You’ve probably seen the discussion in the literature on whether leaders are made or born. Much time has been spent on this question. To me, the exact answer to this question doesn’t really matter. What is more important is to figure out how leaders can become great leaders. Here are 9 steps we have found in our consulting practice to greatly improve your leadership effectiveness.
- Know yourself
Leaders must know who they are, what drives them to excel and what their strengths and weaknesses are. Everyone has some things about their character that make them powerful and unique. Use your strengths to your advantage. Not sure what your strengths are? Think about those things that people often compliment you on. Validate by asking someone you trust to look at the list of strengths to see if they agree. Third-party assessments can also help you see and understand where you are strong. While focusing on your strengths, it is important not to ignore your weaknesses. We all have weaknesses, and self-awareness requires a clear understanding of what they are.
- Clarify your mission and vision
Leaders without a mission in life tend to be opportunistic and only interested in promoting themselves. They take a position and then change it depending on convenience. A sincere sense of mission is inspiring to those hundreds or thousands who will have the privilege of your leadership. You should also clarify your vision, know where you are going, how you visualize yourself, your family, or your organization fulfilling your mission in the future – say five years out. What does the picture of success look like? The clearer this vision is the greater will be your ability to communicate it to others and rally people around you to share the journey with you.
- Promote Values
You already have a set of personal values that probably come from your upbringing. These may be complemented with organizational values that are suited to the business you are in. Take time to examine your values and be sure they are consistent. Once you have defined a set of values for yourself and the organization, make a promise to yourself that you will not compromise them. When you stick to your values, you can effectively promote them in the organization.
- Surround yourself with talent
It is clear that you cannot accomplish a challenging vision all by yourself. You need many to help you. Here you must be selective and surround yourself with the best talent you can find. This is a challenging but extremely rewarding step. The best talent is not always the most technically qualified person nor is it someone with a string of degrees after their name. You need talent who also agree with your vision and values. You need talent that is humble enough to want to learn and is not a “know it all.” Those who know everything are not fit for a journey of collaborating and learning together from vision to reality. It is not sufficient to just find talent and invite them to join your team. You must also be committed to their continuous development. Develop your successors and have stellar, high-performing people around you.
- Involve your people
You don’t have to make all the decisions yourself. There are some decisions you should make, some you make in consensus with your team, and others you don’t make at all as you have already delegated them to people in your organization. For those decisions that you do need to make, first obtain input from your people. The more you involve your people, the more you increase their sense of ownership of working with you on the journey toward your vision.
Empowerment is delegation with power. Delegate the processes already in motion in your company to the lowest appropriate level of your organization. At the same time, ensure that those individuals have the skills and are competent to accept responsibility. Let the lower levels be charged with taking care of the present, while you and your upper level team are focusing on strategy, on building new processes and on the future.
- Promote learning
To foster innovation, the key to success, you need a learning organization where people are in a constant mode of learning. You want your people to learn, not just from technology or from the vast amount of available information, but also from doing and then reflecting. You must promote learning and insist that people be in a learning mode, that they try new things without fear of mistakes and reflect on what worked and what didn’t and needs improvement.
- Catch people doing things right
When the present operations of the company are delegated to the lowest appropriate levels and the future is delegated to the highest appropriate level in the organization, your job will be to motivate, encourage and catch people doing things right. Don’t forget to recognize anyone who is making the effort, who is learning and producing results. Reinforce them by meaningful rewards and recognition.
- Be trustworthy
When you are in a position of leadership, people will naturally tend to trust you. Be worthy of their trust. This includes staying true to the values you have defined. It includes paying attention to make sure to follow through on plans and promises. Quite simply, you as a leader need to keep your word. And if you’re going to miss a deadline or experience a setback, communicate it. It’s not good enough to just apologize afterwards. It comes down to showing respect for one another and it all begins with you. Being a person of your word garners respect and trust from your team and organization and benefits everyone around you.
These are the characteristics of great leaders. By focusing on these nine steps, you have the opportunity of becoming a great leader.