Leadership, what does that mean to you in regards to business? Does the image come to mind of a results and goal-driven individual? How about a charismatic individual? Does an effective leader need to be respected? Of course, the answer would be yes to all of these. A quality business leader must have these three characteristics for example to some degree.
Effective leaders must utilize strategic thinking, implement strategic actions and strategically communicate the company’s vision, brand and image. This is applicable to any company, regardless of size or industry sector. If a company is headed by an ineffectual leader the strategic vision will suffer and in the end, every person connected to that company will feel the impact as well.
We have all experienced the use of taking the letters in a particular word to describe the nature of that word to make a point. In this case with the word leadership let’s examine the ten letters of the word where each letter represents one of the characteristics of the word. The following expressions exemplify the qualities of an effective leader and ergo, successful leadership. Feel free to use this tool to assist you in the evaluation process:
- Listen Intently
- Assessment in Decision-Making
- Demand Accountability
- Ensure Input from All Employees
- Respect to All
- Solve Problems
- Honor Your Word
- Include High-Expectations
There is a common theme/concept running through the definitions of each of these words. The theme/concept is “strategic”. That is because above all else, an effective leader must view the “landscape” in a broad-ranging, strategic view. A leader must be able to communicate the strategic vision, and the subordinates given the tools to “complete the mission” by developing the tactical and operational strategies that personify the strategic direction laid forth by the leader.
The letters in the word leadership define the qualities of an effective, quality leader.
In order to be an effective leader it is imperative that you are an intent listener. Hey, it goes with the territory. Seasoned leaders recognized long ago that it is as essential to listen as it is to speak. A good leader must:
These 3 attributes used by an experienced leader will assist peers and subordinates to discover their own solution. This outcome only occurs after the person in charge sincerely listens to both what is said and what is unsaid. Listening shows that you, the leader, cares.
Risk-taking in business is beginning to become a “lost art.” Especially in the current economic environment, taking risk is not the “word of the day.” Yet it is the business leaders’ responsibility to create an environment where employees are actually encouraged to take risks in hopes of increasing returns that benefit the company on the whole in the long-run. As we know it’s not a perfect world, and mistakes will occur. When you in the leadership role respond to mistakes, use these situations as learning opportunities instead of finding fault and blame. You should aid people in identifying better solutions.
Don’t lead by fear! Fear is not a motivator. Fear acts as an inhibitor. It is a natural response when people are afraid to make a mistake for fear of retribution, they will not make a leap of faith to take advantage of available opportunities. Don’t misunderstand what I am saying. The differentiation must be defined between a mistake caused by carelessness and a mistake made in an attempt to capture an opportunity to solve a problem. Carelessness requires appropriate consequences, and a failed attempt at maximizing an opportunity requires appropriate encouragement.
Assessment in Decision-Making
It is crucial when you are in the role as a responsible leader that all of the facts be assessed and that you remain decisive. Therefore, in order to make a well-informed decision you must first gather all of the known facts and information. When it comes to employee performance you must always get both sides of the story before taking action. Good leaders do not jump to conclusions or decisions! Never take the word of one party and never investigate a situation entirely through third parties. That strategy would be stupid and irresponsible…wouldn’t it? Third party accounts should corroborate or refute what you learned directly from the parties involved. In other words, get information directly from the parties responsible for the task and don’t rely on others opinions.
Demand accountability of others and especially yourself. Lead by example. It is essential that leaders are expected to perform at a higher standard than subordinates. For instance when you as leader lead by example you must accept total responsibility for all actions taken and decisions made. This holds true regardless of the personal consequences. Therefore when you lead by example you may demand the same mind-set and behavior of your staff.
When it comes to accountability, leaders pay a high price:
Only those leaders willing to “pay the price” are qualified for leadership. Before accepting a leadership position this hard question must be asked, “Am I willing to be a servant in order to be a complete leader?“
Ensure Input from All Employees
Include others in the decision-making process. When stakeholders are involved to some degree in the decision-making process, you as leader will find that it is much easier to attain buy-in from all stakeholders. It is always an effective strategy to get a “fresh set of eyes” on crucial issues. No one sees everything from all perspectives. A quality decision-making process requires the knowledge, expertise and gift of others to make our decisions more effective.
So, in a nutshell:
- Include others in the decision process
- Gather their input
- Allow them to offer their solutions
When you as the leader involve others you make them feel more valued, and you help them to own the outcome. Regardless, when a decision needs to be made, make that decision with confidence and with the most current comprehensive information.
