In an era of constant challenges, it is the leadership skills of our leaders that are most severely tested. Each crisis is a test of their strength and magnetism. Beata Drzazga – visionary entrepreneur, business consultant and speaker at leadership and business related conferences, tells whether a born leader is a myth or reality.
You have created the largest long-term care company in the country. What qualities should a leader possess to create such a giant in an industry as difficult as the health sector?
Undoubtedly, it should be a leader who values people, is not afraid of challenges, and aspires to continuous development and creation. When we concentrate these elements, there is a good chance of success. It is also important to keep in mind the role played by the people we engage to work with us – their loyalty, identification with the company also affect its triumph. A leader should also teach his people to manage themselves, not just provide ready-made solutions. According to a saying, if you want your employees to build a boat with passion, teach them the love of the sea. If an employee understands and loves the mission and vision of the company in which he or she will participate, he or she will commit to it and create something truly remarkable. Even at the outset, you can assess whether a person wants to follow the same path. An important characteristic of a good leader is the ability to select the right team. All people are different – some are suitable for creative work, others for specific tasks. Both types are needed, but the leader needs to know who he needs more of and where to put each person. It is essential that a leader be able to convince people of his vision and teach them how to keep up with him. The market often provides opportunities for growth, but sometimes external constraints. Lack of suitable people can be a hindrance. A good leader must be able to build, lead and motivate a team. He must also be a role model for his employees, demonstrating responsibility, conscientiousness and curiosity about the world. A leader should respect his team’s knowledge and be available to them. A leader is not omniscient, so he surrounds himself with people who are experts in their fields. Also important is the humility of the leader, who realizes that each team member brings something of value to the project. Everyone is valuable as an individual, but even more valuable as part of a team.
Do different lines of business require different types of leaders?
All areas of business require similar qualities of a leader, but depending on the specific sector, the right professionals should be selected. If a leader has management skills, he or she will be able to effectively lead a company in any industry. The key, however, is to hire the right specialists – people with diverse knowledge and competencies appropriate to the specific industry.
What qualities should a leader possess to be respected and listened to by others?
Leaders who are respected are first and foremost ethical people who respect others – whether employees, customers or business partners. A respected leader is one who is guided by values. Respect cannot be forced – you earn it with your attitude. The leaders we listen to have our respect. In contrast, leaders who violate ethics, disrespect others and are arrogant may be listened to, but for other reasons – such as fear. In my opinion, relations with employees should be built in such a way that after they leave the company they say only good things about it. The reputation proclaimed by our employees is the best recommendation of our leadership skills.
Is leadership ability an innate trait or can it be acquired?
I am convinced that leadership skills are a talent we are born with. Of course, there are numerous schools, courses that can teach us leadership skills. Nevertheless, I believe that leaders who have gained their skills in this way do not appear to be authentic. In my opinion, a good leader should have charisma, which is a quality that cannot be taught.
For many years you led a team of more than 3,250 people, a significant number of whom stayed with you for many years. What principles have guided you as a leader in this process?
The most important principle is to be authentic, to be yourself, and to have and adhere to certain values. Only then does the relationship with employees become almost friendly, regardless of their position. The reward for this authenticity is employee loyalty. In situations where conditions do not allow for better pay, employees know that if given the opportunity, their efforts will be adequately rewarded. The bond with the team is built over years, consistently. It is worth appreciating your employees, investing in their development and rewarding their commitment. Then when hard times come, you can be sure that they will not abandon the ship, but will stay on board to weather the storm and save the boat.