It’s about the 3 C’s: Competency, Consistency and Care. So, why are these the 3 most underrated leadership traits? Let’s unpack each one.
I read a great book, An Astronaut’s Guide to Life on Earth, written by Colonel Chris Hadfield who’s spent decades training as an astronaut and has logged nearly 4000 hours in space. What’s the most important trait of an astronaut, who’s orbiting the earth at 400km an hour? Well, it’s someone who’s trained and studied so much, they can be relied on to solve unexpected, life-threatening problems with calm thoughtfulness. They’re competent.
But perhaps you feel competence lacks sex appeal. After all, has anyone gotten promoted for being merely competent? Well, Merrium-Webster defines competence as “the quality or state of having sufficient knowledge, judgment, skill, or strength.” So… yes. I think competence is very sexy and in fact, is the foundation of a person who’s promotion-ready.
Side note: Who’s Ayrton Senna da Silva? A badass Brazilian racing driver who won the Formula One World Drivers’ Championship 3x, won the World Championship, and 41 Grands Prix.
A leader who operates consistently, enables the team to relax and focus on high leverage activity. That’s because people know what to expect, which means they’re not wasting precious energy guessing what’s coming next. You see, consistency builds a culture of trust and sets clear expectations. As part of those expectations, folks are clear on their degrees of freedom, which then builds a culture of accountability.
Now let’s take it up a notch: when the entire team operates with consistency, everyone’s confidence grows. A deep sense of safety is instilled, which enables people to put energy against productivity.
So, how do we get more consistent? A great Medium article describes it as “deliberate, repetitive actions that collectively forge a pathway to accomplishment.” This is cool: as we repeat behaviors, our neural pathways become more deeply ingrained, which rewires our thought patterns and future behaviors.
OMG YES. We have to care about our people. I think good leaders stay awake at night worrying about their people and wake up ideating ways to help their people feel recognized and seen. Damn straight it’s personal. In fact, I’d say meaningful work relationships are downright intimate. Because, how else will we know that they have a sick parent at home or what truly motivates them?
Every person is created differently, but we all deeply desire to feel understood… seen… valued. Oh, you say you do value them? Well, do your people know you value them? How might you make that abundantly clear? Here are a few of my own practices:
- Whenever I stay at a hotel, I use the stationary to hand-write a note to someone who’s making a difference. A small practice that takes little time but actually uses hotel stationary! and helps someone feel unexpectedly appreciated.
- Every holiday, I select gifts and write thank you cards for my leaders’ families. That’s right – not for them, but for their spouses and kids. This is a way to say ‘thank you’ for all the time their loved one dedicates to work. It’s something I learned from my former boss, Kenneth MacPherson.
- WAT or “Walking around time” that’s booked in my calendar. This is time set aside to just walk and talk with folks. It’s important because if we don’t intentionally set the time aside, it gets gobbled up by meetings and we may never set foot outside the office! BTW some of the best personal conversations happen during WAT.
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