When I first interviewed for my position at Productive Edge, I was asked, "What do you think is your biggest weakness?" My answer to this was honest, "I am not a natural-born leader." I am not assertive or bold and I am not the greatest teacher. However, what I have come to find is that great leaders are not born, but made. They are made by other great leaders.
In the time I have been here, I have done my best to overcome, what I consider to be, my biggest weakness. I feel that the knowledge and qualities that the PE leadership team possesses have allowed me to both see and understand what it takes to truly be a great leader. I believe that these are not traits or skills that anyone is really born with, but rather something we experience first-hand and learn from the influence of those who have led us. This is what I have discovered are the keys to good leadership:
- Listen and Absorb: A few years ago I listened to a very successful entrepreneur give a speech to hundreds of college graduates at the University of Illinois. He told them if he could give them just one piece of advice on how to thrive in their careers it would be, “Be a sponge.” It was short and simple but the essence of it made so much sense. Nobody knows everything, but the ability to absorb what others have to teach you will allow you to achieve things you never thought you would.
- Adapt: Everybody’s different. We all know that, it’s something we’ve been told since we were kids. But sometimes it takes more than just knowing and accepting that people are different. Sometimes you have to learn to alter the way you approach someone, the way you teach them something, or the way you speak to them in order to successfully convey your thoughts.
- Empower: We judge the abilities of a teacher based on the performance of his/her students, the abilities of a coach based on the performance of his/her team. Business is no exception to this notion. A motivated team of employees instilled with confidence and initiative is the reflection of good leadership.
- Understand and Empathize: “Treat others as you would like to be treated.” The Golden Rule, while it is a concept of compassion that dates back pretty far, it fails to take into account the diversity among people’s expectations of others. But, there is a new rule in town, The Platinum Rule. “Treat others as they would like to be treated.” Speaking to others with an eloquence that allows you to communicate your needs while meeting theirs will result in a positive relationship.
So, take some time in your day to challenge yourself. Understand what your weaknesses are and utilize those around you who can help you overcome them. We have so many amazing and talented people at this company and we should take advantage of the opportunity to learn from one another. Weaknesses are only permanent if you allow them to be.