5 essential skills for effective leadership
1. Engage others in shared meaning
Leaders should learn to mobilise their employees not to blindly follow them by virtue of their title, but because they’re able to see (and buy into) a clear vision set out in front of them that resonates with their core values and beliefs.
2. Offer a distinct and compelling voice
What truly separates great leaders from the rest is their distinctive style, and the ability to say something new that deeply touches those they seek to inspire. Too many leaders pitch ideas we already know, or that they don’t really believe in themselves, which is why they often hit brick walls in their efforts to progress. Leaders who are compelling are able to find new ways to get their message across effectively in a way that sticks.
People aren’t stupid, and most have built-in BS detectors. They know when a leader is being incongruent when, say, they talk about the importance of employee engagement and yet spend little or no time getting to know their own team. Leaders who possess integrity command respect. Leaders who are incongruent command compliance for as long as it’s useful for employees to remain compliant.
The ability to grasp context and adapt to difficulties with resilience is key for any leader who wishes to inspire and empower. Leaders who adopt a one-approach-fits-all to their employees, circumstances and unexpected situations are doomed to failure.
This is a tough skill to cultivate… for everyone else, of course. Most of us believe we know our strengths and weaknesses, and more so that we would move to fix any weakness when we come across it. Unfortunately, self-reflection and genuine efforts to see ourselves in a more objective light are few and far between. Leaders who are self-aware are able to get out of their own way, learn from others, and sincerely look to improve in their areas of weakness.
This might interest you: Engagement Habits Of Effective Managers
4 reasons leaders lose their way
1. They become inward-looking
Leaders lead people. That may sound obvious but, after a time, many leaders forget this and start supporting themselves instead, negating their role as mentors and support for those in their team. They become power-hungry control freaks, more interested in carving a legacy in their own name rather than building something of genuine worth for their team and others.
2. They get complacent
The best leaders will often describe themselves as students (and mean what they say). Others will reach a certain status or number of years of experience and believe there’s nothing left to learn – though they will continue to talk a good game about lifelong learning. They ignore their own team and their suggestions (at their peril), and often end up with people who have nothing left to say after a time, due to a lack of effective communication.
3. They remain rigid
Times change, environments shift, industries evolve, and technology advances… and yet there are leaders who are stoic in their belief that how things were done 10 years ago are still relevant today, when the way things were done five years ago are all but outmoded. The refusal to adapt is a symptom of complacency: “This is the way we’ve always done it” is a favourite mantra for leaders who cling desperately to the past and spend their time wishing for the glory days of yesterday, rather than adapting to create glory days of tomorrow.
4 They don’t communicate well
Hands up who believes that leaders who speak well are good communicators? You’re not alone. Communication – effective communication – is a two-way street, with the best communicators spending much more time asking questions and listening than they spend talking. Leaders who fail to communicate well are those whose employees have little-to-no idea of the direction they’re going in and who, at best, are offered a broad and vague description of the leader’s vision and goals.
Sandy’s earliest crucible moment came as a child, when he ate some party food pre-party and subsequently blamed his dog. He feels he emerged stronger from the experience. To connect with Sandy, you can follow him on Twitter @RealSClarke.
Sandy is a freelance writer based in Malaysia, and previously enjoyed 10 years as a journalist and broadcaster in the UK. He has been fortunate to gain valuable insights into what makes us tick, which has deepened his interests in leadership, emotions, mindfulness, and human behaviour.