In today’s business environment do you think managers and leaders are the same? If you inspire your employees to be innovative and autonomous, where does the responsibility lie when something goes wrong?

And unfortunately this does happen, sometimes with tragic results. I’m thinking of recent examples such as the Pike River Mine disaster and the subsequent charges laid against the CEO, the six Italian scientists found guilty of manslaughter for not predicting a fatal earthquake, and in the Australian DJ’s/UK nurse situation earlier this week – who is responsible: the individuals, the radio station, the hospital, or Buckingham Palace?

I’m a firm believer in the saying “Managers are people who do things right, leaders are people who do the right thing” (Bennis). Leadership is creating purpose and value, doing right by others while encouraging contribution, risk taking, and new ideas.

It’s true that leadership requires the management skills of planning, coordinating and delivering, but good leadership requires buy-in from your team. Looking back at 2012, there are four attributes that I personally found defining of good leadership.

1. Consistency
Leaders that have a clear vision and purpose, embedded throughout their decision-making, actions and communication, is number one on my list. Consistency builds trust – your employees, clients and stakeholders alike, need to know what to expect from you and what is expected by you. Follow through on your decisions. Seriously. Get the things you say you’re going to do, done. There is nothing worse than a leader who flip-flops or makes promises they don’t keep.

Leading your tribe through consistent messaging sets organisation culture, while creating a holistic brand image. Ask yourself, “If I’m no longer at the helm, will the business become stagnant, or continue to aspire to the reason it exists – its purpose?”

2. Integrity and reputation
Integrity requires you to make the right choice, even when you may have to put aside your personal views for the greater good of the business. What leaders do can help or harm an organisation. If something doesn’t feel right, then it probably isn’t. Too often we hear of people in powerful positions who’ve done something deceitful, even if it’s in their personal life, that spills over to their careers. This can create undesirable consequences for the organisation.

Your leadership can also be drawn into question by the action of others. In the case of the Australian radio station’s prank call last week, was it right to ring in the first place? Is this a reflection on the ethics of the station’s leadership? And ultimately who shoulders the blame?

3. Performance
Leadership performance is judged, there’s no doubt about it. President Obama, for example, had to be seen to step up the superstorm Sandy created havoc in the New York State, slap bang in the last week of his presidential campaign. He had to perform, not only in the polls but simultaneously on the ground in New Jersey, helping the citizens he leads.

Performance of those you hire is just as essential. Support autonomy and encourage innovation in your team. And ensure they share your purpose – it’s not only good for your business; it’s good for them.

4. Lead by example
Departing Air New Zealand CEO, Rob Fyfe, answered his own emails, and he spent a day each month ‘on the floor’, in a different facet of the business. This hands-on approach provided Rob a very real observation of work done throughout the organisation. Not only did he meet every staff member, and perhaps more importantly they met him, he saw for himself the successes and challenges his staff faced every day. Getting his hands dirty helped him to appreciate and understand Air New Zealand’s operations. It also showed employees that he never asked someone to do work he wouldn’t do for himself.

To me a leadership training programme must include the right mix of practical and people skills. We can’t always avoid calamities, but through consistent and ethical leadership we can lessen the impact.

I hope you can find some downtime over Christmas, and I mean real time. Spend it with loved ones. Enjoy quiet moments away from the office and recharge your batteries. It may not mean your brain completely switches off, that’s ok – these quiet moments are likely when your best ideas are generated.

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