Effective Leadership = Consistently Practicing Basic Behaviours
By Lynn Lochbihler
There are leaders at all levels – within families, classrooms, governments, organizations, associations, and teams. The common denominator is the synergy principle, that collectively we can accomplish a much better result.
The topic of what constitutes a good leader is tired, however the state of our broken government and social programs, and the rise in family breakdowns and floundering businesses would indicate that, as a society, we haven't mastered the art of leadership. This is despite how much importance society has placed on it. Our downfall is we either don't practice what we think we know, or we don't fully understand the need to alter our behaviours associated with effective leadership or cannot commit to making those changes.
Consistently practicing basic leadership behaviours garners ongoing improvement. Some people would see these practices as boring and ineffective since they are not some state of the art, sexy new system, which instantly and effortlessly will result in a remarkable transformation. Although the concepts are simple and not new, the practice is anything but easy (which is why society hasn't mastered it yet!). To be an effective leader takes commitment, adherence to personal values, time and effort, giving of oneself both mentally and emotionally – bonding with the people with whom one interacts.
Communicate … Communicate … Communicate
People by nature want to be on a winning team and it's up to the leader to “paint” a vivid picture of the vision so that everyone involved has a clear understanding of the goal. Also the leader must be explicit about the part each person plays in achieving that goal so that everyone is clear about what is expected of them.
Every leader must be an effective sales person, selling their vision and ideas, appealing to each person in such a way that will get them to buy- in, to engage, to appropriately respond to the WIIFM (what's in it for me) mentality; to energize, excite, entice allies and ultimately motivate people to support the dream. The supporters or influencers become the “cheerleaders”, who are in turn the drivers to rally more support – the snowball rolling downhill that increases in size and picks up momentum. Using different types of communication is necessary to reach and satisfy the differences in people's personalities, learning styles, lifestyles, and personal experiences; one size does not fit all – know your audience and adjust (sell) your message accordingly.
A key component of effective communication is listening – really listening with the intent to understand different points of view. Face-to-face conversations are a good vehicle to ascertain clarity. Pay attention to not only the words used, but the body language and tone as well – are they all congruent? What is the real message?
A leader needs to ask better questions:
- “Is what we are doing getting us closer to our goal?”
- “What matters to you personally?”
- “What change would you make if you could?”
Carefully consider the answers and subsequent response (people may forget the actual words but they never forget how someone made them feel!).
Build Strong Personal Relationships
… based on trust and respect!
How many times have you done something that you didn't particularly want to because you had a personal relationship with the individual and you didn't want to let them down? You share a bond, a personal commitment to supporting and helping each other. Leaders need to cultivate those kind of trusting and respectful relationships with everyone with whom they interact. They needn't be best friends but people do need to feel sincerely cared about, appreciated for their skills, abilities and strengths.
People need to trust leaders and this involves leaders saying what they are going to do, then doing what they said. Leaders must clearly articulate the impact certain actions have on a situation that does not constitute a threat but reality (truth). Leaders need to earn their reputation of trustworthiness through honest and ethical behaviour. Trust is not an automatic byproduct of position power.
Leaders need to be supportive enablers, which is very different from providing and/or accepting excuses. Leaders offer the “tools” (education/resources/authority/responsibility/) for people to carry out their activities, then get out of their way and allow them to complete their tasks. Leaders then make themselves available should assistance be required.
Behaviours that make people feel worthwhile and that they are making a positive difference build loyalty, engagement and commitment to each other, which is the glue that holds people together, particularly in bad times.
Leadership cannot be ego driven. To be effective it requires strategy, patience, persistence, empathy and above all, an understanding of human behavior. The effort can be mentally and emotionally draining, but the reward of seeing a plan come together and people working as a team, is exhilarating and re-energizing. Effective leaders focus on the people to inspire them to be the best they can be and reap the benefits of maximizing people potential.