Six Points on Effective Leadership
Anyone placed in a leadership position must ultimately develop their own leadership style. These points will help that development.
Thousands of books and articles have been written about leadership claiming to deliver useful information about what it takes to lead others to a desired outcome. John C. Maxwell is probably one of the most accomplished authors on the topic, having written such best-selling books as “Leadership 101” and “The 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership.” Any publication can describe the basics of leadership, and many even share examples of how people have led others to achieve great things. However, anyone faced with the need to lead must ultimately develop their own leadership style—one that will allow them to achieve their own desired outcomes. The following points should be considered as you develop your personal leadership style.
- Learn leadership. Maxwell advocates learning about leadership by reading books, attending seminars and classes, and having patience. Patience is required, as it takes time to become a good leader and even longer to become a great one. Like many things, the more opportunities in which you put your leadership skills to use, the more effective you will become. Do not get frustrated if early leadership experiences do not put you in the same class as George Washington, Abraham Lincoln, Winston Churchill or Alexander the Great. With practice, self-awareness of your strengths and weaknesses, and a little patience, there is a good chance you will learn the skills needed to compel others to follow.
- Do not blame others, and do not make excuses. Good leaders do not place blame or make excuses, however, many in management do. It is disheartening to hear people blame their employees when things go wrong, but this habit may be so ingrained in some people that they do not even realize they are doing it. Still, blaming employees is a glaring example of a manager’s incompetence. After all, it is ultimately a manager’s responsibility to get their employees to achieve results, so blaming employees is really exhibiting self-blame. Likewise, regularly making excuses for things not happening demonstrates an inability to overcome obstacles, a sure sign of managerial weakness.
- Know the environment. A company’s environment can vary between departments and at different times. Because of this, it is essential for a leader to regularly check the “pulse” of his or her environment. If it is such that there is little employee cooperation, rampant passive aggressive behavior (watch out for that hole you just fell into), or a reward system that is out of sync with performance, it will be difficult for anyone to lead. Such behaviors must be identified and actions taken until the environment transitions to one in which respect, open communication and collaboration are the norm.
- Create and communicate a vision. A vision of how things can and should be can only be created when a leader understands the organization and its people. Once developed, the leader should leave no room for confusion about the vision by sharing it as many times as necessary and explaining why the vision is important to the company and to the employees themselves. It is a good idea to ensure everyone can describe this vision in their own words. Only then will there be widespread acceptance and ownership of the vision. The vision provides the roadmap that enables everyone to know what is expected today and in the future.
- Set the example for expectations. Be consistent in aligning what you say with what you do. Showing integrity in decision-making, dealing with customers and suppliers, and sharing information will let everyone know where you stand, thereby making it easier for them to do the right thing when asked. Setting and living the example will help to build trust with your employees, and it is far easier for an employee to follow someone they trust. As Maxwell says, “Trust is the foundation of leadership.”
- Develop trust in others. Leaders gain power when they give up control. Trusting an employee can empower that employee to act, and it is the actions of others that will, more than anything, serve as a measure of your ability to lead. Leaders cannot do everything themselves, as there is just not enough time in a day. Even if there was, as business grows, there is a ceiling on what any leader can accomplish alone. This ceiling is raised in proportion to the number of empowered followers. To the end, it is these empowered followers who will greatly expand your influence as a leader.