The ABC of Leadership Values for a Manager
These important values for each letter of the English alphabet are a great guideline for a successful manager.
The Brave New World of Business today is characterized by uncertainty, volatility and ambiguity. Simple solutions have long ceased to exist. Objectives quickly become obsolete and talent has become a rare resource. As numerous professions are already undergoing digital transformation, leadership must also be rethought. But what can you rely on when everything is changing? To achieve clarity and stability, a manager needs to focus on fundamental values during these turbulent times.
Helga Pattart-Drexler, Head of Executive Continuing Education at the WU Executive Academy, and Leadership Expert Susanne Wieseneder have teamed up to develop an ABC of Leadership Values - a list of everything a successful manager needs today and will continue to be relevant in the future. This is a quick guide to finding landmarks in today’s uncertain business world.
We highly recommend you reading about the values highlighted by these authors since most situational judgement tests and personality questionnaires for managers and executives assess exactly these competencies. Thus, if you target a new executive job and prepare for your aptitude tests and SJ tests, this ABC can help you a lot.
Appreciation – acceptance of other people’s values
Just as you take your own and corporate values seriously, it is very important to understand and accept the values of your team members. And this is not only the usual patting of colleagues on the back and idle talk. A manager who understands what really matters to his or her team and acts accordingly demonstrates respect for others and acceptance of their values.
Balance is an important quality in managing oneself and employees in the world of business, which is literally obsessed with “peak performance”. In the absence of internal balance, a manager is unlikely to be able to exercise enough wisdom and consideration to treat his employees, customers and products with due respect and discretion, while conserving resources. Part of this quality is the ability to create an adequate work-life balance – the most effective antidote to burnout for both executives and their teams.
“C the light” – optimism
In a time when every day creates new challenges for companies – disruptive business models presented by competitors, digitalization, turbulence in the markets – optimism is an essential leadership skill. The ability to see the light at the end of the tunnel, even if the path itself may still be unclear due to unforeseen circumstances and obstacles, is a quality that provides basic trust and therefore a sense of security for both managers and employees.
Being a dedicated / committed manager is an ambitious goal. Executives must see and be aware of the impact of their actions, both positive and negative, on other people. Only then can they lead others with maximum dedication. People who are considered “natural born leaders” are often not endowed with this quality at all by nature. It is their awareness of their role and genuine interest in other people that makes them truly committed leaders.
Empowerment – empowering others
Empowering others is a key quality of leaders. To be able to do this, a manager needs to feel empowered: only leaders who are confident in their own strength, influence and effectiveness – qualities that not only support their status, but are aimed specifically at achieving positive results for the company – can help others to realize their strengths, as well as provide subordinates with an appropriate basic environment in which they can reach their full potential. The result will not only increase productivity, but also resilience in turbulent times.
Focus – ability to focus
We live in a world overloaded with information. More and more people are losing their ability to concentrate. Only when we learn to maintain the focus of attention can we adequately classify the volume of information that falls on us and make informed decisions. It is important to take context into account and distinguish between open and closed focus of attention. When a player passes to his team-mate, an open focus is required: the player must see the big picture, the whole field, in order to strategically decide who to pass the ball to. A penalty shootout requires a closed focus: the player must focus on scoring a goal. Today we all mainly work in the mode of an open focus of attention: we perceive all sorts of external stimuli in a multisensory way and are easily distracted. For a manager, the ability to focus in various situations – during negotiations, discussing technical issues or in the decision-making process – is an additional advantage, including providing orientation for other people.
The world of business has traditionally been associated with status, climbing the top of the career ladder and self-centered desire to get your piece of the pie. In modern labor realities, creating something is always a joint effort: everyone contributes to the cauldron of general well-being. Leaders are strongly encouraged to adhere to a “donor” mindset: they must be generous, make a conscious effort to contribute to the team and the corporate culture, and be able to show gratitude to all those who are involved in achieving success in the common cause.
Humor – sense of humor
It is simply impossible to do without humor in professional life: it is a kind of air conditioning system. It creates a constructive climate, compensates for imbalances and fosters cooperation – provided that it does not come at the expense of others. The highest art is the ability to laugh at oneself: it entails the greatest sense of relief and leads to constructiveness. Humor also allows people to feel connected, relieves tension, and increases resilience. When it comes to work, we all tend to take things too seriously. Of course, humor should not be imposed, but a cheerful manager is often most popular with subordinates. It is safe to assume that, as a rule, any corporate culture will benefit from humor.
