What Makes a Good Leader? Lessons from Personal Experience

What Makes a Good Leader? Lessons from Personal Experience

Leadership is not only about holding an executive position. It requires certain skills and qualities that we are not born with; instead, we develop them over time. 

As someone who has had the privilege of working with various managers and experiencing different management styles, I can attest to the fact that each leader has their own approach to working with people. It wasn’t until I became Head of the Polish Branch at S-PRO that I fully realized the nuances of being a leader and the importance of having strong leadership skills. In this blog post, I share my personal experience through my career path along with some valuable insights from our S-PRO Leads and Project Managers on how to lead with confidence, build strong relationships, and drive results.

Different types of managers 

As a teenager, the words manager and director sounded intimidating to me, and the people in such positions seemed unmatched in their intelligence — an unattainable ideal. I wondered what kind of skills you needed to become a boss and what kind of person you needed to be to hold such a position.

In any workplace, the boss plays a vital role in shaping the work environment and building relationships. A good boss can inspire and motivate their team, leading to better productivity and success. But what exactly makes a good leader? Every manager has a unique style that is shaped by their experiences, values, and personality. Over the course of my career, I have experienced the ups and downs of various management styles — some tried-and-true, like comfortable slippers, and others more creative, like colorful and fussy heels that aren’t necessarily practical. After all these years, I’ve realized that managing people is not just about following a management style or rules from  textbooks. It’s about being human. Let’s explore the different types of executives and how their styles can impact the team’s performance and productivity.

Micromanagement – a classic example

One of my earliest experiences with a manager was with a classic micromanager. This type of leader uses an autocratic management style. They give orders and require everything to be done by a certain date, leaving little room for creativity or independence. While this type of management may seem like a good way to ensure accuracy, it often leads to low morale and a lack of motivation among team members. I remember feeling stifled and constantly frustrated with the lack of trust and freedom in my work.

Results-oriented leadership – focus on goals over people

Another example of management I’ve seen is the results-oriented style. In this case, the leader focuses on achieving specific goals, usually with minimal emphasis on how to get the job done. However, in practice, the emphasis is almost entirely on people. I had an episode in my career (in “sales”) when I worked with a manager who was more stressed about the results than about his employees. He poured out his nervousness, blaming failures (even those in his personal life!) on his employees. Daily monitoring of sales and phone calls along with motivational talks with the team led to subordinates cheating not only the boss but also customers just to score a bonus. I left after a month. What’s more, the truth always comes out.

Democratic style – my personal favorite

The last management style I’ve encountered is the democratic style. This was my favorite style because everyone on the team had the opportunity to express their opinions and make changes. I worked with a boss who let us manage projects on our own and listened to our ideas. He trusted his team to do the job and provided support when needed. The boss was easygoing, a bit of a colleague. Sometimes he made a fuss, but he always apologized. This management style allowed for more creativity and a better work–life balance, but it also came with its own set of challenges. Without clear direction, some team members struggled to stay on track, leading to missed deadlines and subpar results. I remember feeling lost at times, without clear guidance, but also appreciating the autonomy I was given. From my observations, under this style of leadership, charismatic people (who did not necessarily have substantive knowledge) had a greater chance to stand out, while quiet employees who did not make noise were almost invisible.

The ideal leader – A driving instructor

Imagine a good boss as a driving instructor. They have a route plan and vision for their L-drive (team), but they’re not afraid to change it if it’s not achieving results. They maintain principles of culture and respect, creating a professional and positive work environment. They mentor their team, providing guidance and criticism when necessary. And just like a driving instructor, they’re always there to catch you if you make a mistake while also allowing you to drive on your own.

But more importantly, a good boss is human. They understand that everyone makes mistakes, and they’re there to help their team overcome any challenges. They’re approachable and empathetic, creating a sense of trust and comfort within the workplace.

The power of personal experience

Reflecting on my own experiences, I recall two very different moments related to my supervisors that have stayed with me over the years. The first occurred when I was new to a company and asked my boss for help finding important information for a customer. Instead of offering support, he responded with a comment that left me feeling embarrassed and worthless. From that moment on, I felt resentful towards my boss, and asking him for help became a source of anxiety.

The second experience was entirely different. While working for a different company, I made a mistake and tried to fix it on my own. When that didn’t work, I approached my boss with a sense of shame and asked for help. In response, he calmly reassured me that even after 20 years in the business, slip-ups happen to everyone. He helped me fix the situation quickly and without judgment, creating a sense of trust and support that lasted throughout my time at that company.

The importance of leadership

Effective leadership is essential for any successful team or organization. It’s not just about managing projects, but also about inspiring and motivating your team to perform at their best. But what exactly does it take to be a good leader? I spoke with some of our S-PRO Leads and Project Managers to get their tips on leading with confidence, building strong relationships, and driving results.

Andrii Hrebin, our Angular Lead, believes that effective communication, negotiation skills, and finding innovative solutions to problems are essential to strong leadership. As a leader, you need to be able to communicate your vision clearly and inspire your team to work towards a common goal.

Sofia Shovkun, our Marketing Lead, emphasizes the importance of trust in creating a collaborative culture. “It’s important to trust your team and give them the autonomy to deliver results on their own. Micromanaging can be a sign that you don’t trust your team enough and may need to re-evaluate the situation.” Sofia also stresses the importance of adaptability and humility, being willing to admit when things aren’t going according to plan and being open to new ideas and approaches.

Karina Alieksieienko, a Project Manager, believes that a good leader is someone who understands their role and can effectively promote their team and project. She stresses the importance of selling tasks to make them interesting and engaging for the team. “It’s not just about setting clear tasks and schedules but also about inspiring your team to work towards the goal.”

Alena Koverdyuk, a Recruitment Lead, highlights the importance of expertise and planning in effective leadership. “A good leader needs to be confident in their expertise and continue to improve their knowledge in a particular area. Planning is also crucial, with clear task formulation, deadlines, and analysis being important management tools. Understanding what motivates each team member is also essential to achieving the goal.”

As I understand it, effective leadership requires a combination of skills including strong communication, trust, adaptability, and planning. As a leader, you need to understand your role, inspire your team, and effectively promote your project. By taking these tips from our S-PRO Leads and Project Managers, you can lead your own team with confidence, build strong relationships, and drive results.

Ultimately, these experiences demonstrate the power of leadership. A manager who creates a supportive and empathetic work environment can have a significant impact on their team’s success and happiness. As the saying goes, employees don’t leave companies; they leave bosses.

Being a good boss is an art and requires a human touch. It’s about being approachable and empathetic, and about understanding that everyone makes mistakes. It’s about creating a positive work environment that inspires and motivates your team. As a leader, your actions and words have the power to shape your team’s experiences and, ultimately, your company’s success.


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