Once in a while you meet a someone who stands out as a leader. They are more than just charismatic or likeable. You can quickly tell, they think and act and lead differently than most people.
However, people don’t become outstanding leaders overnight. Truly outstanding leaders are made. Through training, experience, self-examination and practice, they learn to nurture, motivate, and inspire.
They learn to truly lead.
Over time, those skills become automatic and reflexive. While great leaders do a tremendous amount of thinking, that thinking happens behind the scenes. In the moment, in the trenches, when people look to them and need them most, they act: swiftly, decisively, and confidently.
Want to become a truly outstanding leader? Work hard to do these seven things well:
1) Build a great team
Leaders must be rigorous in the selection process for getting new people “on the bus”, as Jim Collins puts it, in “Good to Great”. Invest time in evaluating each candidate and make systematic use of at least three evaluation tools (e.g., interviews, references, background, testing, etc.).
When in doubt, do not bring that person on the team. Keep the position vacant—taking on extra work as needed—until you have found the right person. Ensure your company does an exceptional job of retaining the right people to perpetuate good hiring decisions.
2) Offer recognition and praise
Offering praise to your employees is all about recognition. Most workers thrive on feeling appreciated. For an employee, knowing that what they are doing means something to their boss and the business, gives a feeling of worth that can motivate them to improve their work.
The happier your employees, the more engaged and productive they will be. Receiving praise is empowering. It doesn’t cost anything to recognize and praise your staff. However, not giving them credit when and where credit is deserved can cost you big time.
3) Improve constantly
Whatever you’re working toward, it’s important to constantly assess, evaluate and appraise where you are and where you want to be. It’s something you do because you want to be a better leader, not only for your own sake but also for the sake of those who are part of your team and work hard to achieve the vision and goals you set. Great leaders make self-improvement a daily practice.
Great leaders know the benefits of working in a variety of departments in the organization. This cross-pollination is a productive development tool, giving organizations a competitive edge. When leaders better understand organizational processes, they can make better decisions. The same applies to staff.
Rather than compartmentalize employees in rigid departments, great leaders mix people from a variety of fields and allow them regular contact. As a result, the employees have a better understanding of the overall operations of the organization. This allows them to apply ideas from as many fields as possible to the problems at hand, just in case something unexpected applies.
Delegation in leadership not only helps get things done, but it also empowers employees by giving them greater autonomy. No leader can do all things at all times, and delegation is a key tool for boosting team and organizational performance and efficiency. A Gallup study found that companies led by CEOs who were strong at delegating achieved a higher overall growth rate compared to companies whose CEOs delegated less.
Great leadership has many components, and delegation is an important factor for maximizing employee contributions and increasing productivity among all members of a team.
6) Share Information
Communication is a core leadership function. Effective communication and effective leadership are closely intertwined. Leaders need to be skilled communicators in countless relationships at the organizational level, in communities and groups, and sometimes on a global scale.
You need to think with clarity, express ideas, and share information with your team. You must learn to handle the rapid flows of information within the organization, and among customers, partners, and other stakeholders and influencers.
7) Create a Vision
“In order to take the organization to the highest possible level, leaders must engage their people with a compelling and tangible vision.” ~Warren Bennis
Leadership vision is essential for focusing attention on what matters most; on becoming the kind of leader you wish to be. An effective vision has to be rooted in your past, address the future, and deal with today’s realities. It represents who you are and what you stand for. It inspires you, and the people whose commitment you need, to act to make constructive change towards a future you all want to see.
A visionary leader who clearly and passionately communicates his or her vision can motivate employees to act with passion and purpose, thereby ensuring that everyone is working toward a common goal. The end result is that everyone contributes to the organization’s forward momentum.
Mentoring can be one of the most effective means of teaching: inviting someone to learn from the example of another with more experience. Whether through apprenticeships, internships or less-formal relationships, walking alongside an experienced practitioner can impart essential skills, attitudes and knowledge.
Being a mentor doesn’t mean having all the answers to every question. A good mentor know which questions to ask to stimulate development in their protégeé.
Some of the questions mentors ask:
- What are your hopes and dreams for the future?
- How can I help you?
- Where are your skills being tested?
- Where is your character being tested?
- How is your relationship/communication style effecting what you are trying to accomplish?
- What are some new things you could try?
