31st January 2020
Effective leadership is extremely important to the success of any business.
Though some might find it slightly more natural to lead and influence, it takes time, persistence, and perseverance to lead people towards a shared purpose. Even then, the most seasoned leaders will always find ways to improve and add value.
But what exactly are the characteristics and behaviours that make an effective leader?
Leadership experts often list 6 leadership strengths that serve as a foundation to help you effectively lead, manage and motivate your team. These include vision, optimism, adaptability, communication, and self-belief.
Leadership means having the ability to see not only the realities in your organisation today, but also the future that lies ahead.
Vision in the workplace, by definition, is having a strong notion of where you are and where you want to be over time. This means setting a goal and planning strategically how to reach it without losing focus on your current objective.
Ask yourself – how will this business operate in three years? What are the trends that shape the market? How do we move quickly on opportunities?
Leaders who think ahead create a shared sense of purpose and direction that inspires people to look beyond what is asked and to achieve extraordinary results.
Good leaders are optimists, even on some of the worst days in the workplace. They see the bigger picture and rally others to overcome challenges and to continue moving forward.
Robert Noyce, the co-founder of Intel, once said “Optimism is an essential ingredient of innovation. How else can the individual welcome change over security, and adventure over staying in safe places?”
Optimism allows you to see opportunities where others see despair.
An important piece of equipment may fail, or your workplace may go through an internal crisis. A pessimist might see this as an excuse for failure, an optimist would look beyond these setbacks as opportunities to learn and grow. A positive leader encourages employees when these circumstances take place and becomes a positive voice for others to move forward.
Adaptability refers to the ability to make the necessary shifts in thinking, behaviour, or implementation to fit a changing and uncertain situation, adapting and evolving along with the new trends in the workplace.
Utilising the example from the Optimism section above, good managers understand that when a vital piece of equipment breaks down, changes must be made to accommodate the repair of that machine.
They also know they may have to scrap their original plans altogether and create new ones to meet objectives and deadlines.
Adaptability is one of the leadership strengths that encourages innovation. It welcomes the continuous development of skills and processes that allows people to be proactive about change. It enables teams to identify potential risks and problems and offer solutions to counter the downside risk to your organisation.
Great leaders know how to adapt their leadership style, communication, and strategies based on the environment at any given time. They learn how to adjust goals and deadlines when things outside their control go wrong. Adaptable leaders proactively embrace disruption to stay ahead of the market.
“Leadership means having the ability to see not only the realities in your organisation today, but also the future that lies ahead.”
Good leaders know how to listen and adjust their leadership style.
They engage people in meaningful conversations with candour and empathy that creates personal connections based on trust and respect.
They build meaning and share ideas through connection rather than monologue and know when to shut up and just listen.
Great communicators read the environment, mood, values, and attitudes of their audience and adapt their message without sacrificing meaning or shooting the messenger. Leaders who communicate effectively inspire shared purpose, commitment, and trust.
Decisiveness during uncertainty is a key leadership strength in today’s disruptive environment.
Decisiveness combined with balanced data collection ensures competitors don’t make the decision first and take the advantage.
Whilst some try and avoid failure by avoiding difficult decisions, the most effective leaders keep moving forward by balancing critical thinking and analysis with data and judgement. They consider the context, market, and strategy before making decisions but do not get bogged down in over analysis and data overload.
Business leaders will always need to make critical decisions, and they can never be 100% sure it is correct. It takes courage and vision to quickly make a difficult decision, and adaptability and resilience to identify corrections and bounce back.
Decisive leaders know when decisions must be made and carry them out with integrity. They stand by their people and decisions but quickly recognise poor decisions and take responsibility to make adjustments whatever the outcome will be.
Finally, great leaders believe in themselves and their value and they inspire confidence in the people they lead.
Self-efficacy, or the belief in your own ability to successfully achieve your goals (Bandura 1986) is one of the most powerful leadership strengths that contribute to effective leadership.
Leaders with high self-efficacy are more likely to persevere in the face of challenge to lead and deliver. They’re confident in their own abilities and decisions, are resilient to setbacks, and have the courage to challenge the status quo to make bold changes for what they believe in.
Staying committed, motivated, and optimistic about your goals in turn inspires and builds confidence in those you lead. Great leaders strive to be optimistic about the future. They set a clear vision, communicate it effectively and believe in their own decisions whilst adapting when required. Great leaders transform lives and inspire great workplaces, and the organisations that foster great leaders will realise the most success.