others is a great starting point. This attribute is tied closely with self-awareness but is about the team’s needs versus your strengths and weaknesses. Knowing how teams work and what motivates individuals will help drive teams to perform at a higher level. You need to listen to your team members’ problems to help guide them to solve the challenges they are having. As we are paving a new way of working, we will come across many challenges that we just don’t have answers for. In working together and letting your team know you share their pain points; it will help build trust and respect.
Fairness in dealing with others. Your team is watching how you handle situations and is judging you on your actions. Don’t get me wrong; dealing fairly does not mean you have to give everyone exactly the same opportunities. Fairness is more about meeting others where they are and being fair in a given situation. Being respectful and trustworthy are keys to demonstrating decency.
All of these attributes contribute to being a great leader. You may look at these attributes and realize you have some work to do in some of these areas. That is okay and is expected. The best leaders understand where their weaknesses are and are constantly honing their skills. The point is to identify which areas you are naturally attuned to and build from there. The more of these attributes you can strive for, the better off you and your team will be.
Someone who really embodied living with decency is Betty White. This clearly was a value to her, and it showed in all her actions. Let’s all channel our inner Betty White for a better world. As she passed on this month, so many people took to social media to share their thoughts about how she lived her values. This quote from Dan Rather on Twitter really resonated with so many others.
“A spirit of goodness and hope. Betty White was much beloved because of who she was, and how she embraced a life well lived. Her smile. Her sense of humor. Her basic decency. Our world would be better if more followed her example.”
– Dan Rather, @DanRather