Effective leadership is rare. In fact, the world is full of people in leadership positions who are unable to lead effectively. You don’t have to look hard to find bad leadership in business, politics and most unfortunately, in families.
At its core, leadership is influence. The role of a leader is to influence people to act. Leaders use their influential ability to motivate people to do what they want them to do. They propel the people on the team to take action, often action that the people don’t really want to do.
The ability of a leader to create action is based on two things. One is the positional relationship between the leader and the person who is to be led. Examples of positional leadership include bosses, teachers, and parents. Essentially, we follow these leaders because they are in a position of authority over us.
The second – and more important and lasting leadership – is that of a person who has developed leadership skills that are not based upon position. Instead – even without being in a positional leadership role – these leaders can effectively influence other people’s actions due to the relationships they have established and the skills they have developed.
For example, many parents can lead their children effectively when the children are young. But as the children grow older into their teen and adult years, the role of the parent to lead is generally based more on the parent’s leadership skills than on their position as parents.
This is true in the workplace as well. Truly effective leaders can lead people even if they have no position of authority over the people they are leading. In these cases, their leadership is based upon skills that these leaders have developed over time.
In the rest of this article, we’ll discuss eight skills that effective leaders use to maximize their ability to lead. They use these traits to influence others to do what they want them to do.
- Leaders who develop people win their fierce loyalty. When a leader takes a personal interest in you it causes you to increase your personal loyalty to them. A Gallup study of employee loyalty reported that the ability to retain good people was directly related to the ability of the leader/manager to be sincerely interested in the personal growth of the people on the team. If your people feel that you are sincerely interested in improving their skills and in their personal success, they will be more loyal to you.
- Ironically, your leadership ability is directly correlated with your ability to share your leadership with others on the team. Sharing leadership shows that you are confident in the abilities of your team members. The members of your team feel valued and empowered when you allow them to lead their specific area. Your confidence in them directly translates to their confidence in your leadership ability.
- Effective leaders keep first things first. They have a plan and they know what is most important each step of the way. They know where the obstacles are likely to be and they keep the team laser-focused on the priorities. They frequently remind the team of what the priorities are.
- Leaders who last – who stand the test of time – exhibit humility. They understand that success requires a successful team effort. Success is seldom the result of one person. It is the result of the cumulative efforts of a wide variety of people with different strengths who work together to achieve excellence. Therefore, effective leaders think in terms of “We,” not “I.”
- Healthy leaders accept responsibility for everything that happens on their watch. They accept the reality that the leader is ultimately responsible for both success and failure. When confronted by difficulties, they don’t hide or blame others. They become visibly involved and their positive actions and example propel the team to solve the problem and move onto success.
- Great leaders expect to pay a price for success. They understand that nothing worth doing is easy. Immediate success is likely to not last. Teams that lead the race early in the season often fail in the dog days of summer when things get tougher. In football, there is a phrase that “Great teams play well in November.” The point is that great leaders inspire their team not just half or two-thirds of the way through the journey, but even when the team is starting to feel like they aren’t going to make it. The effective leader recognizes the price of success and shows his team how to persist through the challenges until success is achieved.
- Effective leaders lead by example. In fact, while leaders can be effective without doing all eight of the skills mentioned in this article, leaders who last must lead by example. Nothing will poison the long-term viability of the team faster than a leader who does not provide an effective example of hard work and integrity. Over the long haul, leaders who are not a good example will find that the best people on the team leave them. These leaders constantly face the issue of ever-changing team members and ultimately spend an inordinate amount of time recruiting repeatedly for the same resources.
- Finally, effective leaders work on a succession plan. They find and teach people to be able to take over if someone on the team is no longer available. They replace themselves, often by preparing key members of the team to back up what they do in key areas. Ultimately, they find someone who can take over for them so that they can move onto other things when it is time.
Effective and lasting leadership is not an accident. It requires developing a set of skills that generally takes years to develop. It requires a desire to be a lifelong learner. It means that your role as a leader changes over time.
But if you can develop the skills listed in this article, time will prove the value of your leadership, and the effectiveness of your team will be quite extraordinary.