- What are some things that would help you to have more integrity?
- What challenges have you faced and what were some of the effects of those challenges?
- How has that shaped who you are?
- How can you use your past to prepare you for the future?
- Even though things haven’t worked out as you’d hoped, what are you learning from that?
- As you assess your growth, where do you see yourself right now?
One would think, given
the human-centric focus of most nonprofit organizations, they would be great
examples of post-industrial leadership styles. Rather than a top-down
management style they would exhibit the best traits of current, collaborative
leadership. Unfortunately, that is not often the case.
There may be a couple of reasons why this is so:
One suggestion is, nonprofit organizations tend to be more collegial, have flatter management structures, and have a kind hearted approach to their employees. Therefore, leaders in these organizations are reluctant to burden staff and volunteers with delegated work.
says, the type of personality, drive and ability it takes to become a nonprofit
leader often adds up to “control freak” (I can relate).
However, the inability
or unwillingness to delegate is one of the biggest problems managers face. Delegation is one of the most important management
skills for managers and leaders. The benefits are substantial, both for the
leader, for staff, and for the organization.
- Saves time for
the manager to focus on things only they can do.
- Ensures tasks
are assigned to staff with skills to do the job.
- Gives staff
opportunity to develop.
- Motivates and
So, how do we delegate effectively?
- Plan – know what
needs to be done, and be able to explain it clearly to the one receiving the
task. Understand the skills required to complete the task, the outcomes
expected, etc. Nothing is worse than setting-up someone for failure by giving
them a job that is not clearly defined, and not matched to their skill-set.
- Define – Ensure the
person receiving the task understands what is to be
achieved with specific and measurable results; how they are responsible for
producing the required outcomes; the deadline for completing task/project; what
their level of decision-making authority is.
- Monitor – don’t micro-manage, but provide enough oversight to enable
the job to be completed: schedule regular progress meetings; make yourself
available to provide clarification; communicate effectively.
- Be patient – If delegating is not currently an active part of
your management toolbox, it’s going to take time for it to work fully. The
first time you delegate a task, staff may lack confidence in the process, and
come to you more frequently, or proceed carefully, taking more time that might
be necessary. Stick to it, be consistent. The more you staff gets comfortable
with the process and results, the more confident and efficient they will be
come. Don’t dismiss delegation at the first hiccup, but support the process to
see more effective results.
When you invest the time
and energy to delegate, you increase personal and organizational
effectiveness. You improve
communication, build skills and competency, and strengthen employee engagement.
Effective delegation makes others better and ensures that even when you are
absent your leadership impact is still present.
Earlier this year, the Consortium for Project Leadership at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, started a new blog. The “Living Order” blog focuses on sharing stories and lessons learned about the leadership role in project management. The first story posted in spring 2014 explains how the early 20th-century concept of “living order” is relevant to today’s project leaders.
Besides the blog, the Consortium for Project Leadership has a more traditional website with additional details and background info which can be viewed here. CPL is co-led by Dr. Alex Laufer, author of the recent book, Mastering the Leadership Role in Project Management.
What is a leader?
A leader is a person who guides others toward a common goal, showing the way by example, creating an environment in which other team members feel actively involved in the entire process. A leader is not the boss of the team, but the person that is committed to carrying out the mission of the venture.
Leaders exist to get things done. Leadership is needed beyond the bounds of politics and business. Leadership is needed in families; schools and universities need leadership; charitable organizations need leadership. In fact, whenever there is an opportunity for two or more people to collaborate to get something done, leadership is a key ingredient.
Here are 7 tips on the subject of leadership from those who have demonstrated themselves to be leaders:
1. “Leadership can be thought of as a capacity to define oneself to others in a way that clarifies and expands a vision of the future.” Edwin H. Friedman – Leaders have vision. They share a dream and direction that other people want to share and follow. The leadership vision goes beyond your mission and vision statements. A leader’s vision permeates the workplace and is manifested in their actions, beliefs, values and goals.
2. “Most important, leaders can conceive and articulate goals that lift people out of their petty preoccupations and unite them in pursuit of objectives worthy of their best efforts.” John Gardner – Leadership is proactive rather than reactive. Leaders are good in crises – but they don’t sit around letting crises develop. Leaders identify potential problems and solve them before they reach crisis proportions. Leaders have an ability to identify and reap potential windfalls. Good leaders analyze and plan, then adapt their plans to changing circumstances and opportunities.
