So much has been said said about leadership over the years, so much research is available. You may for example have heard about the concepts of Authentic Leadership, Charismatic Leadership, Situational Leadership, Ethical Leadership, Emotional Intelligence in Leaders and Level 5 Leadership…the list goes on. They are all good and relevant concepts in their own right – and concepts have come and gone based on business challenges and a changing world, all which demand different qualities in leaders.
There is no exact answer when it comes to leadership. Leadership is a very individual thing, it’s not possible to just copy what someone else does to get the same result. This is proof that leadership is much more than just following a process, a model – if it was that simple, everyone could do it – easily.
No, each leader needs to find his/her own style, making the most of his/her unique combination of capabilities, in the specific setting they are in – their industry, their location, their organization. Some leaders are great because they are verbal, others because they are reflective – there is no one perfect answer, no one way of being.
This is bad and good news. Bad because it’s not as simple as “implementing a process”. Good because everyone can do it their way – it does take some work though, and it’s well worth it.
Simply put a leader needs to be effective working on these levels
- Individual team members
- The team as a whole
- With other stakeholders
And of course, at an organizational level, if senior enough – but we will park that one for a later blog.
Let’s look at them one at a time.
SELF. A leader needs to know him/herself well – really know themselves. Strengths, weaknesses, drivers, motivation factors, interests, energizers, how he/she is perceived by others etc. The better a leader knows him/herself the better they can lead themselves. This makes it possible to be more consistent as a leader, not just reacting to events but effectively managing their impact on others, creating trust. Besides, how could you lead others if you can’t lead yourself effectively?
INDIVIDUAL TEAM MEMBERS. People want to be seen and heard. If a leader can really see and hear each of his/her team members, they can get to know them, understand them, recognize their talents and bring them out, engage people on their terms. Employee engagement is a major success factor in business – it impacts productivity, profitability, customer satisfaction and employee retention (source: Gallup).
THE TEAM AS A WHOLE. A leader is instrumental in getting all the individuals on a team to in the same direction, work towards the same goals. It takes involvement (shared leadership), vision/purpose work, agreement on how to work together – all which can be facilitated by the leader. But before all of that comes getting to know each other in the team, talk, share, exchange, making sure that all the skills and talents in the team are beneficial to the whole team, to multiply success. Again the leader plays a big role in making this a reality.
WTIH OTHER STAKEHOLDERS. A leader also needs to be aware of the world around him/her, understanding who the key stakeholders are, making strategic and practical connections, taking an interest in the stakeholders, understanding their needs. You could argue that all business is about stakeholder management, as without stakeholders there is no business. And the most challenging aspect of stakeholder management is considering the impact on ALL stakeholders, as trying to please one stakeholder can often have a negative impact on another one… And by managing stakeholders (together with team members) the leader ensure the good relationships needed for the team to do a good job, opening and keeping open doors of business.
This short post is not claiming to give a complete answer to leadership, it simply states that leadership can be learnt and all leaders probably have room for development. Which of the areas above would be the most important/valuable for you to focus on?