Superior leadership involves confidence, competence, and adaptability. Business leaders can adopt the following six principles into their leadership strategy:
Serve, Don’t Demand
Leading people is a privilege. Employees have a choice about where they can spend their 8+ hours away from family and apply their proactive energies. Leaders who understand the role apply a different attitude towards managing their teams. By providing the strategy, direction, resources and timetable of expectations, superior managers then go about serving them in their process rather than someone who only makes demands. Leaders who understand this operate with the best interest of the business in mind at all times, placing the objectives of the collective team and business above their own personal goals, making every effort to provide the necessary support and resources to the people who make the company a success. Gifted leaders don’t hoard what they have, but rather make sure the company’s resources are put to work efficiently and effectively.
Address Difficult Issues
Fear has no place in the life of a leader. There will always be difficult problems that must be addressed, and an outstanding leader must be willing to address those problems even when it is inconvenient, uncomfortable and awkward. Successful leaders don’t sweep problems under the rug or wait until the quarter is over before they deal with an issue—they go to work on the problem immediately. Proactive leaders solve difficult issues quickly and they inspire the people who work under them to be proactive about addressing their own issues.
Understand How to Follow
If you can’t follow, you can’t lead. Every great leader has, at one time or another, followed in the footsteps of someone who knew a little bit more or had a bit more experience. Those who are able to lead from the understanding of a follower are better able to interact with a team and better able to make decisions that will impact those below them on the organization chart. Leadership requires strong decision-making skills and a forthright attitude, but being able to see things from the perspective of an individual in an outside role can help a leader move from good to great.
Good communication is something that is difficult to measure, yet quite easy to spot. It’s not just a matter of using the right words at the right time—clear communication from a leadership position requires one to be unmistakable when providing direction. There should be no ambiguity, no half-truths and no veiled meanings—great business communication is direct and to the point. Those in subordinate positions should never have to wonder what those in charge really mean when instructions are given or objectives are stated. Communications between the top of the company and those below should always be easy to follow.
Use the Data
Business intelligence is always a necessity for business leaders. It’s not just understanding metrics—true business intelligence is about measuring the right factors and making sure that goals are visible and achievable. The best leaders use simple dashboards and make use of real-time data to show their employees not only that goals are being achieved, but that every effort leads to a better company. Smart decisions can only be made when those in leadership positions pay attention to the raw numbers. The best leaders are those who can make those numbers meaningful to everyone else in the company.
A great leader understands that his or her position at the top requires the support of talented professionals. Good leaders look for the best in their fields and bring them to the table. Great leaders look for individuals with unique talents who can create a team that is better than the sum of its parts. Becoming an effective leader requires understanding the basics of team-building and how to manage one’s employee resources. Rather than simply relying on individual talents, great leaders build incredible teams.
An ideal leader sees the world as it is and works to make sure that his or her company is successful in all that it does. It’s hard to become this type of leader, especially if you haven’t had the right role models in the past. While I don’t profess to be a linguist that understands accents and languages, I have learned these principles through experience and in focusing on helping the business succeed with everyone’s involvement.
What other elements of leadership would you add? What have you learned that you can share?