Wednesday 28 January 2015

What Great Leaders DO Differently

What happens without leadership, article by Richard Gourlay on what Great leader's do differently to succeed as business leader by Richard Gourlay NED, business consultant, business advisor

Peter Drucker's iconic quote above defines the need for leadership, but what makes a great leader? Is the question which people placed in any position of authority, want to know. 

What great leaders do differently to succeed by Richard Gourlay
Leadership is often described in terms of being the figurehead, the ultimate power and the final authority.  

While there are many excellent qualities which people can identify in good leaders, these traits are the outcome of leaders being bale to work well with people inside their business. What makes the exceptional leaders is not people doing all of them better than average, but being able to do a few of these core skills to an outstanding standard, making them great leaders. Great leaders play to their strengths, not trying to do everything, just the things that matter, those which make a real bottomline difference in performance. 

Leadership Skills

Leadership skills, those personal attributes which people recognise as able to inspire others, are always built upon the ability to motivate other people. All leaders must be able to inspire, to keep people driven and focused on their goals. 

Quote by Richard Branson about leadership and how he does things differently quoted by Richard GourlayThere are a number of ways in motivating people, for some using their charisma and energy can be great motivators, their personality drives people to follow them. This type of charisma leadership is often focused around the culture of the personality, the successful sales person, the inspiring leader, using their relationships with staff and often key customers, they lead through the force of their personality.   

For others their technical knowledge and expertise within their field provides the inspiration for others to follow. Their ability to foresee and create products and services which meet target customers needs and exceed expectations open up markets and generates business through the leaders insight and forethought. This type of leadership, the technical leader, relies more upon their ability to achieve results rather than to personally motivate.   

No One Leadership Type

Being a leader, either by be placed in a position of leadership or by the accident of assuming the role, either as the inspirational or technical leader within an organisation, puts pressure on leaders to perform. Being the focus of attention, the decision maker, requires leaders to develop a range of skills to lead in a number of situations and to lead different types of people.  

There are no definite way of stating 'do this to be a great leader', everyone can be a leader, it all depends upon the circumstances, but what makes great leadership, is not just the ability to take decisions,  but a few specific factors often grouped into three areas which separate great leaders from the rest. So here's what I see great leaders do differently.  

Leadership skills what great leaders do differently by Richard Gourlay NED and business consultant.

Importance of Diverse Voices

The first thing great leaders do differently is create diverse and strong networks of contacts. If you always listen to the same people you will always be limited to their views. Most leaders listen and make decisions based on a small group of trusted advisors. 

The weakness for leaders of always listening to the same inner group is that as change happens to our business, as it grows, as change impacts on our markets this inner circle becomes outdated, not fit for purpose. Those people that leaders listen to when they are starting out, for example you first accountant, maybe a compliance account (keeps you legal) as your business grows you need new services and expertise (expansion funding, tax advice, etc) outside that persons skill set. Great leaders recognise they need to add to their advice panel, good leaders often don't.

Investing in your trust network is a core skill which great leads do, they sharpen the saw as Stephen Covey phrases it. Always be learning, sharpening your skills by working with the right mix of people who you trust to take advice from. This investment by great leaders is about having a diverse set of trusted advisors who provide the balance and foresight which great leaders need to think ahead with the right sources of information. The great leaders I have seen often introduce Non-Executive Directors, new experienced people from different industries and widening the trust network with greater diversity of views.

Leaders Stand Back

The second thing great leaders always do is the ability to stand back and see the big picture of your industry. The role of being the general commanding your resources. Great leaders not only command today's activities, as the ultimate controller, but are always looking at develop fresh understanding what is driving your industry, the change making factors. 

"Where you are is not as important as knowing where you are going and why." Great leadership is about creating the tomorrow you want to achieve.  It is looking for the drivers of change within your business.  It is one of the hardest skills which great leaders have to master. It takes time, effort and resources, often with blind alleys and a high degree of uncertainty. 

The struggle for busy leaders is to value doing enough of the right research to create clarity in an unclear future, which changes matter and what impact do they make on the future of your market, your customer and your future as a organisation? These are the most important and valuable questions any leader can and must answer. 

The importance of understanding the impact change and using it to create your forward strategy is one of the defining characteristics of great leaders. Great leadership is about focusing on what you can change the future, not fire-fighting todays problems. Not only is it more productive but it is also the only way to be effective as a great leader. 

Be Decisive

The third and vital attribute of great leaders is that they make change happen. Sometimes seen as being ruthless to make change happen, great leaders are proactive in making change happen. This pro-activeness in making change happen, can see to others as utter ruthlessness, because great leaders can see why the change is needed, while those elsewhere in the organisation see the change but not the drivers of why leaders are making that change happen then and there.

Great leaders are not frightened of change and when I say change, I do not mean evolutionary or organic changes, but revolutionary changes.  Great leaders make bold changes at the optimum point for sustainable success, when do we need to make the change to succeed in the long-term. 

Good leaders make changes, but often only when they have few other options, or are forced into making that change, they are often reactive change, Great leaders on the other hand make proactive revolutionary changes because they can see the long-term benefit.

Each of these three great leader attributes support and drive all those other skills which good leaders often portray, and this is what makes some leaders great at leading their people and their organisations. 

By creating diverse trust networks it enables leaders to find better information about the future and the changes they need to make. This virtuous cycle is what makes some leaders great and very different from those who rely upon gut feel and reactive enforced decision making.   

If you would like to know more about what makes a great leader, you can read more about my work in working with great leaders, then get in toch to learn how I can support you develop your leadership skills: Contact Richard 

Richard Gourlay supports leaders develop their leaderships skills, from strategic planning to mentoring, based in Dumfries and Galloway, Scotland he covers the UK, learn more at  or Contact Richard 

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