3. “If your actions inspire others to dream more, learn more, do more and become more, you are a leader” John Quincy Adams – Actions still speak louder than words, particularly when your philosophies and behavior motivate people to do their best work. Nothing builds and sustains credibility like someone who leads by example.
4. “The final test of a leader is that he leaves behind him in other men the conviction and the will to carry on.” Walter Lipmann – John Maxwell calls it The Law of Legacy – A leader’s lasting value is measured by succession. Leaders develop and grow people, people who will help to build and lead the future of the enterprise.
5. “The leaders who work most effectively, it seems to me, never say ‘I’. And that’s not because they have trained themselves not to say ‘I’. They don’t think ‘I’. They think ‘we’; they think ‘team’. They understand their job to be to make the team function. They accept responsibility and don’t sidestep it, but ‘we’ gets the credit…. This is what creates trust, what enables you to get the task done.” Peter F. Drucker – Developing the confidence and capability of your people will raise their self-belief. Show them you believe in their potential. Encourage them to take risks. Help them to learn when things go wrong . A leader who boosts the self-esteem of people will always be more successful in retaining people.
6. “Leaders are more powerful role models when they learn than when they teach.” Rosabeth Moss Kantor – Great leaders have the ability to gain knowledge, acquire skills and adapt behaviours to achieve their goals. They always improve their skills and learn. They study people and learn how to effectively interact with them. They understand the importance of continuous learning. Leaders have the ability to ‘unlearn’ old behaviours and develop new ones.
7. “Whatever happens, take responsibility.” Anthony Robbins – It’s easy take credit when things go right, and shift the blame when things go wrong. It’s particularly tempting for a leader. A leader is positioned to blame just about anyone and anything when things go wrong. However, as a leader, you must take responsibility. When things go wrong, if your first instinct is to look for someone to blame, stop. Ask instead, “what can I do to help fix this?” You’ll only get better at what’s under your control.
In summary, a leader:
- Has a vision
- Has a plan
- Leads by example
- Develops people
- Builds confidence in people
- Keeps learning
- Takes responsibility
Look at this list above and ask, how well do I stack up against these seven points? What ONE thing could I start doing that will enhance my skills as a leader?
If you think your employee’s poor performance is costing you profit, instead of overhauling your employee roster, why not try motivating them to become better employees? Smart managers never overlook this fact: loyal, productive employees are one of your biggest assets. From corporate cubicles to the factory floor, the collective skills and efforts of people keep your operation going.
You can easily set the right tone in the workplace by learning to respond to a basic need we all share… which is to be respected and valued.
What you need?
You know I got it!
Everyone wants to be treated with respect.
As a manager, your words, body language, even your facial expressions make a huge difference in how employees perceive your opinion of them. For instance, extending common courtesies such as “Good morning” or a nod as you pass others in the hallway says to them that they are not invisible to you.
Other demonstrations of respect could include asking employees for suggestions to improve operations and/or management. It’s another way of saying, “I respect and value your opinions.”
And never forget, meeting in private, with an employee who may have missed the mark says, “I respect you enough not to embarrass you in front of your co-workers…”
Two powerful words are important in employee motivation… “Great Job!”
By recognizing the work of others, you motivate them to keep working. You’ll find that regularly giving verbal or written praise for a job well done goes a long way in making employees feel appreciated. If workers feel that they play an important part in the company by the work they provide, they are much more likely to seek ways to improve their performance.
While cash incentives are a sure way to put a smile on an employee’s face, there are other creative ways to motivate employees through “thoughtful” gestures.
For individual rewards, how about gift certificates for DVD rentals, music CD purchases, theme park tickets or “Dinner for 2″ at a local eatery?
For group or departmental appreciations, consider a “Leave Work 30 Minutes Early Next Friday” reward. Or once-a-month, spring for dessert treats in honor of those celebrating birthdays in that calendar month. You are limited only by your imagination and budget.
Placing respect, recognition and reward at the heart of your employee motivation efforts will serve to boost morale, increase productivity and positively affect the company’s bottom-line. A WIN-WIN-WIN situation for all.
(These are not original thoughts, I’ve seen this piece attributed to various writers.)