Great leaders are memorable. They are respected. They are game changers and look for new and innovative ways to solve problems. They inspire others. We never forget the great leaders we have had the opportunity to work for and with. They help shape us into the people we are today.
Earlier on in my career, I had the great fortune to work for a leader to whom I will always be grateful. She was a strong and bold leader who created an environment that was collaborative, transformational and fun. She embraced two-way communication and was an active listener. She embraced other’s ideas and didn’t mind being challenged. She taught me what strong leadership looked like. She was not afraid to speak up or push the boundaries, even if that meant ruffling some feathers, occasionally. She was truly an inspiration and showed me that it was okay to be a strong and powerful woman in corporate America. She drove me to be better. She made me realize that when people are led the right way, where they feel valued and purpose driven, it has a lasting affect on not only the individual, but the organization.
Here are some of her qualities that I admired most:
- Inspiring Others
She had the ability to infuse energy, passion, commitment, and connection to the organization’s mission. She energized the team and gave us a sense direction. She promoted a culture of respect, fairness and trust. This made the team feel appreciated and valued for their unique contributions. As Orrin Woodward so eloquently put it: “Average leaders raise the bar on themselves; good leaders raise the bar for others; great leaders inspire others to raise their own bar.”
- Good Communicator
She was great at exchanging information and setting expectations. She communicated with clarity and purpose. Most importantly, she understood that communication is a two-way process. She fostered an environment where collaboration flowed because the team knew it’s mission and the goal we were trying to achieve. “Courage is what it takes to stand up and speak, it’s also what it takes to sit down and listen.” -Winston Churchill
She created a culture of accountability. This culture pushed the team to determine the value they brought to the overall organization. We knew that the work we did had a larger impact and it pushed us to approach our jobs with more vigor and energy. The team was personally invested, and we owned our work. We celebrated successes and learned from the mistakes we made along the way – she took ownership for both.
She gave us the authority to make decisions and execute on projects which we were leading. She trusted us to deliver and was there to provide support along the way if needed. She expressed confidence in our ability to produce and execute. She delegated to others in order to provide them with opportunities for growth, all the while offering guidance, feedback and support to ensure success. And most importantly, she let us know that she believed in us even when we made mistakes. She took those opportunities to coach us and provided us with the tools to be successful the next time. When employees feel empowered they have a higher motivation and are more engaged in creative problem solving.
- Emotional Maturity
She understood that to be a good leader, personal power and recognition must be secondary to the development of your employees. In other words, maturity is based on recognizing that more can be accomplished by empowering others than can be by ruling others. She led with confidence and allowed people to be themselves.