I was born and raised in a country where authoritative management is almost the only management style. Leaders mostly mean country heads, not some upgraded generation of managers. When I moved to Europe in my thirties, I learned about democratic management styles and other leadership definitions. I dived into the work market so different that it almost left me breathless.
Today we often speak of leadership and management in an opposing way. The informational space welcomes leadership as something that would replace management. Managers seem to be expected to unlearn the management and embrace the leadership.
During over a decade of being “second in command “, I have worked for leaders, managers, bosses, supervisors and forepeople. Throughout this experience not only have I learned from them – but also studied and compared their decision-making habits.
Blessed with the chance to witness, compare and live different cultures and management styles, I believe leadership grew out of management, same as management grew out of foremanship. Execution, expertise and empathy are the three eras management has gone through, and we are witnessing the third. I also learned that there is one type of leadership worth aspiring to – responsible leadership.
Responsible leadership is about making sustainable decisions that take into account the interests of all stakeholders. But how do you become a responsible leader in the first place? Here are my top takeaways of what makes a responsible leader.
I believe the conscious choice defines a leader from a manager, however sustainable the decisions of both might be. When you consciously decide to take charge, you become a leader.
A leader sees responsibility as a commitment, not as an obligation. Having made a conscious choice, a responsible leader repeats it incessantly, choosing response over reaction again and again.
Being a leader is a choice. Especially at the beginning, leaders have to repeat this choice many times until it becomes a natural way of living. Being this consistent requires discipline. Once mastered, discipline keeps serving the leader in business – when deadlines have to be met, and results have to be delivered.
Responsible leaders practice effective listening skills and encourage meaningful dialogues. Making informed decisions is another skill they are good at. As David Cervelin, the author of “Office of Cards”, once said – “I invite everybody to pretend for one hour that you support the exact opposite of what you are supporting and look for information with that mindset. Only in this way will you be able to make an informed decision”.
Another feature of responsible leadership is ethical judgment, inspiring trust and fairness. Ethical judgement can only grow out of the belief that work and diligence have a moral benefit and strengthen character and individual abilities.
Responsible leaders are receptive to new ideas, arguments and viewpoints. They welcome and encourage diversity of opinions, make informed decisions, and teach their followers to do the same.
Compassion and kindness
Responsible leaders choose to be compassionate – have positive intentions and genuine concern for others. At the same time, they act in all stakeholders’ best interests, remaining kind even when tough decisions are made.
Responsible leaders know that intelligence and talents can be improved and unfolded through effort and learning. They are willing to invest time and energy to encourage, support, and empower their followers to grow.
Responsible leaders can focus on the most critical aspects of business and self, envisioning the outcome. They share this vision with their teams in an inspiring way, encouraging others to share their vision and unite efforts to achieve it.
Responsible leaders practice self-reflection – as a matter of fact, self-reflection is the source where the responsive leaders draw their ability to respond instead of reacting.
Responsible leaders “walk the talk” – they live according to the values and principles they stand for.
Responsible leaders accept others for who they are, disregarding the differences and arguments.
Responsible leaders are generous with the feedback, authentic with acknowledgement and praise and kind with critique.
Sense of humour
Responsible leaders know that humour connects. Having a hearty laugh improves communication and makes you more approachable more human.
None of the above is purely professional because a responsible leader does not stop being one at the end of a working day. I see responsible leadership as a lifestyle, and the guiding principles are equally valuable in a familiar setting.
While companies still have to be managed, deadlines met, and deliverables delivered, I believe responsible leadership is the key to more human-centric professional environments. And the most exciting part is that we can choose to be those leaders freely.