What is a Good Leader?
When people talk about leadership they are often talking about the title or the personality of a leader. But real leadership is about a set of behaviours which we see and value in others, and can exhibit ourselves. Real leaders lead not because of their title, but because of the authority they develop in others. So, what is a good leader in business today?
Lead Yourself to Lead Others
Leaders today are selected not from the oldest or those ‘in favour’, but from those whose behaviours reflect the values the business believes in. Successful leaders exhibit their leadership traits through their behaviours and actions which people chose to follow. These behaviours are seen as a set of value-based leadership skills. True leadership is therefore earned authority from your peers.
What people stand for and how they behave therefore matters in assessing people’s leadership skills.
Doing the right thing even when no-one is looking, is an excellent first place to start when looking at a leader living their values. How you lead yourself is the first and most valuable assessment any leader can make. If you cannot lead yourself, how can you lead others?
How you lead others therefore often starts by looking at how you lead yourself, with self-reflection. Do you as a leader look to find multiple viewpoints from across the organisation, or do you bunker-down with a few trusted voices? Bringing in balance and inclusion is the most successful way to gain a complete understanding of potential outcomes of any critical decisions. It is also the most effective way to carry people with you as a leader, especially in today’s flat, diverse and skill centred organisations.
Confidence and Humility
Demonstrating your self-confidence in your abilities while simultaneously recognising and confronting your limitations through mentoring and coaching in developing those additional needed skills as well as counterbalancing them through a balanced team skillset is also vital for successful leadership. Leaders must be seen as human and recognise what being human means in their leadership.
This humility factor in acknowledging the whole team contribution in everything you do, is seen as a vital leadership skill in todays’ workplace. Leaders who genuinely value their team create a positive team culture build stronger organisations, which both trust and enable people to dream, do and become more. In cultures such as these the leader becomes invisible as the culture becomes the defining driver of success.
Successful Leaders Create Leaders
Successful leaders develop people who follow them, not obey them. In many of the most successful cultures leaders want people to challenge them as this makes decision making more robust and sustainable. Inside positive leadership cultures there are often many leaders, leaders are trusted and respected, and often sit in various roles within the organisation.
Leaders must also create collaboration and cohesion within their team to build in all the skills the leader will need to succeed within their role. Finding and pulling together the right group of people to create a winning team requires creating a common vision of where they are going that brings together the 3C’s of cohesion co-operation and ultimately collaboration.
The process of collaboration maturity recognises the need of co-ordination of disparate people who must co-operate for mutual benefit and then will actively collaborate to achieve a shared outcome they could not achieve without each other. Collaboration maturity occurs as the team embeds this relationship into a single operation respecting and valuing each elements valuable contribution.
Ultimately leaders are responsible for everything that happens within a company. They are solely responsible for setting the direction, the strategy, and the prevailing culture within the organisation. That ultimate responsibility leaders must develop and own. They may take advice but they cannot look elsewhere for responsibility for the strategic decision making.
Leadership is a set of personal attributes which inspire others to behave. While leaders need to remember their humility, they do also need to adapt their leadership style to respond (or drive) situations. Leadership styles must also adapt to whom they are leading. Different people respond to different situations. The idea that one style of leadership will work in all situations, is not true.
Leaders also need to flex their leadership style based upon situations. While the humble leader is the ideal, it will not work with all people in all situations. So, leaders need to be able to create and deliver influence across all their spheres of influence. Leaders must adapt their leadership style both to influence diverse audiences but also to deal with the situations they face.
Situational leadership is as much an art as a science. Predicting and reading situations is a learnt skill which leaders need to develop over time and through situations. Either through shadowing roles or through scenario planning being able to stay objective and understand what situational leadership skill you need to deploy to achieve the required outcome takes time to learn. While each leader has their natural style they must also be able to adapt to motivate different types of people and different situations, moving from reflective / humble leadership styles to directional and pacesetting when needed.
Creating and leading teams of people takes time and effort. Team building was often seen as the occasional activity to bonding, recognising, and rewarding. Today team development is on ongoing exercise, not the once-a-year review, but a continual mentoring approach supporting people develop and evolve into their role and through their role as it evolves over time.
What used to be called Forming, Storming, Norming and Performing function of team building has been replaced by the view of continual team development. It is a supportive process that supports everyone as individuals, small cohorts as well as whole units to excel within their environment. Leaders today must now focus on barrier removal and building resilience within their people and teams to enable them to achieve their goals.
The focus today for leaders is on outcomes not outputs. It’s easy to be busy, but to achieve planned and desired outcomes as bottom-line results teams require leaders they can trust, who are accountable, provide commitment and remove conflict.
Leadership is like any skillset, it can be learnt and developed. It is best developed within the culture of the organisation within which that leader will emerge as a leader within. But it does not have to, and often bringing skills learnt elsewhere is a great way to develop new leadership skills within an organisation. Becoming a leader should not be the end of someone’s development, but the start of their leadership development.
If you would like to know more about how we help leaders lead, then get in contact with us here Richard@cowden