The aim of any business leader is to become highly effective because mediocrity is an anathema. Such leadership is always shaped in the fiery furnace of experience, happening over a lifetime of learning, full of trial and error. So, with L plates permanently affixed during this lifetime journey, what are the key challenges in becoming a highly effective leader?
Personal motivation for business success is an imperative, involving a deep and unshakeable desire to build a business that really stands out from all other businesses (of the same type and in the same industry) and a relentless passion for that business to become ‘world’s best’.
Such motivation starts with dreaming a dream of what the business might become. A leader must then understand how the business can really stand out in the marketplace, combined with a resolute determination to make that happen, come what may.
Question: what is your own personal motivation and is it deep and unshakeable?
To get in shape and to stay in shape physically, emotionally, mentally, relationally and spiritually (or concerning inner well-being, as preferred) are important so that, at all times, a leader can ‘be the very best that she or he can be’.
There are two very common problems faced by business leaders. The first is a lack of ‘resilience’, being the ability to ‘bounce back’ from tough times, problems, disappointments, failures, and people issues. The second is the inability to manage stress well and to avoid burnout.
Question: how healthy are you in each key aspect?
Any business leader needs a deep, strong sense of purpose to release passion and enable them to work to their strengths. Statistically, fewer than 20 per cent have any strong sense of their own purpose.
With the business itself, the purpose of leadership is about achieving goals and targets, casting vision, giving clear direction, guarding workplace culture, hiring and firing, improving operations, initiating and facilitating change, upholding values, monitoring stakeholder interests, overseeing systems, planning strategically, striving for overall business excellence, and transforming the business.
When leading people in the business, the purpose of leadership involves caring for their well-being, coaching, correcting, appraising, encouraging, influencing inspiring, listening influencing, optimising performance, releasing potential and resolving conflict.
Question: Are you fulfilling each such purpose adequately as a leader in respect to your business and people?
Highly effective leaders are eclectic in respect to their leadership style, so there is variability of style according to circumstances, people, needs, outcomes and timeliness. Sometimes there will be a need to be demanding and directive, while at other times supportive, encouraging and coaching. Occasionally, to exhort or to be authoritative, emphatic, enquiring or participative might each be appropriate styles.
Question: What is your usual leadership style and can you quickly and easily adopt other styles, as appropriate?
The essential attributes for highly effective leadership are connection with people, character, courage, competence, and common sense.
Question: how would you rate yourself on each of these attributes?
As a highly effective leader, an exemplary standard must be set when relating to others concerning behaviour, decisions, words, actions and attitudes. Respect, trust and confidence from all stakeholders can then result to the great benefit of the business.
Question: Are you consistently setting an exemplary standard in these respects?
The ability to build a fully engaged, high performance team is an enormous challenge for any business leader. Such a team will be characterised by strong purpose inspired by vision, be courageous and committed, embrace change and strive for improvement, be good communicators, have a lot of grunt, heart and soul, attain to their full potential, enjoy life-giving relationships and fun, focus outwards on others deferring to their needs and interests, and build community around a common cause.
Question: To what degree is your team fully engaged and high performing?
Here are some helpful tips for your leadership journey:
- Admit that there is a long way to go
- Know your strengths and weaknesses by doing an honest self-appraisal
- Work on your EQ skills, including listening and communicating well
- Ask others for regular feedback
- Debrief with others after a workplace incident or meeting
- Learn by observing other effective leaders
- Learn to delegate well
- Work on conflict resolution skills
- Tackle a major change and monitor your leadership of that change
- Find a really good mentor
- Develop foundational documents, such as a leadership charter, principles and policy
- Hold regular leadership and team meetings and annual or biennial retreats.
Becoming a highly effective leader involves a lifetime journey, with many tough challenges along the way. However, the end destination in leading a successful, thriving business is most satisfying indeed.
This article was originally published in B&T Magazine.