Whether you’re an entrepreneur with a new business or are heading up the leadership team of a well-established company, getting the reins can be a daunting prospect. You may or may not have significant experience, but every leader knows that there are always times when you feel a little out of your depth, and need to work from clear foundations to get things right. You are no doubt relishing the challenge and considering quitting, both at the same time.
One of the most important things that leaders tell us is that leadership success comes from effective practice. Whether you’re dealing with challenges with colleagues, inspiring clients to give you business, or dealing with challenges that the company hasn’t faced before, there are certain key elements of leadership that smooth the processes.
Clarity of Purpose and Values
It’s a common maxim that if you need to get somewhere, you need to know where it is. In leadership, you need to map out a journey and that only happens when you have a clear focus and set of guiding values to get you from point A to point Z. Knowing the destination on the journey ensures that you don’t end up at T with no route to Z.
Get the Right People on Board
It is critical that you get the talent that you need, and can trust within your organisation. If you end up having to micromanage staff, then you end up a manager not a leader.
Get to Know Your Colleagues
The fundamental aspect of leadership is influence. You need to have influence over what happens in your company, what happens in your industry, and how you track towards company goals. If you don’t know about your staff, then you won’t be able to understand their skill sets and what they bring to the table. In the early days within a position of authority, humble yourself to understand how the dynamics of the different teams work, so that you can make the right decisions based on sound information.
Listen to everyone in the team and find out about their goals, desires, strengths and weaknesses. You can’t formulate a plan for a team unless you know how that team is made up, the history of that team, and who the superstars of the future are likely to be. It may be that the people you think on the face of it are going to be the leaders are actually not as talented as those that are sitting back and waiting for the environment in which they can thrive and contribute.
Use Incentives and Learn from Everything
You need to develop a culture where rewards are given for good performance and going the extra mile. You need to condition your people to want praise and to get the rewards that they deserve based on what they put in.
In parallel to this, you need to identify and tackle any performance issues that may arise. Praise in public and criticise in private. Don’t give people a dressing down in front of their colleagues, as it doesn’t normally end up doing any good.
Learn from every negative within the company, so that you can build bridges between teams and individuals, and develop practices and aspects of company culture that encourage good behaviours.
Communication Is the Key
You won’t be able to always be on the shop floor, or interacting with every member of the team, but you need to find ways to communicate directly with everyone. That may mean running regular team meetings, having a company newsletter or intranet, and making sure that everyone understands your vision and buys into it. You shouldn’t assume that people understand the purpose of what they’re doing without spelling it out. The way in which you communicate will echo through your company, so make sure it is clear, concise, positive and focused on the vision of the company.
Trust Your Gut
It’s really easy to become a cognitive thinker, but great leaders end up trusting their instincts and making cutting-edge innovations and interventions that others would not see. If you feel something about a person, situation or opportunity, then investigate why it is you got that gut instinct. Look for some evidence, but if you don’t find evidence to the contrary, then give your instincts a good level of weight. Leadership is often about operating in a situation where you don’t have all the information, and learning to trust yourself will help you to become a better leader.
Invest in a Learning Culture
George Mason, leadership development planner at Mantle|Leadership Development, New Zealand’s top business leadership facility, explains that you need to have a learning culture, and that means investing in conferences, training and people. Investments in people can pay you back many times, and will also ensure that everyone in the organisation understands that they are an important cog within the company engine, and they need to keep learning.
Companies that fail to learn, fail to adapt. The world is changing faster than ever before, with new technology changing the face of how every industry operates. Make sure you are investing in your people.
To be a great leader and to deal with new situations, you need to work from a foundation of good leadership values and behaviours. That often means trusting your instincts, but may also mean pausing and getting more information in order to develop policies and company structures that create a better environment. The foundation of all of this is inspiring people towards a vision and helping them to understand where the company is going. People will naturally fall in line if they feel they are moving in the direction that they believe in.