In today’s industrialized business world, rational decisions are made based on measurable parameters. But as the pace of change accelerates, measurable data alone becomes insufficient to make the right decisions. Well-known algorithms work wonders in some areas, but useless in others. To solve some problems, human intuition is needed, since it consists of the experience accumulated by a person in the subconscious over the course of life. When a quick decision is required, intuition can come in very handy. Already at the next stage, you can make the necessary changes. However, keep in mind that relying solely on intuition in an area in which you have no experience is very risky.
How many balls are you juggling with right now? It’s easy to throw balls into the air, but keeping them there is another story altogether. Not to mention catching them. Most companies are working on too many projects and initiatives at the same time. Managers need to be good at juggling: it takes physical discipline and focus. And it’s not about keeping your gaze on a specific ball, but about feeling the whole situation. If this condition is successfully met, the brain usually does the rest automatically. A manager who is able to juggle multiple tasks in different areas of their lives undoubtedly benefits from this skill, but he or she also needs breaks and time off from work.
Kindness and humility
Many corporate executives and top managers prefer to talk about the flaws of the system, rather than about their mistakes and, therefore, about their own responsibility. Humility means recognizing that certain circumstances in the immediate and wider environment simply need to be accepted. A person who can handle the frustration of a failure knows what true humility really means. People who know that they can be wrong and, if something goes wrong, are able to look for reasons in themselves, do not take themselves too seriously and do not put themselves above or below others. But humility is considered a true advantage only when combined with kindness. Everyone makes mistakes from time to time, and a kind and understanding manager can let the employee learn from them. Finally, it is equally important that leaders also look at their shortcomings with kindness, remembering that they too are only human.
Lateral thinking – thinking outside the box
From childhood, we are taught to think linearly (if A, then B). But modern business life does not always obey these laws. We need people who can think outside the box. Technically, many companies are looking for people with outside the box thinking, but few organizations know how to properly use their creativity. Why is this so? Such people are effective if they are truly allowed to think and act outside the box, deviating from norms, rules and established culture. They are only able to give an organization a new impetus when they also have the opportunity to communicate outside the box. Such specialists need explicit support from their manager in order not to be punished for their unusual actions. Hedge funds are relying on the expertise of chess masters to define patterns, energy companies are working with meteorologists to garner support for the transition to sustainable energy, and consulting companies have begun hiring designers and anthropologists. The success is overwhelming. Question: are you ready to turn to outside-the-box-minded experts?
Practice mindfulness to restore your inner balance when things go wrong. There are several ways to do this: meditation, taking breaks and rest, and practicing mindfulness. If a manager shows more awareness and demonstrates this by his/her own example, everyone around will benefit. Mindfulness promotes clearer vision and forms a respectful communication style. Research has shown that introducing mindfulness practices improves a company’s culture, provided it is not misinterpreted as a tool to improve performance. A culture of mindfulness is itself a goal that allows everyone in an organization to thrive.
Nerves (good ones)
Few processes can cause feelings of nervousness as strongly as constant dedication combined with the need to make effective decisions and achieve better results. But it is often in such conditions that each manager needs to work today. Middle management is often faced with new and sometimes unclear leadership roles. This requires resilience because resilient people not only successfully cope with difficult life situations, but also excellently use their experience to meet future challenges. Self-care is seen as a key ingredient here: successful leaders keep themselves and their nervous systems in shape with adequate rest, sleep, and exercise.
Managing others should never be an end in itself or only feed the leader’s own ego. An entrepreneurial mindset that includes components such as the ability to plan ahead and foresight is a must for any manager of the future. He or she must be able to transcend their own teams and departments and make decisions that will drive the organization’s long-term success. They must be loyal to the company and take responsibility for the decisions made (literally act as the “owner” of the decisions).
The world has never been so ambiguous. Many things can be interpreted in two or more ways. They are fickle or only true for a certain period of time. Managers need pragmatism to distance themselves, gain a healthy view of things, and not lose courage in the face of uncertainty. In addition, it takes courage to slowly explore unknown territories, making preliminary decisions and adapting them flexibly. In a nutshell: the ability to act pragmatically.
Quality is more important than quantity, including in relation to management: it must be of the highest quality in terms of results and the formation of a corporate culture. Today it is no longer enough just to meet with the main characters of the company. High-quality leadership opens up space for creativity, innovation and co-creation, motivating employees to try new things and move the organization forward.
