Follow me: what makes a great leader? (1)

Newsroom 27/07/2015 | 11:15

Do you have it in you to head up your organization? And what makes a good leader? From giving trust to setting an example, from specialist training to inherent qualities, from effecting change to creating new leaders, experts in HR and leadership told BR how they believe true leaders are formed.


Romanita Oprea

Leaders in organizations with high-quality leadership teams typically display four of the twenty possible types of behaviour, a study by McKinsey & Company has found. These four traits (supporting others, operating with a strong results orientation, seeking different perspectives and solving problems effectively) can explain 89 percent of the variation of leadership effectiveness between strong and weak organizations, found researchers.

The survey participants were 81 organizations from all over the world (Asia, Europe and North America), from different industries (e.g. consulting, energy, government, insurance, real estate) and sizes (from 7,500 to 300,000 employees).

But what else does it take to be a real leader?A true leader, for me, is a person who is smart, ambitious and confident, inspiring his or her people towards a common vision/goal, helping the team move forward, understanding people’s needs and addressing them individually, and, probably most importantly, building other leaders,” said Mihai Constantin-Pau, senior engineering manager at Intel Romania Software Development Center.

He went on, “It is hard to reach that level of leadership if you don’t find all the resources within you and you have to work hard to learn, acquire and become it. I think it takes a combination of skills which you’ve got to start developing from childhood.”

Constantin-Pau believes that there are some basic skills involved in understanding people’s needs and empathizing that are almost impossible to train for later in life. However, if you have the foundation you can put a lot of effort into developing them.

“It will take practice; you will make mistakes (and hopefully learn something from all of them); you will need guidance from people in the various stages of your development (from other leaders you respect a lot); you will need to learn and be willing to take advice. Ultimately, it will be up to you to find your own way of doing things and to make sure you make the most out of what you are. It’s a beautiful journey that probably never ends, as you will keep learning and becoming better at what you do,” added the Intel Romania representative.

On the same theme, Alin Comsa, founder and trainer at Self Trust Academy, commented, “It is very important to understand the difference between management and leadership. Of course, the two have some common points. However, while management is about organizing in order to achieve some set objectives, leadership is firstly about motivating groups to reach targets.”

He added, “It is leadership when you help a group of people do more than they thought they were capable of, when they follow you because you give them an inspiring example – so you can be a leader when you are an artist, for example; you don’t necessarily have to have a designated team to formally manage.”

With a portfolio of clients including Raiffeisen Bank, HP, IBM, UNCAR, Banc Post, AIG Life, Eureko and Phoenicia Hotel, Self Trust Academy provides training in leadership, public speaking, sales and personal growth. The company describes its main goal as helping its clients reach their true potential and gain trust in their abilities and strengths.

“A leader can have many less obvious qualities and abilities, including: to be a good psychologist, as it is necessary to understand very well what the members of the team want; general knowledge, as, usually, people have great respect for someone who can intelligently support a conversation; to be a very good speaker, as people readily follow a leader that expresses him- or herself clearly, coherently and with impact; and to be someone with interests he or she can be proud of, because it shows openness – such as sport, collections or charity work,” said Andrei Dunuta, leader and founder of the Self Trust Academy.

Nevertheless, “a true leader is not only the driver for change, but also responsible for making it happen by taking all business, organizational and people factors into consideration and managing consistent, transparent communication across the organization to minimize uncertainty and streamline change-supporting activities”, commented Zdravka Demeter Bubalo, HR vice-president of MOL Group.

She also believes that in a matrix structure with a geographically-diverse workforce, the ability to lead from a distance is a key success factor of a highly-developed leader. “We think that a great leader empowers employees and makes sure the right decisions are made by the right people at the right level, as close to everyday operations as possible, where all the necessary information is available,”  added Bubalo.

Additionally, the VP thinks that diversity plays an active role in leadership, arguing for involving a wide range of mindsets in the decision-making processes and for interest in and dedication to coming up with real innovative solutions across the organization. She says that at MOL Group there is great focus on diversity of nationality and age, and the company’s representatives place special emphasis on developing and supporting women leaders, as in the oil and gas sector, gender diversity still needs to improve, with mentalities lagging in this respect.

By contrast, Mihaela Nicola, CEO of The Group; Gabriela Lungu, currently creative director at TBWA \ London; Veronica Savanciuc, CEO and president of Lowe Romania; and Maria Tudor, CEO of Zenith Romania; are all examples of prominent women leaders in the communication field.

Nicola told BR, “One has to love life and people in order to constantly bring together their value. Grit makes the difference. Leadership is the rare attitude of constantly seeking new horizons, finding the right path and pace as well as inspiring others to follow. Romania has seen amazing marketing and communication achievements. There are splendid projects coming from companies, media and NGOs.”

Henry Ford once said that the secret of success is to offer everything without asking for anything in return. Representatives of Self Trust Academy say that this applies perfectly to the notion of trust. “The secret of gaining trust is to offer it without asking for it in return. The best strategy to build a relationship based on trust, from my point of view, is to give it. People make mistakes sometimes and the leader knows that only by giving trust can they obtain results through people,” said Dunuta. “When someone makes a mistake, the leader is there for them, emphasizing what was good and what needs to be improved, plus what has to be done next time. This is how we build trust. Of course, a concrete strategy to give trust is related to the verb ‘to do’. Let’s not forget – the leader sets an example. When the leader does what needs to be done, firstly he or she generates trust that the objective can be reached.”

Caseta1 leaderhip

[This article is part of a longer story. Part two can be found here]

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