There is a popular saying that states 'great leaders are born, not made.' Whilst the saying may have a grain of truth in it, learning to be more effective at leadership is within the grasp of everyone. It doesn't matter if you lead multiple teams, an entire company, or just a handful of staff members, there are plenty of leadership skills that can improve both your own and your colleagues' performances.
To start, let's look at what effective leadership is and how it can positively impact businesses big and small. A leader must be able to do the following:
A good leader has the leadership skills required to do all of these. When combined, they can help transform a business and its potential.
In all businesses, it's essential to have a vision. Without one, you'll have nothing to aim for and your staff may become disillusioned over the direction of the company. The vision has to be realistic, convincing and attractive; that way you'll be able to sell it to your staff and be well placed to lead the team.
Vision will help you provide direction, set priorities and it will give you a marker against which you and your team's performance can be measured.
In order to create a vision, you need to focus on the strengths of the company and thoroughly analyse the current situation. It's important to think about how your industry is going to evolve, and how your competitors may react to changes.
Look at how you can innovate and shape your strategies around succeeding in any potential future marketplaces. It's also worth considering that visions need to be thoroughly tested through risk assessments and market research to ensure they're robust and will stand up to future challenges.
Leadership is more than just creating a plan based on your current situation and sticking to it, you need to demonstrate proactive problem solving and to be able to look ahead. It's about not being satisfied with the status quo and always looking for ways to improve, evolve and deliver.
Once the vision has been developed, it needs to be compelling as well as convincing. Everyone from staff members to buyers will need to see, feel and embrace the vision. An effective leader will have the leadership skills to provide listeners with a rich and vivid picture of what the future looks like once the vision has been realised.
So, the vision has been created and your team have been sold on it, but there may be a long road ahead in order to realise it. This is where real leadership comes into play and it explains why it's so important for management.
Leadership is perhaps the most important function of management - it helps to maximise efficiency which can help to achieve the overall vision and goals of the business. Here are some points that justify why leadership is so important in regard to management.
A leader is someone who initiates work. It begins with them clearly communicating their plans and policies to their staff. Without the initiation of the work, no goals can be achieved.
In order for the work to be completed on time and to a high standard, motivation is required, and that comes from leadership. By effectively motivating the employees with both economic as well as non-economic rewards, the work will be carried out by happy and incentivised employees.
Sometimes employees will need a helping hand. This is where a leader can demonstrate their skills by providing helpful guidance, which will show employees the way they need to perform the work both efficiently and effectively.
Confidence is often overlooked but it can be vital when it comes to a business achieving its goals. Good leaders are able to explain their employees' roles to them, giving them clear parameters and guidelines, which they can work within to achieve their goals. An employee who is clear on their position and role will be able to develop confidence and work effectively towards completing all of their tasks.
Read more about how to develop confidence as a leader.
Good morale, which once again comes from leadership, will lead to willing co-operation from the employees towards their tasks. It will also help you to win their trust. A leader who is able to boost morale will be well positioned to achieve full co-operation from staff.
Management is all about getting things done. An efficient and pleasant work environment will help encourage growth. Achieving a good working environment comes from a leader who is able to treat their employees like humans. Reconciling personal interests of the employees with the organisation's goals is an effective way to deliver long-term achievements whilst allowing your employees to grow within their role.
Now that we've established what leadership is and why it's so important to management, let's take a look at some of the leadership skills that are required in order to get the most out of your staff and set your business on its way towards achieving its goals and reaching its vision.
The data for this graph comes from 332,860 bosses, peers, and subordinates through research conducted by HBR.
When it comes to leadership, honesty is about being transparent and open. You need to be willing to communicate your thoughts and feelings, even if what you're saying is unpopular or uncomfortable. It also means keeping your word as well as following through on any promises you make.
Integrity, on the other hand, goes hand in hand with work ethic and having a good work ethic sets an example. If you always make the effort to make the best possible decisions both in the interest of your company and your staff, employees will look at you as a leader with integrity.
A lot of people believe that problem solving is fixing an error irrespective of the cost. In actual fact, many leaders will tell you that a problem could end up being an opportunity, and effective problem solving is about embracing that fact. It's also about avoiding finger-pointing at all costs; if a problem emerges, it's vital that you don't get caught up trying to blame someone. It's unproductive, wastes time and doesn't solve the issue.
Instead, it's important to look at things in an analytical way. Collecting data is always an effective method when it comes to getting through problems. It avoids having to rely on guesswork and will help you to ensure the problem doesn't happen again. Above all else, it's important that a leader stays positive during a problem. Reacting negatively will impact morale and create panic.
Recognising your team members' strengths will help create a positive workplace environment and ensure tasks get completed in a timely manner. If possible, carry out either a formal or informal strengths assessment. You can assess the strengths of a team member through observation or even through an interview. Alternatively, you can use a more formal method such as a strength-based questionnaire.
Perhaps the most important aspect of being a leader is communication. You can be incredibly innovative and technically gifted but if you lack the skills in order to effectively communicate your ideas and methods, they will struggle to get off the ground.
You can practice your communication skills in realistic VR experiences.
Essentially, powerful communication will help you to influence as well as inspire your team. In order to do that, there are three tools you will need to master:
Active listening will give you a greater understanding and awareness of any given situation, and the same can be said for creative questioning. Responding in an influential way will help you to convey effective words and messages which will inspire your team.
It can take time, and linking listening, questioning and messaging requires delicate and careful skills. Once you get it right, however, your conversations will be infinitely more constructive and will lead to more successful meetings.
Promoting teamwork wherever possible will help your team work more cohesively towards the company's vision. A good way to achieve teamwork is through meetings and assigning tasks that require your team to communicate with each other as well as form trust and be able to support each other.
Once the task has been completed, team members will have added respect for each other and value other members' roles. It may also work if you provide incentives or rewards for fulfilling the tasks as this could help to motivate them even more.
Read these 10 tips for better teamwork.
A leader is always looking to drive results, but this shouldn't come at the cost of employee engagement. One method leaders employ for driving results is by giving their employees accountability. When you make your people accountable for their own work, results and decisions, the effectiveness of an organisation will generally increase greatly.
In order to drive results, it's also vital that all decisions are well thought out. By simply aligning your decisions with your values and by including your team in the decision-making process, you can transform results into a set of goals which is shared.