The 3 Elements of a True Leader

It's easy to confuse leadership with management. Use these three tips to start inspiring those around you.
Chief Story Wrangler, UserGrasp
March 28, 2013

A leader's core responsibility is to inspire his team—from associates to directors to vice presidents. However, that can easily be pushed aside as leaders, especially at small businesses, have to wear many hats and can easily confuse leadership with management. 

"In my view, leadership is the ability to inspire others to take on a mission or cause as their own, to live up to a higher standard, and to find ways to use their unique gifts and ability to further the cause," says David Hassell, CEO at 15Five, a platform that helps companies build a culture of open and honest communication.

"Leadership starts with having a clearly articulated mission, vision and values and a strong 'why' defined," Hassell says. "Employees need to be educated about the difference between leadership and management, understand what great leadership looks like, and understand what's possible for themselves and the organization if they choose to take on becoming a leader."

According to Hassell, it's crucial that companies take active measures to inspire leadership by engaging employees, listening and understanding the value of trust. 

Engage Employees

"Small and medium-sized businesses tend to have fewer resources and really need to create high leverage with the people and resources they do have to succeed," Hassell explains. "That means creating a high degree of engagement from all employees and making sure that everyone is working toward the same objectives."

It's crucial for business owners to prioritize employee growth as part of this process—it's how you encourage your teams to stick around.

"Employee growth is extremely important because growth and progress are part of what create happy, engaged employees," Hassell says. "Digital Telepathy, a design agency in San Diego, has a value called 'Betterment,' and they give year-end bonuses that are to be used specifically to better themselves in some way."

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Listen to Everyone

As a CEO, how much insight do you have into the operating levels in your organization? If you're as time-strapped as the majority of business leaders, your answer might be "slim to none."

"Listening is the most important skill and practice for understanding what all employees value," Hassell says."I believe it's important to listen to each and every employee because they all have unique perspectives based on their individual backgrounds and roles in the company. The people closest to the action are usually the ones with the best visibility into what's working, what's not, ideas for improvement and the morale around them." 

"Most people are inundated with too much information and have less and less time to really engage with their employees," Hassell says. 

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Create a Culture of Trust

Trust is invaluable for embracing a culture of leadership within your company.

"We believe that when employees have the space to really be open and honest, and managers listen to their employees, it creates a level of trust and organizational health and performance that's unsurpassed," Hassell says. 

It's important that business owners remove fear from the management equation—and wholly embrace this philosophy.

"The best suggestion is simply an understanding that nothing happens without action," Hassell points out. "Best practices are merely a structure to follow in order to quickly learn a particular skill in a way that's proven to produce results."

Read more articles on leadership and management.

Puri is a San Francisco based blogger who writes about trends in business, internet culture, and marketing. She's inspired by the intersection between technology, entrepreneurship, and sociology. Ritika blogs via Contently.com.

Photo: Thinkstock