What makes one leader more effective and capable than another? The behaviours, traits and skills required of a leader are many.
Organisations must focus on developing leaders early and maintain the effort once in the role. Individual leaders must also embrace the challenge to grow and provide more to their team members and employer.
To understand what makes a great leader great, requires reading to understand theory and practice to make development real. Knowledge, however, is only the first step. Knowing is one thing, application and ‘doing’ is something more substantial again. You don’t need to seek perfection, just improvement.
This initial step to increase understanding is accessible, possibly more so than ever. We are genuinely fortunate to have access to so much literature available online that provides this opportunity. Your learning should have a purpose, however. Consider what it is that you want to influence? Is it that you feel you could be more strategic in your thinking? Improve your communication skills? Or, do you want to positively impact employee engagement levels? All of these and plenty more, are admirable goals to improve your leadership capability. The starting point is increasing what you know.
As one source of learning from my recent readings, several articles and statistics caught my attention that are worth highlighting. I have included links at the bottom of my blog if you wish to read further information from each.
There are valid and proven reasons why organisations must focus on developing leaders.
- There are many reasons why organizations spend enormous amounts of time and resources on developing leaders. One of the most important examples would be that “Organizations with the highest quality leaders were 13 times more likely to outperform their competition in key bottom-line metrics such as financial performance, quality of products and services, employee engagement, and customer satisfaction.” (1)
- There’s a leadership problem in the workplace. Companies lack employees with leadership skills and fear they don’t have enough rising leaders to take the reigns. Almost half of the companies surveyed for Workplace Trends’ Global Workforce Leadership survey in February and March 2015 said that leadership is the hardest skill to find in employees. What’s more, among the 1,000 employees surveyed, only 36 percent said leadership is a strength in their organization. (2)
It is incredibly important to understand what leadership roles require and to develop the leader before taking on the role.
- The vast majority of (leadership) challenges dealt with people issues. Things like managing former peers (about 20% of responses), managing conflict, improving morale, building trust, earning respect (about 15%), or working with older or more experienced team members (about 13%.) The second biggest bucket contained performance management issues. This included setting goals, providing day-to-day feedback, coaching, redirection, and year-end performance review (about 13%.) The topic of the third big bucket was personal concerns about the new role. It included time management, prioritization, and finding balance along with trying to do it all and live up to expectations (about 15%.) (3)
- Leadership development and coaching is expensive. So it’s typically reserved for those at the senior and executive leadership levels. But that means there’s a whole group of middle and lower-level managers without leadership experience. Their lack of training has a serious impact. Gallup’s 2015 State of the American Manager Report studied 2.5 million manager-led teams in 195 countries. (It) found that the top two reasons employees are promoted to management positions are because they were successful in a non-managerial role and they have experience and tenure with the company. Not because they have leadership potential or experience. It’s no wonder that only 35 percent of managers in the Gallup report were engaged at work. And when managers are disengaged, so are the employees they lead. The study found that employees who are supervised by highly engaged managers are 59 percent more likely to be engaged than those supervised by actively disengaged managers. Throwing employees into leadership positions cold doesn’t work. The new model of leadership development needs to extend to every level of management. Companies need confident and trained leaders throughout the business, not just at the top. (2)
Development of the leader is ongoing, consistent and focused when performed well.
- Further, employees are looking for personalized career direction at every stage. In fact, most employees are looking for quarterly or weekly feedback and access to development wherever they are. And they expect content, contacts and courses offered at work in the same style they consume personalized content at home through Amazon and Netflix. Personalized employee career development programs, accessible tools and tracking systems and a focus on redefining and re-engaging leadership – at all levels – will help deliver on the innovation and growth that businesses require. (4)
- The qualities and attributes that make people stand out are based on the choices they make, not only on what they are born with. The choices you make have a lot to do with how successful and effective you become as a leader. Successful leaders are extremely good and efficient with their skills and there is a narrow area where improvement may be needed. These areas may not be easy to recognize intuitively. The basic and most essential component to work on these areas is self-awareness. Being self-aware, with the deep understanding of one’s own thoughts and feelings creates clarity. (5)
Once in the role, the leader must concentrate on their team members, results, communication and many other, sometimes conflicting priorities.
- What can be managed and enhanced is the effectiveness of the individual company’s workforce. Executives and managers are going to have to understand and optimize the employee experience like never before. That is one of the reasons behind a movement called “continuous listening.” The idea behind “continuous listening” is to gather feedback and take action across the entire employee lifecycle. Often it starts by understanding the onboarding process during a new employee’s first days. It continues with frequently documented performance conversations. Annual engagement surveys are being replaced or augmented with quarterly or monthly pulse surveys. At the end of employment, exit surveys are conducted to understand why someone is leaving and their willingness to be recruited by the organization again in the future. Leaders will need to listen to what employees are saying about the organization and begin acting on the messages by making improvements and having clarification conversations with employees. As following up becomes easier, adding another solution to gather feedback or consider listening more frequently is recommended. (6)
Seek additional understanding and knowledge from whoever and wherever you can. Reinforcement of your existing understanding; potential to be exposed to new ideas and thinking; whilst broadening your mindset and skills comes from many sources. Seek them out. Be deliberate.
Being a leader can be challenging. It is also often rewarding, both personally and professionally. However, it takes effort, persistence and time, which it seems many people struggle to understand and apply. There are no short-cuts, but there is opportunity.
Contact CoachStation today to see how we can turn your good leadership intention into goals, action and improvement.
You, your business and employees deserve the effort.