Effective leadership is a skill that can be learned and must be honed
We’ve all heard stories of business leaders whose staff accomplished phenomenal results. Often these leaders had fiery personalities who made demands on their employees and were tyrants to work for. They would resort to threats and intimidation to accomplish their objectives. While this may still work in limited situations, it’s an old-school approach to leadership and is seldom effective with today’s workforce.
When it comes to call center leadership, a different approach is required to be an effective leader who is worth following. These ten character traits are essential to build a team you can be proud of and who will produce quality service for your clients.
1) Ethical: First on the list of key character traits for leaders is ethical behavior. At its most basic level, being an ethical leader means doing the right things and avoiding the wrong things. This includes what is legal and what is moral. Ethics means putting legality and morality ahead of profits and expediency. A leader who is not ethical is a leader not worth following and who isn’t worthy of their agents’ trust.
2) Honest: Closely coupled with being ethical is being honest. Employees want those who oversee them to be honest, and they deserve honest treatment. Being honest means doing what you say and saying what you will do. It also means not lying or skirting around the truth. Honest leaders command the respect of their team.
3) Fair: Following honesty is fairness. All employees want fair treatment. Fair means not having favorites who are held to a different standard. Fairness means practical things such as equal pay for equal work and applying rules and expectations evenly to all employees.
4) Consistent: A trait that runs parallel to fairness is consistency, but it also means more. Yes, consistency means being fair to all call center employees, but beyond that it means being the same today as you were last week and as you will be next month. Providing consistency in your leadership provides a safe place for your employees. Employees who feel safe in their jobs and their work environment will try harder and produce better results.
5) Humble: Another key leadership trait is humility. We don’t often think of a strong leader is being humble, but humility is a trait that people will follow. In the business world a humble leader puts others first, liberally shares credit with their team, and seeks what is best for the call center, it’s agents, and its clients.
6) Capable: The sixth trait looks at ability. Do you have the capability to do your job? Equally important, in an emergency could you do your staff’s jobs? This doesn’t mean that you have to do it as good as they would or as proficiently, but you do have to have a solid understanding of what they do.
In the call center environment, this often means working your way up in the company, starting as an entry-level agent, to shift leader, to supervisor or trainer, to manager, and so forth. Leaders who lack a comprehension of what their employees do are people no one respects or want to follow.
7) Visionary: Though many people would put vision as first on the list, it’s not most important. This is because without the prior six characteristics, employees will not likely buy into the vision. Communicating a vision that compels people to follow is built on the foundation of the first six key traits.
Vision simply looks at where the call center is now, where it needs to go, and how to get there. While there are great visions and so-so visions, any vision is better than none. An effective leader needs to articulate a vision for their call center’s future.
8) Strategic: It helps a vision if it’s also strategic. Strategy should guide both the short-term decisions and the long-term vision of the call center. Some managers, especially in the call center, react to situations and issue edicts which are spur-of-the-moment commands that fail to have any cohesive strategic direction. Effective leaders make strategic decisions, for both the short-term and the long-term.
9) Focused: In running a call center, there are always more things to do than time to do them. Effective leaders have the focus to prioritize what needs to be done and do the things that matter most. Getting a lot of things done is not nearly as important as getting the right things done. Effective leaders know this and focus on what matters most.
10) Flexible: Rounding out our list of key character traits for effective leaders is flexibility. Flexibility is essential for call center work. Therefore, a leader who people follow is one who is flexible, adjusting to the ever-changing conditions that assault a call center each day. While there are times to hold firm to a planned course, too many managers blindly do this to their detriment when there’s no reason to do so. Instead, being flexible when needed leads to becoming a more effective leader.
This list of key character traits for leaders worth following may seem overwhelming. The good news is that each one of these traits can be developed. A good leader knows this, striving to build upon their existing strengths and develop weaker areas.
No one is born a great leader. Instead great leaders are made, little by little, one day at a time. With perseverance and determination, a manager can work to become an effective leader, a leader who their employees want to follow.
Janet Livingston is the president of Call Center Sales Pro, a premier sales and marketing service provider for the call center and telephone answering service industry, which helps clients grow their revenue. Contact Janet at firstname.lastname@example.org or 800-901-7706.
Peter Lyle DeHaan is a freelance writer from Southwest Michigan.