Everything within an organization rises or falls based on leadership. When good things happen in a business, it’s because of good leadership. When things go south in a business, it is usually due to poor leadership. There’s no avoiding the truth: It all comes down to leadership.
So how do you go about becoming a more effective leader? I have outlined 10 steps to effective leadership based on my 40-plus years of C-level business experience and interacting with hundreds of business owners.
STEP 1: CREATE A COMPELLING VISION
As a leader, it is your responsibility to create a dynamic and compelling vision for your organization—a vision that lets everyone in the organization know where the company is headed in the future. A compelling vision is one that employees want to be a part of and are inspired by. This gives them something to look forward to that is bigger than themselves. Your task is to envision the future state of your business and then articulate it in such a way that employees want to invest in getting there.
STEP 2: COMMUNICATION
I have worked with many organizations in which CEOs and owners have a strong vision for the company, but they failed to communicate it to everyone else. Communicating the vision is not a one-time thing and it’s not a sign on the cafeteria wall. Ongoing communication is required in order to gain buy-in from your employees. As a leader, you can’t over communicate the mission and vision of your organization.
STEP 3: LISTEN
People want to know that they have been heard, and this requires genuine listening skills. The key is to listen with the intent to understand, not to reply. Most people listen with the intent to reply, so they really are not listening at all but instead they are thinking of their response to what the other person is trying to say. Listening takes practice so you can allow others to express themselves, without interrupting. I would suggest that as a leader, you always try to speak last, allowing others to express themselves fully, before you engage.
STEP 4: EMPATHY
Better listening leads to greater empathy for the problems facing individuals and teams. When you use empathy, you show that you care. Research has shown that 64 percent of people quit their job because they dislike their boss or employer. Why? Because they don’t feel that their boss or employer cares about them. Developing your listening and empathy skills can reverse this trend. When you take the time to genuinely listen and empathize, you will see your employee attrition rate go down.
STEP 5: BE MORE TRANSPARENT
The members of your organization want to know what is going on within the organization. People sense when information is being hidden; when leadership doesn’t discuss what is going on, the trust level diminishes significantly. Your staff and employees want to be a part of the solution, but they need information to do that. When leadership doesn’t honestly discuss what is happening, staff and employees create their own version of what is going on. More often than not, that version is worse than what is actually happening. Don’t allow misinformation to take over your organization.
STEP 6: GIVE CREDIT WHERE CREDIT IS DUE
Not giving credit to those who deserve it and taking credit yourself creates a toxic environment within the organization. When leaders take credit for what others have done, it creates a culture of animosity and secrecy in which employees will no longer share ideas that could benefit the business. Eventually these employees will go elsewhere—somewhere their ideas are appreciated and where leaders will give them the credit they deserve. The more you give praise and credit for good ideas, the more ideas that will be generated.
STEP 7: BE A COACH
We manage things, and we lead people. Our goal should be to help others achieve success. Good leaders coach their employees to help them meet expectations. Good leaders are engaged in helping their employees to be successful. As a leader, it is your responsibility to evaluate the progress of the individuals in your charge, the progress of various teams, and the progress of the organization, and then help coach them to even greater success. It is your responsibility to encourage others and cheer them on when they face challenges and succeed.
STEP 8: BE CONSISTENT
To have a successful company and maintain the drive and direction toward your vision, you must be consistent with expressing your mission, vision, and values to your employees. You have to repeat these foundational principles multiple times. In fact, you must repeat them so many times that your employees grow sick of hearing about them. Then, you will know that you have gotten the message across. Unfortunately, in many organizations, employees know that a communication’s push on mission and values never really leads to changed behavior. So, they think, this too will pass. If you are going to go to the trouble of creating a compelling vision or a new direction, you must be consistent in discussing it with your employees, and you have to show up every day and lead congruently with that message.
STEP 9: CONTINUOUS IMPROVEMENT
Leadership means continually upgrading your skill set. Chances are you learned to be a leader from someone that you worked for, whether good or bad. Chances are you learned these leadership skills early in your career and have not made any significant effort to upgrade and develop new skill sets. But leaders cannot rely on leadership skills learned even just a decade or two ago. To be effective, you must continue to grow and develop all of your skill sets. If you want your business to change, you must change. Be a great leader and get on the path of continuous improvement.
STEP 10: PUT YOUR EGO ASIDE
One of the best things you can do is put your ego aside and accept responsibility for how the business is doing. A real leader doesn’t pass the blame off to others and refuse to take responsibility. When a leader does that, it’s disheartening. Everyone knows that isn’t leadership. Again, whether a business is doing well or not comes down to you as a leader.
Accept the fact that you have made mistakes and ask your employees for help in correcting those mistakes. You can even ask for help in becoming a better leader. Leaders who put ego aside and accept responsibility when things go wrong and give credit to those who deserve it when things go right will gain the loyalty and respect of employees.
Learn these ten steps to more effective leadership, practice them continually, and watch as your employees grow and excel under your leadership and guidance.
If you would like to learn more, give me a call 503-312-3145 or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org
You can also visit my website at http://email@example.com
Listen to my podcast Turning Complexity into Simplicity®
For more on this topic, you can find the book, Full Speed Ahead, a collection of advice from a group of six business advisors and consultants across three continents and four countries who specialize in working with small and medium enterprises, available on Amazon.