Why is effective leadership so important?
There are hundreds, if not thousands or articles, blogs, and books on leadership in the world. Every emerging and seasoned leader wants to be a better leader.
Effective leadership, to most, is about creating a high-performing business, with a healthy organisational culture, engaged employees, loyal customers, and a reputation with strong values.
Napoleon was a great leader for a long time. Then he became ineffective because of his ego. Leaders are made, not burn.
Why is effective leadership so important?
- We know that top management teams (senior leadership teams) set the tone and culture for the organisation.
- We know that the CEO sets the tone for the senior leadership team.
- We know that organisational culture directly impacts the performance of the organisation in the short and the long term.
- We know that effective leadership has a direct impact on employee engagement, retention, productivity, absenteeism, recruitment, corporate reputation within the industry as well as with customers.
Together, all of these it have a direct impact on the overall health of the organisation and therefore financial performance.
Why is effective leadership so difficult?
- We are human. We all have our own insecurities which are expressed consciously or subconsciously through our behaviour. And while we should be aware of this, it should never be used as an excuse.
- Leaders are made, not born. The path to effective leadership skills is a never-ending one and requires continuous effort, energy, and development. It is common to participate in occasional one-off courses, but they often are followed through.
- As Simon Sinek says “anyone can be a parent but not everyone is a good parent…similarly, anyone can be a leader but not everyone is a good leader”.
- People change over time, depending on different roles and different experiences. For example, Napoleon was a great leader for a long time and then became ineffective because of his ego and his lack of trust in his Generals. History is littered with many examples, but we all have our own experiences with poor leaders in the workplace.
- The progression to leadership roles usually follows from functional competence, whereby a person is good at their job and then is promoted to a position where they manage (or lead) others, often with little real training or development in leadership skills. This progression often continues to more senior management or leadership roles with only occasional training along the way, such as situational leadership or authentic leadership, coaching.
- The focus of training on the frameworks of leadership creates a robotic understanding that is not complemented with a layer of social and emotional intelligence.
What can individuals do to better prepare themselves?
- Take responsibility for continued development and learning.
- Get a mentor/coach – even the most senior CEOs in the world have mentors/coach (mentors are unpaid and coaches are paid).
- Be honest in understanding your own behaviour. We all have insecurities, and these drive our behaviours. Think about what scares you – is it fear of not knowing everything about the business? Is it fear of not being liked? Is it fear of being exposed for your shortcomings? Understanding what drives your own behaviour is the starting point to exploring how to become a more effective leader. If you are a micro manager, ask yourself why?
- Understand what really is going on in your team, particularly group dynamics. Why do the group and its individuals behave the way that they do? Everything happens for a reason – whether consciously or sub-consciously.
- Understand the difference between ‘fair outcome’ and ‘’fair process’.
- Be human – effective leaders are not robots or machines.
- Allow yourself to be vulnerable.
- Take regular pulse checks on your teams’ engagement.
- Understand different leadership styles and when to use them.
- Create emotional capital with your teams.
Dedicate specific time to actively listening to individuals and teams within the Organisation.
What can Organisations do to secure better senior leadership?
- Provide mentors/coaches for senior and executive leaders.
- Provide ongoing training with relevant KPIs included in performance objectives
- Make the senior leaders 100% accountable and responsible for employee engagement, retention, productivity, absenteeism, recruitment, corporate reputation within the industry as well as with customers.
- Increase the weighting for leadership skills and development as objectives rather than the standard 5% weighting given to ‘People Management’.
- Annual plans should include a section on leadership style or approaches that will be used and why. What situations? Which teams?
- Have regular pulse checks (not just once a year) for the health of the Organisation to quickly identify gaps or issues rather than waiting until it reaches a critical point. Act quickly rather than letting the situation fester even if financial performance is acceptable.
- When recruiting, critically evaluate candidates for GM and Director roles for their leadership skills in addition to their functional competence.
What should an effective leader be thinking about?
- Attracting and retaining top talent to create high performing teams
- Staff engagement and morale to improve staff retention and performance
- Delivering financial objectives
- Organisation’s brand (sustainability, culture, EVP) to help attract and retain talent.
- Creating efficiencies in productivity through digital or technological advancements that result in maximum output
- Improving the customer experience for greater loyalty
- Scaling the business and looking for opportunities of growth
What should an effective leader not be worrying about?
- What people think of them when making a decision. Your job is to make the tough decisions.
- Activities that are better equipped for specialists to handle. Employ leaders who are specialists in their field, so you have the right skills in your team to deliver the best outcomes. Delegate activities and decisions to those specialists so you can focus on what you need to focus on.
Effective leadership is ongoing. You won’t one day wake up as the ultimate effective leader. It is about constantly progressing in small increments, every day. As you build the building blocks from this daily progress your effectiveness will multiply and so will your performance.