Respect to All
Treat your superiors and subordinates with the same level of respect. Why, because in the case of your business, everyone plays an essential role in the success of the firm. I ask you to keep this fact in mind; the higher up the “corporate food chain” that you go the less crucial the position is on a day-to-day basis. In other words, when you C-level employees are “out-of-office”, the business does keep running. So, give the tactical and operational-level employees the respect they deserve.
There are some experts that say respect must be earned, and to some degree that is correct. However, every person must be afforded some level of respect. Additionally, there are instances when despite a person being of low character, they are deserving of respect because of the position they hold.
When you are able to solve problems you increase your value to your superiors and subordinates. Some people have a habit of focusing on the problem. Some put emphasis on formulating solutions. As a leader you must concentrate on turning solutions into action. It’s obvious right? Only when a viable solution is enacted is it then possible to solve the established problem.
- Face challenges head on
- Enlist the help of appropriate people
- Collectively develop the best solution
- Convert the solution to a “game plan”
- Oversee the implementation of the “game plan
There are times when either a leader must make a decision and act alone, or incorporate the views, opinions and wisdom of others. A wise leader knows when each of these two strategies is the proper course of action. Do you?
When you say you are going to do something, follow through on what you said. Talk is cheap…actions speak volumes. There is nothing that instills greater loyalty and faith from superiors and subordinates alike than knowing that a person is a person of honor. This holds true even if honoring your word means that it may be to your detriment. Therefore, honor your word. When you make a commitment it is critical that you fulfill that commitment even if circumstances change making that commitment a challenge or inconvenient. This is called integrity, and every leader must have this quality or that person won’t be a leader for very long. If you said it, you must make it good. When you have established a reputation of integrity and honoring your word that will inspire confidence, and that confidence from others is priceless.
On the occasion that staff members fail to meet expectations sometimes the first response is:
- “If they knew better, they’d do better.“
Likewise, your first questions may be:
- “Have I fully equipped them to do their job?“
- “Have I clearly articulated my expectations?
When the situation analysis is internalized – outward rage stops. An interesting tendency in human behavior is that when people know their best is expected, they are apt to perform at their best. On the other side of the coin, when people expect that they’ll be reprimanded and/or blamed for mistakes, those people will tend to not do anything – beneficial or damaging. Your staff will be inspired to excel beyond their limits when you have set high-expectations. That creates a win-win situation.
Expect the best of your staff. Yet in order to expect the best of your staff you must first equip your staff to be able to perform their jobs at the level you and your firm require. Just like with children, you have to establish with children what is expected of them and help them learn so they are able to know what the expectations are. Throughout our lives we require metrics to measure performance, boundaries to know the limits and expectations to be aware of the extremes
Even though “Praise” is last, it is by no means any less important or significant. A quality leader knows that much more is gained in employing positive reinforcement than in negative reinforcement or punishment. Praise, positive reinforcement and job recognition bring more desirable outcomes and create a more motivated workforce. When you praise publicly, you elevate selected employees to their peers. Providing public praise is often an effective persuader. Be equally aware that if you publicly humiliate staff members, this strategy will only instill fear, resentment and offense…all of which are tools for stress, turmoil and rebellion. Look at it this way, would you want your superior to publicly praise or criticize you? Not a tough question to answer, huh? Live by the age-old adage, “Praise publicly, and criticize privately.”
Realize that another overall key quality of an effective and successful leader is the ability to recognize natural talent and tendencies in others. Consequently to recognize these talents and skills, you will empower others to lead. Employing this strategy facilitates the nurturing of great future leaders.
It’s not a popularity contest. Don’t be shallow and hold others down because you feel threatened. If you do, well I wouldn’t consider you a leader in the truest sense of the word. Permitting others to lead, such as in collaborative groups, will bring such benefits to your workforce as:
- Recognize future supervisors/managers/leaders
- Job involvement
- Change agents
What if you realize you do not have effective leaders? In the scenario where removing a poor performer is a greater challenge than letting a position go vacant until the right person is found, that is a function of not having the mechanisms in place to create and nurture leaders in your company. Proper disciplinary procedures that are utilized adequately decrease the possibility of an incompetent person remaining in a leadership position. There is no room for an incompetent leader. If you have promoted someone because they have the “right heart” but they do not possess the required leadership skills, admit the error, remove the person, and perform due diligence until the best person is discovered
Granted, there are other leadership traits that separate good leaders from great leaders; I hope you find that this list provides a good foundation.