A great leader does not need to instill fear in his or her team by exerting authority, by leading by force, or by showing off his or her title to impress. Instead, courage, connection, and cooperation are the major attributes of what I believe make a great leader – someone who one inspires me to do my best.
Courage over Command
Having courage requires having the confidence to stand up for what you believe in – especially having confidence in yourself. The courage to ask for what you need and seeking input from others for the good of the project or task at hand, is vastly different from commanding that your team sees your point of view without discussion. Courage is the ability to make decisions and to stand by them and also to admit when you have made a mistake.
Connection over Control
This is about having a genuine connection with each person on your team that goes beyond work. What do you know about them outside of work? What are their interests? Establishing a deeper connection with your team-mates allows you to see each other for the human beings that you are and helps people to relate to one another on a deeper level at work. When the need comes for the leader to rally the team to hit a deadline, there is less need to control their actions as they have already bought into you as a person and are happy to do their part to help the team succeed.
Cooperation over Coercion
Leadership calls for power and power calls for cooperation. A good leader does this by inspiring their team to work together for the greater good. The leader knows he or she cannot accomplish the task on their own and appreciates the expertise and inputs from each team member. This also requires a commitment to the team and willingness to assume full responsibility for them. If a team-member makes a mistake, the leader must be able to take one for the team, which means say goodbye to the ego.
Command, control, and coercion is not necessarily wrong, and it may be appropriate in some situations, for example, a short-term approach to improve operations in well-established and defined environment. However, as a long-term approach, it lacks creativity and engagement of the wider team which results in missed opportunities for learning all around.