Amazon lists 89,461 books on Leadership, of which, 413 of them are for “Dummies”. After completing several leadership development workshops with various Fortune 200 clients recently, I realized that many companies are lacking a simple and clear understanding of what makes a good leader. Mastering leadership is a cultured behavior, this talent becomes automatic and part of their DNA over time. People often wonder how leaders know how to make the best decisions, under immense pressure. Practically, decision-making requires an acute understanding of the familiar; the cause and effect of behavioral patterns; having the intelligence to understand the interconnection points of the variables involved allows a leader to confidently make decisions and project the probability of their desired outcomes. The decision making process comes from an accrual of experience and circumstances with a variety of unforeseen misjudgments, and understanding how to influence different personality types. Historically, successful leaders are “gut-feel” decision makers. Having made high-pressure decisions so many times throughout their careers, leaders become immune and are acutely intuitive about making the best decisions.
Further than decision-making, mastering leadership, regardless of segment, becomes educated and instinctual over a period of time. Successful leaders master anticipating business patterns, can spot opportunities, and take on a “servant leadership” style to lead during periods of decline and growth. When you apply this idea, you begin to understand why the most valuable CEOs are in high demand and are paid so much money. (In 2011, salaries for the 200 top-paid CEOs rose 5 percent to a median $14.5 million per year, according to a study by compensation-data company Equilar for The New York Times.)
Mastering Leadership –
“The Practical Basics”
- Enjoy Being a Leader
Successful leaders are passionate about serving the people they lead. Being a successful leader is about serving others to achieve the greatest positive impact. Successful leaders are able to sustain success through this commitment.
- Set Clear Expectations
Great communication goes hand-and-hand with leadership. Always set objective “performance expectations” that are aligned with an organization’s core values, vision, ethics, and mission statement.
- Encourage Others to Raise Their Hands and Feel Safe to Speak Up!
A key mistake made by many leaders is that they intimidate their colleagues with their title and authority. Expert leaders focusing on encouraging others to voice their opinions. You must create an environment of safety and confidence to enable the sharing of perspectives and points of view.
- Challenge the Status Quo, Data and Opinions
Complacency remains a hidden thief of innovation and growth in most organizations. Excellent leaders understand that they must use their insight to challenge their teams to reach for more and question the status quo. These leaders excel in keeping their people on their toes, never allowing them to get comfortable and requiring them to always be thinking to ensure they are learning new things. If you are not learning, you are not growing.
- Make Decisions
Great leaders are master decision makers. Be it that they are facilitating dialogue to reach a strategic conclusion or they do it themselves, leaders focus on “making improvements happen” at all times. Forward momentum is vital, successful leaders have mastered the art of ensuring disruptions are managed.
- Be a Servant
Mentoring and sponsoring selected employees remains necessary for leaders to support development and succession planning. Outstanding leaders allow their colleagues to manage them. This does not mean they are allowing others to control them – but rather becoming accountable to assure they are being proactive to their colleagues needs.
- Lead by Modeling
Modeling your expectations sounds easy, but few leaders remain committed to leading by example. You must walk the walk, talk the talk, and remain mindful of your actions. Everyone is always watching.
- Objectively Measure & Reward “The Right” Behavior and Performance
Great leaders always have a strong “pulse” on business performance and those people who are the performance champions. Not only do they review the numbers and measure performance ROI, they are active in acknowledging hard work and efforts (no matter the result). Successful leaders never take consistent performers for granted and are mindful of rewarding them.
- Seek Counsel
Successful leaders ask questions and seek counsel all the time. From the outside, they appear to know-it-all – yet on the inside, they have a deep thirst for knowledge and constantly are on the lookout to learn new things because of their commitment to making themselves better through the wisdom of others.
- Don’t Avoid Problems
Successful leaders tackle issues head-on and know how to discover the heart of the matter at hand. They do not procrastinate and thus become incredibly proficient at problem solving; they learn from and do not avoid uncomfortable circumstances (they welcome them).
- Positive Environment
Successful leaders create a positive and inspiring workplace culture. They know how to set the tone and bring an attitude that motivates their colleagues to take action. As such, they are likeable, respected, and strong willed.
- Always Educate
Many employees in the workplace will tell you that their leaders have stopped being teachers. Successful leaders never stop teaching because they are so self-motivated to learn themselves. They use teaching to keep their colleagues well informed and knowledgeable through statistics, trends, and other newsworthy items.
- Nurture Relationships
Successful leaders do not focus on protecting their domain – instead they expand it by investing in mutually beneficial relationships. Successful leaders associate themselves with “lifters and other leaders” – the types of people that can broaden their sphere of influence. Not only for their own advancement, but that of others.