In my leadership development work and teaching across the past thirteen years, I have been asked many times for some simple ideas for becoming a more effective leader. I had another such request yesterday. As I was thinking about the idea, I decided it might be helpful to blog about it. So here are my seven top tips for becoming an effective leader.
- Keep a focus on what you say. Try to keep your tone positive at all times and learn to speak always with positive intentions. Most of all, try to refrain from negativity. Best of all, nurture your listening skills. Become an active listener and, wherever possible, act upon what you hear. If you are unable to, explain why not. Listening is the key. When you are in a team environment, I recommend that you say w’ not I.
- Stay focused on outcomes and impact. In most human endeavour, people are interested in results. The easiest thing to do to demonstrate results is to count stuff. In my experience, I’ve often counted stuff that had no meaning beyond the immediate professionals focused on that specific agenda. It may be of interest, but is it valuable to the people that you are serving? If not, find some other evidence that demonstrates your team’s achievements. The best way to do this is to stay curious. Share ideas and thoughts with and within your team and reflect upon how you achieved your results as much as on what you achieved.
- Give explicit permission to ask questions. I recommend inviting, encouraging and giving permission for a challenge. Be prepared to respond authentically on each and every occasion. Then, be prepared to show your vulnerability. If you don’t know, do not try to blag it. You will come undone, believe me!
- Work hard to remain credible. Show humility and appreciation. An attitude of gratitude goes a long way in building trust, mutual respect, and loyalty. You need to be transparent and share problem-solving with the team. That way you will learn together and bond together. Sharing problem-solving is also a much more creative approach to issues and obstacles you encounter.
- Be a situational leader. I encourage you to be the leader you need to be at any given There are any number of styles you might adopt. Personally, I tend to alternate between telling, selling, participating and empowering.
- Thinking is as important as doing. Striking the right balance can be difficult, however, do not forget to act and do not ignore time out to reflect and think. I am a big fan of Stephen Covey’s saying, “Start with the end in mind”. Look and act that way and you will not go far wrong. Preferably, stay focused on your vision, your mission, and their underpinning values. Reflect upon those underpinning values on a regular basis and never assume everyone is in harmony with you about them. Stay laser focused, as my friend and accountability buddy Cindy Bazin would say. Maximise your time, set yourself goals and write them down. You are 45% more likely to achieve them if you write them down. Finally, keep your eyes on the end in mind.
- Try to build an effective team around you. What you don’t need is clones of yourself. What you do need are complementary skills, knowledge and experience. If you are lucky enough to recruit some or all of the team members, try to go for the diamonds-in-the-rough. They may present some initial challenges, but, in my experience, I have encountered some of the best workers, characters, and team players that way. Develop common, shared goals. If your team own them, they will go the ‘extra mile’. Focus on learning, sharing and growing together. Inclusivity is not an optional choice. The more you focus on relationships, both internal and external, the greater the quality of your team will become. Trust is the glue that will bind you together and you must work hard never to betray that trust.
So, those are my seven steps to becoming an effective leader. Some might say simple, straightforward, difficult or whatever. I know they work for me, as I’ve used them for the past forty or so years in a wide variety of team environments. I’ve also taught them to many people who went on to become very successful leaders in differing environments.
What do you think? I’d be interested in your opinions and perspectives?