What is a “people leader” and how do they lead?

by John Henderson

This morning my colleague was chatting about a conversation she had with her husband. The marketing piece for EANE’s Leadership Summit arrived at their home and he asked her “what is a ‘people leader’?” He had never heard the term people leader.

This made me pause and wonder – what truly is a people leader and how do they lead?

The traditional concept of leadership was defined by the outcomes and results a leader was able to achieve coupled with the level of authority (job title) they had. A people leader, however, true focus is on the success of their entire team.  

So, how does one become a people leader and not just a leader. Here are a few skills to be a leader of people:

Lead by example! It should be the golden rule in the workplace. People will listen to what you say but the real power of leading by example is in your actions. Your employees will watch what you do, how you do it, and when you do it. Make sure you are modeling what you expect from them.

Communicate effectively and often! A great leader knows how to communicate effectively to every individual on the team. It’s not one size fits all approach. The most critical part of communicating effectively is to check for understanding. It’s not simply asking “Do you understand what I’m asking?” or “Any questions?” It’s important to have the employee repeat back in their own words what they think they heard you say.

Create a culture that focuses on the positive! Negativity can be as catchy as the common cold. The old saying “misery loves company” should always be followed by “find better company.” In today’s workplace there can be great social and political divide. As a leader, don’t ignore when things are turning negative. The sooner you effectively address negativity – the sooner it can go away. In the program “Totally Responsible Person” the fundamental principle is “Stay Positive, Productive and Effective, No Matter What The Circumstances.”

Invest in their growth! According to a recent study by Deloitte, organizations that have a strong learning culture are 92% more likely to develop new processes and products. Providing training for your employees shows that you value them and want them to grow personally and professionally.  

Be empathetic! And learn how to still hold people accountable for what you expect of them. In a recent article published by LinkedIn it read “empathy and accountability aren’t just compatible; they’re codependent. Empathy gives you the insights you need to hold your team accountable in a meaningful way. And it’s the synergy between the two that nurtures a culture of high performance and respect.” So, I ask you to look at your leaders – are they traditional leaders or are they people leaders?