“A leader is one who knows the way, goes the way, and shows the way.” John Maxwell
There are many different ways to define leadership just as the word leadership means different things to different people. Simplistically, leadership is the art of getting people to do things they have either never thought possible or, didn’t want to do. Leadership means influencing people to get things done to a standard and quality above their norm, and doing it willingly.
The functions of a leader come down to five key components.
- Setting the direction of your organization with a vision
- Developing people skills so you can lead your people
- Having robust plans, systems and processes to operate the business
- Communicating well with all stakeholders
- Keeping people accountable along the way
The Wheel of Leadership™ is a continually revolving process that never ends. Effective leaders must constantly move around the wheel of leadership looking for any flat tires along the way. As you know, a wheel can’t turn if it has a flat tire. If a leader finds something wrong in their organization, it’s like having a flat tire. They must locate where it is, what caused it, repair, replace or pump up the dysfunction in order to keep the organization moving forward.
Leadership is very much that and all these components must continually work together to be effective.
1. Setting the direction
One of the traits of being an effective leader is to set the direction with a powerful vision for the future.
On August 28, 1963, Martin Luther King stood on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial and delivered his famous ‘I have a Dream Speech’ in which he called for the end to racism in the United States. There were over 250,000 people gathered that day to hear him speak along with many more watching on television or listening to him on the radio.
King did not say to all these people “I have a plan.” Martin Luther King was a visionary. He was able to inspire a nation with his vision for the future.
Great business leaders begin with a vision.
In his highly acclaimed book the Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, Stephen Covey suggests we should always begin with the end in mind. What this means is, a leader needs to gain an understanding of what the future of the business looks like and, clearly communicate this vision to their people.
The effect of not creating a vision in business is that you allow the business to control you rather than you control the business.
2. People skills
The single most significant skill you need to have as a leader is the ability to build effective teams and partnerships. Sales, marketing, service delivery, human resources, operations, production and finance should all have management systems in place for control. However, the one thing that is common to achieving business goals and objectives is, the people you lead. You often hear the expression “people are our single biggest asset!”
When you look after your people they in turn will look after the business.
If you were to ask any effective leader what they do more than anything else in business, is they have to deal with people. As a result, leaders need exceptional communication and influencing skills to keep their people moving forward to achieve the goals and objectives of the business.
3. