Leadership is not just about setting the example and setting the course.
It’s also about achieving the best outcomes for the group you’re leading, while at the same time achieving results that keep your business thriving.
Great leaders involve their people in decisions, plans, design, development, delivery, complaints and problem solving. The leader’s role is to motivate, coordinate and boost the output of the group, and collaborative leadership style is where it can best be displayed.
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Here are 10 signs of an effective leader:
1. Know the team
Knowing your team, including what motivates them and how to best work with them, is a key leadership skill. When you know your team as individuals, each bringing their own strengths, weaknesses, experiences and challenges with them, then you can start to see that getting the best out of everyone requires an adaptive approach.
Knowing when to push someone harder compared to giving them a day off to refresh is a skill that takes practice – you may get it wrong from time to time but great leaders definitely have this.
2. Honest, consistent and reliable
You can’t lead a group of people effectively if they don’t trust you. If you are erratic and moody, inconsistent or don’t follow through on your promises then the trust drops and your team goes into a self-protective mode. And then team members will start to put in place contingencies for an erratic boss, e.g. I’ll wait for the boss to make the call on this one, because if I take the initiative I don’t know if she’ll go crazy or support me.
3. Knows and can articulate the vision, while setting goals clearly
Everyone within a team should know their role, responsibilities and expectations. A strong leader will regularly build the vision, goals and expectations naturally into the ongoing weekly meetings and discussions. Some bosses will be too caught up in the day-to-day activity to keep everyone on track, and it is during these times that focus is lost and people become stressed and demotivated.
4. Steps forward in a problem
When trouble and uncertainty arises, especially in our current unpredictable business world, the effective leader will provide direction, certainty and guidance to the group. A strong leader identifies a problem quickly and instantly moves to work towards a solution. That might involve reallocating resources, or calling a snap meeting to work to solve a problem.
Weaker leaders see many problems as being too big or hard, or don’t take the time to reorganise the priorities. Some even duck for cover and just hope it all blows over.
5. Courage and risk taking
Courage is the ability to step up, speak out and take risks. Some leaders are so conservative and risk averse that they actually restrict the growth of the team or the business. They cling on to the old way of doing things or discourage those wanting to try new approaches. They may even have a list of reasons why the answer must be “no”.
A good leader will see an opportunity to enhance the team’s position and to jump into the unknown. Of course, we aren’t talking about taking unnecessary, stupid risks, but setting a course of action towards uncertainty is something that most ground-breaking leaders are very good at.
6. Being creative
We all need to stretch ourselves to find new ways and unusual approaches to problems and processes. For an operations manager that means finding new ways to increase efficiency, or for a marketing manager that means finding a new product offering for an untapped market. For HR managers it could mean finding new ways to increase staff retention. It often requires thinking outside the square, or at least knowing what the square is so that new solutions can be explored beyond the regular boundaries.
7. is highly accountable
Accountability is something we usually think of as a thing that kicks in when everything goes wrong. “Whose fault is it?”
A leader will take charge and accept blame if they were in fact at fault. Even in a collaborative decision making environment a leader will acknowledge that the final decision rested with them and that the results were unfortunate and showed poor judgement.
A leader that instils a sense of accountability in a team is actually instilling pride. When people are proud of their work they accept the responsibility that comes with doing it well, and are fully aware of what happens if they don’t fulfil their responsibilities. When a leader shows this in their own behaviour, either pride in the positive or humility in the negative, the ripple effect through the group is clear.
8. Develops the team
Some leaders will look at their team and clearly assess the collection of strengths and weaknesses and then work to allocating them in a way that is most effective. A great leader looks at helping the individual to enhance their strengths and to limit their weaknesses, to develop them to be more skilled and more capable over time.
It’s interesting to compare sporting coaches to line managers in organisations. A sporting coach will spend roughly ten times longer on training than actual performance. In the workplace we consider development to be an afterthought to be fit around all the ‘doing’. Somewhere between is a happy balance that increases the capacity of the team to get even more done.
One thing very evident to me as I work with different companies is the managers who schedule one-on-one development time with staff seem to have higher functioning teams.
9. Great networking skills
Networking skills are very important and good leaders usually display their skills at small and large events. While it might be difficult to be entertaining every time you meet someone, you can definitely become a good networker by developing a ‘helping’ approach.
Instead of reaching out to people in order to sell, reach out in order to connect. A great leader will move quickly through a conversation to assess the needs and pressures on the person they are talking to. The next thought they have is “who do I know that can help this person with their problem?”
Remember, a network is a series of connections, and if you can create connections between people then you are a skilled networker. Also, if you do connect someone properly then they’ll remember you forever!
10. Appropriate humour – humanness
Humour is great, but when there’s a powerful role involved care needs to be taken that the humour isn’t delivered at someone else’s expense.
A self-deprecating leader, who shows some humility and softness on occasion, sets the example for others. There is a delicate balance here that requires the boss to maintain an authoritative stance at times, but showing a human side will always do much more harm than good.
Please enjoy this checklist- apply it to yourself as a leader or to your leaders. Are you and the leaders in your business working at peak performance? Consider specific behaviours in each category and what you can do to improve. It is the best way to improve your leadership skills in the shortest amount of time.
Eve Ash has a wide range of resources and books that can help people change their thinking and habits in a constructive way.