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5 Qualities Of Effective Leaders
Whether you’re aiming for your first management role, or you’ve led whole organisations for years, you might find yourself wondering exactly what makes a good leader.
Let’s begin by clarifying the difference between leadership and management, as there are times where you might need to be a leader but not a manager, and vice versa. While managers ensure consistency and monitor processes, and normally need to exert a certain level of control over team members, the aim of a leader is quite different. Leaders don’t necessarily need formal authority; instead, they influence ideas and behaviours by engaging and inspiring those they work with.
Of course, many roles incorporate both leadership and management, as they require high levels of order at times, and large amounts of innovation at others. Here, we’ll look specifically at what it takes to lead, rather than manage, others. It’s important to remember that these skills don’t always come naturally, and should be nurtured through appropriate professional programmes.
1. Strategic vision
In an effective organisation, everyone is singing from the same hymn sheet, and as a leader, it’s your job to engage others with the broader goals.
Skimming through the company’s strategic objectives and vision statement before your next team meeting isn’t enough. You must have a deep understanding of the strategic vision, truly believe in it, and make sure it informs everything you do within your role.
You also need to build on this vision, continually painting a clearer picture of the end goal for those around you. This means not blindly following the strategy written by your seniors, but contributing to it by ensuring your own strategy feeds into it perfectly.
2. Empowering others
If you expect everyone in a room to yield to your every word, then there’s a problem. A great leader has no need to demand respect, and doing so actually lessens your chances of having any real influence. Instead, the best way to achieve influence is to demonstrate trust in those you work with.
There may be certain situations in which you need to dictate actions and processes, but as a leader you should ultimately seek to offer independence wherever possible. Not only does this enable the innovation that is key to high-performing organisations, but it creates an atmosphere of confidence and personal accountability that stimulates engagement.
As a leader, make sure you involve your people in setting their own objectives, as this results in both better initial buy-in, and more personal responsibility for performance.
3. Great communication
Communication is too often seen as an afterthought, even though it’s at the centre of everything we do within an organisation. The better we communicate, the more effectively we can share information, objectives, and ideas.
Being a great communicator places just as much emphasis on listening as it does speaking. This will not only help team members feel valued, but will help you identify the day-to-day challenges and triumphs that make them tick.
Every great leader knows that communication is just as much about how you convey information as conveying it in the first place, and that engagement derives from selling, not telling. Of course, you can just give employees instructions, and they may complete the relevant tasks, but to what standard?
To achieve a culture of strong communication, you’ll need to find the best ways to convey different messages. For example, while minor tasks and expectations could be emailed, you might choose to communicate vision and offer in-depth feedback face-to-face.
A ‘one size fits all’ approach is a no-go when it comes to engaging leadership, and an effective leader must be able to switch hats faster than Usain Bolt can run 100 metres.
Within one day, and perhaps even within a single conversation, you might need to go from appraising high level strategy to offering basic technical guidance. Most leaders work with a range of people, from the very experienced to the newly initiated, and this is where you’ll find yourself shifting between leadership and management.
You’ll need to use emotional intelligence and a sharp awareness of the demands of different contexts to quickly decide which role to play, all while staying calm and authentic. Remember, your team is not there to serve you; you’re there to ensure they have everything they need to do an amazing job.
5. Problem solving
Problem solving is intrinsic to so many roles, and will be a regular feature of your position as a leader.
As well as being highly logical with excellent initiative, you’ll need a huge dollop of resilience to boot. Problem solving for leaders is about cracking difficulties without cracking yourself, and you’ll need to learn how to fail time and time again without giving up.
Having the cognitive abilities and experience to take on challenges is only half the issue. The other half is being able to stay calm, focused and motivated in the face of stress, distraction and humiliation.
To fully develop your abilities in each of these areas, why not enrol on a leadership and management mentoring programme? Babington Group offers expert-led Chartered Management Institute (CMI) accredited programmes, which will enable you to reach your leadership potential. Find out more at www.babington.co.uk/leadership-management-courses/.
By Tom Cox
• Babington Group