Respect is the ability to value people, systems, society, and your neighbor. It means embracing and protecting diversity. Be open and generous towards others without trying to change the other person’s essence. From a manager’s perspective, respect has two aspects: respect towards others and respect to be earned. Both are based on the same principle: listen to others and communicate with them as equals. Admit your mistakes. Act with clear and transparent rules that apply equally to everyone. Help people feel at ease and make clear decisions that you are always willing to justify.
Leaders generally don’t have a lack of self-confidence – and that’s not a bad thing. A healthy dose of confidence is that the manager does not seek to crush others. To achieve this balance, leaders must practice self-reflection. This allows them to get to know themselves better and understand what motivates them, how they relate to themselves and how they lead others. Identifying blind spots through conscious reflection also helps them grow professionally. It is true that you can benefit from situational judgement tests and personality questionnaires to learn more about yourself.
Today, more and more types of work are performed in teams – in the process of cooperation and joint creativity. This means that teams are increasingly working to find solutions to problems that were previously divided into separate mini-problems. The ability to listen to others and try to understand their motives and reasoning, rather than persistently defend your opinion, will help you broaden your horizons. This is an essential aspect of effective teamwork. Team spirit also means controlling your ego in the interests of a common goal, that is, the transition from “me” to a more productive “we”. In other words: less “IQ”, more “WQ”.
We are often too busy to try to understand something for real. However, understanding is a very important component of successful leadership: understanding why something went wrong, seeing the big picture, understanding employee motivation and needs are all components of leadership skills. It takes time and attention to really understand anything. Especially during periods of excessive stress, when we are all prone to panic reactions, rather than conscious actions, you should take the time to get a clear idea of what is happening, and only then calmly make decisions.
In today’s volatile business world, it is no longer enough to simply define and agree on goals. Sometimes, out of necessity, you have to stop only at short-term goals and follow them step by step. For this reason, a holistic vision of goals is becoming increasingly important: in which direction the company should move; what will its values and solutions look like in the future? In particular, a manager needs a clear vision of the future of the organization that can captivate and engage others – both employees and customers. To create a promising future, a company needs appropriate action and effort from the leadership in the present.
According to Wikipedia, wisdom is “the ability to think and act based on knowledge, experience, understanding, common sense and discernment.” The one who acts wisely acts carefully and tactfully and looks at the situation from a bird’s eye view. In business, it is not self-centered wisdom, which is about agility, quickness and wit, but emotional intelligence – the desire to achieve something more for the common good that is becoming increasingly important. Make sure to take all EQ tests on Aptitude-Tests-Practice to test your wisdom.
Recent market research supports the idea that before making a purchase decision, a customer wants to test a product or service. The buying experience of customers in the sales area can be perfectly adapted and transferred into the realm of leadership experience in management. Where do your employees feel like they are led by a leader? What is their experience with a manager? How do they perceive it? What requirements and expectations do subordinates have in relation to the leadership role in the future? Leaders who are able to imagine and understand employee experiences are better, more active, and more consciously influencing the perception of work and, as a result, inspire employees to change. A key element of this value is constant reflection on one’s own leadership style.
Why? – searching for a reason
The tireless search for meaning in their own work has become a general trend: more and more people are embarking on the path to identify their true (professional) self. Passion and purpose – keywords that are fashionable to use now not only in Silicon Valley; many large companies are also striving to incorporate the “startup spirit” into their corporate culture. These concepts are also important from the point of view of logic. When we understand that our professional activities have meaning, there is a sense of passion. Conversely, it’s easy to see purpose in something we’re passionate about. Many people do not feel that their work makes sense because both the big picture and their personal contribution to achieving a greater goal have become obscure. In some organizations, the corporate goal is too abstract or the commitment is only written on paper. The meaning must be found deliberately. You can also take the correct attitude towards emotional experiences and understand for yourself that there is a goal – realizing your own effectiveness.
Being diligent means actively investing in a business and giving it a lot of time and energy. In the professional world, we need the ability to be passionate about the job, especially when knowledge and experience are at a standstill. This ability is a source of energy, focus and stability. Along with health, it can be considered the most valuable capital that we have. It’s the enthusiasm to keep trying and discovering new things, allowing managers to inspire their teams to do the same. Many people have lost touch with their own sense of purpose and intrinsic motivation. But you can still get them interested in a fun project – if you yourself are passionate about it and really put a lot of effort into it.
This ABC is made of 26 letters. But each of them has a greater meaning for each manager or a candidate for a management job. Modern situational judgement tests and personality questionnaires for managers assess up to 32 qualities and competencies. We recommend practicing SJ tests and testing yourself against each of these qualities to guarantee that you can be a perfect manager for any employer.