It was an embarrassing display. I was in a another city working for a non-profit organization. The organization’s director , I’ll call him Clark, and I were at a local restaurant for dinner. The waitress was having a difficult time that evening and got a couple of things wrong. I watched in stunned disbelief as Clark berated the poor woman for her errors, then endured the rest of the evening as his mood soured. The entire event turned into awkward conversation then silence.
I would have chalked Clark’s actions up to having a bad night and that this was an unusual occurrence. But on the job and in the workplace I had noticed his aloof and patrician manner that kept associates at a distance, made him difficult to approach, and hard to access.
Some people think that leadership demands an aloof manner or superior attitude but it does not. Only weak or immature leaders think this or act thus. Superlative leaders are friendly, kindhearted, and downright nice. They speak politely to everyone regardless of their salary level or job position. Janitors and vice-presidents are treated with the same degree of graciousness.
I’ve put together a list of 9 characteristics of a benevolent leader. Here they are in no particular order.
- Benevolent leaders are committed to making society better both inside and outside their organizations. They will produce a profit, no doubt. But they will not do so at the expense of anyone.
- Benevolent leaders are approachable and accessible. They are not obnoxious or closed.
- Benevolent leaders are neither wimps nor pushovers. Whenever I brought a new hire on, I always warned them not to mistake forbearance for indifference. I would be longsuffering but would not tolerate employees who took advantage of me. I expected them to be conscientious and responsible because I would be, too.
- Benevolent leaders welcome good news and invite bad news. The last thing you want it for your associates to withhold information from you because they think you either don’t want to hear it or you will blame them for it.
- Benevolent leaders communicate. They keep connections close and lines of information flowing. The send information out because they want information in.
- Benevolent leaders get to know their associates and employees as they really are before they expect them to be something else. They understand that people are not machines. They grow in their jobs and make room for it.
- Benevolent leaders acknowledge progress, reward success, and celebrate achievement. They walk around trying to find people doing things right. They do not simply look for error or failure. You might think that people leave your company or organization for lack of pay, but that ranks third or fourth. Most leave because they feel unfulfilled and unappreciated.
- Benevolent leaders are servant leaders. By that I mean that, like a superlative waiter in a fine restaurant, they anticipate the needs of their charges well-before they’re asked for. Indeed, they don’t want their charges to have to ask. Therefore, they provide the tools and information that their workers will need to do their job well.
- Benevolent leaders do not claw their way to the top, they earn advancement and success. Others carry them up there. They attract top talent around them and inspire achievement because they are competent, likeable people.
For some this comes quite naturally. Others might have to work on this. If you sense you might need an outside voice to speak into this for you, find someone you trust, a close friend or mentor, and ask.