There is nothing easy about leading others, whether it is a large organization, a division of a company, or a small team. One of the most challenging shifts necessary is recognizing what makes leaders effective. The most successful leaders study leadership. They seek out ways to improve their skills and abilities, perform their best, and improve their overall effectiveness.
The ideas here will help you improve your effectiveness as a leader now. The ideas listed here are in a specific order. You might want to read this a second time, starting at the bottom and working your way back here to the top.
Results Through Others
There is much written about what makes a good leader. It can be overwhelming and confusing to those who lead others. Effectiveness, however, is pretty straightforward. A leader’s effectiveness is measured by the results they produce through the effort of others. There isn’t a substitute for results as the measure of effectiveness.
If the leader’s organization needs to transform, the results from the transformation are the measurement of the leader’s effectiveness. Sometimes, a leader will need to execute their strategy to reach their goal; reaching that goal is proof of their effectiveness. A leader needs to position their company for the future. How well they position themselves to capitalize on opportunities is evidence of their effectiveness.
The leader only produces these results through their leadership. However, there are leading indicators that precede the ultimate measurement of a leader’s effectiveness.
Making the Necessary Decisions
One of the challenges of leadership is making decisions while lacking information. More information is better, but the truth about making tough calls and difficult decisions is that one cannot know for sure if it is the right decision. Being overconfident about a decision is the type of arrogance that leads to decisions detrimental to the results the leader needs.
What may be worse than making the wrong decision is not making any decision at all. A large part of leadership effectiveness is the willingness to make the decisions necessary to move towards their goal and the results they are pursuing. An unwillingness to make the tough calls is a contraindication of effective leadership, as unresolved issues linger, preventing progress and a better future state.
If you would improve your leadership effectiveness, some parts of that improvement will come from making the decisions that eliminate the systemic problems or challenges that prevent you from reaching your goals. Making the wrong choice may be problematic, but you can always change again. What limits your effectiveness is not deciding.
When the decision is yours, you must decide.
Choosing a Strategy
Leaders who want to be effective determine the strategy they will lead their team to execute. Gates decided to build a platform. Jobs decided to create the best products and delight customers. Buffet chose to invest in companies the market undervalued. All of them persisted in their strategy over a long enough time that they succeeded.
The strategy brings clarity. It answers the question, “How do we intend to win?” A clear plan guides what is essential to success. Even more important, however, is that strategy guides what isn’t necessary, what you are not going to do.
Effectiveness means providing reliable guidance and direction. Leaders who leave their strategy to chance, chasing one shiny object only to be seduced by one that is even shinier tend to be ineffective. Instead of clarity, they create confusion. Instead of execution, they create distractions.
Making sure their teams are aligned eliminates conflicts, reduces friction, and increases speed.
Effective leaders focus on execution. There is a beautiful conflict in a quote from Omar Bradley: “Amateurs talk strategy. Professionals talk logistics.” Strategy without execution is no strategy. As important as a strategy may be, it is worth nothing without execution.
Great leaders are execution leaders. Results come from day to day actions, not from ideas. Or, as Tom Peters described it, they have a bias for action. The idea Bradley expressed was one of work. It suggests that you have to do hard things if you want to produce results. High concept, low practical, tactical, action isn’t how you achieve big goals.
The potency of leadership is found in getting things done.
Helping Individuals Grow
To do something you have never done, you have to become the person who could do that thing. To build a team that can do something they have never done, you have to make a team that is capable of producing a better result.
The effectiveness of the leader is measured by the effectiveness of the people who make up their teams. The better the individuals, the better the team. The better the team, the better the result. Great leaders recognize that they need to help their people grow, training them, developing them, coaching them, and finding new challenges to accelerate their development and their confidence. Leaders build more leaders.
Better individuals make up better teams. Better teams produce better results.
Creating a Positive Culture
Culture is variable. As a leader, you need to create and sustain the culture that undergirds the attainment of your goals. Great leadership creates the future, which means you have to build a culture that supports the individuals in manifesting it.
A productive culture should be positive, optimistic, future-oriented, and empowering. It should also be built on growth, goal attainment, accountability, and a large amount of certainty and security. The best leaders protect the culture, knowing that it is a prerequisite to executing and moving towards the future state.
No matter how strong the culture, there will always be cynics, critics, and hold-outs. Because negativity is like cancer that spreads by contact, leaders remove the threat, preventing negativity from infecting the organizations and reducing the overall effectiveness of their teams. Improving culture improves results.
Communicating Your Vision
People want to know where you are leading them, why you have chosen the path you have caused them to embrace upon, what they can expect, and what you expect from them. Communicating your vision is how you begin to lead, and it’s one of the ways you create followers.
No one knows what a leader sees or what they believe unless they communicate it. You may have a clear vision, but no one can see it unless you continuously and consistently help them see it. The clearer and more compelling the vision, the more the vision becomes your team’s vision, the necessary prerequisite to breathing life into that vision.
If you want to improve your effectiveness as a leader, start by recognizing that you need to equip others to produce the results you need for organizational success and then start working on the ideas here.
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Filed under: Leadership