What makes an effective leader? A question commonly asked in company board rooms and by HR and Learning/Training departments across the globe.
Recent research by Dr Sunnie Gilles, based on leaders across the globe in 30 different organisations, suggests that it’s not a super-human skill-set you need to lead but more of a change in mind-set that’s required. And it’s relatively easy to achieve. So let’s take a look at the top five competencies that highly successful leaders typically have. As we go through them do a quick self-analysis and ask yourself honestly, how good you are at each of them.
1. Extremely ethical in nature and safety-orientated
You may or may not be surprised to see high moral and ethical standards are top of the list as the most important competency. After all, everyone below a leader looks to them to be a role model, for guidance and direction both in terms of general ways of behaving within their own company and for feedback and development in how to improve their own performance.
Team members and employees look to leaders to set and communicate the company vision as well as ‘standards and expectations’. When each of these elements combine they help to foster a work environment and culture that people feel safe and secure to be part of. As a result, this creates trust between leaders and their team.
Creating such a sense of security and trust is clearly beneficial to any organisation, as it helps to remove any fears or petty jealousies among staff that could be disruptive. Stephen Covey Jnr wrote in his book The Speed of Trust that when teams and companies operate from a place of ‘trust’, productivity increases while costs decrease.
One of the most inspiring leaders I have come across is a CFO of a global online business who shared with new managers his top 7 ‘Guiding Principles’. These were principles he had brought with him from various parts of his life and they acted as his guide throughout his leadership career. What would be your ‘guiding principles’?
2. Empowerment: Giving others the power to organise themselves
The best leaders are those who don’t dive right in and create all kinds of faux pas in the workplace – while exhausting themselves in the process. Rather, they stand back, and empower their employees to do things for themselves, such as organising the way they work, taking responsibility for additional tasks and making decisions that have been delegated to them.
Think of it as a kind of decentralisation whereby individuals or teams are given more control over an entire project. It’s by doing this, as well as knowing what to delegate, that allows employees to feel a stronger connection to their work and become more productive.
Leaders need to realise that there’s nothing to fear in handing over some control of their own tasks and responsibilities. This sounds easy but many leaders at all levels in business mistakenly believe that only they can run the show and make the critical decisions to power the team and company. Meanwhile, staff can all too often become disgruntled and, worst case scenario, may in fact leave and go elsewhere.
A tip, if you’re considering giving some of the reins to others in your team or organisation: remember, people learn by making their own mistakes and you may also find that some of your team can do tasks even better than you. This is GREAT. It means you are closer to finding your successor!
3. Creating a feeling of belonging
Wherever we are, and especially at work, we all want to feel we’re valued and have a sense of belonging to what’s being achieved. Top business leaders know this, which is why they go out of their way to make a connection with people and ensure they feel they’re an important part of what’s going on; that they matter and belong. This has the significant benefit of making people care about their organisation and its goals – and doing their part by working hard to achieve them.
The flip-side, of course, is a sense of detachment from a company, whereby employees just don’t care, and if it’s widespread, morale plummets, productivity becomes lacklustre and people can easily just give up and quit.
How do you make staff feel valued?
The answer is all too simple, yet for many, hard to achieve: Talk to people, be genuinely interested in them – find out what’s important to them about work, their career, family and friends etc.
When you see them doing a great job, tell them. Give them quality specific motivational feedback. Invest time with them supporting their growth.
It’s essential to be open to new ideas in business, because the commercial landscape and your competitors in it are changing all the time. Being able to adapt can make all the difference between great success and outright failure. Great leaders are all too aware that when trying new things out, failure is always an option but it’s only part of the process in finding the right solutions. So they encourage staff to take risks and not to be afraid of making mistakes along the way.
5. Committed to growth
Growth is not only vital to any company’s ongoing success but also for its employees. Providing personal and professional development in the form of training and promotion is the key to satisfaction among staff and encouraging them to be more productive. When you invest in your most important asset – the people who work for you – the results are substantial. Even something as relatively straightforward as sponsoring an event or project that a group of individuals are involved in can go an incredibly long way to ensuring their loyalty and hard work for many years to come.
What these five desirable leadership competencies show is that a simple change in a leaders thinking and attitude can bring about dramatic changes in results.
Which of these qualities are you strong at and which do you do less of? What can you do differently now to change this?
Ready to explore and take action?
Effective leadership skills is one of the core elements we teach in our bespoke management and leadership courses. To find out more call us on 01628 488 854 or contact us here.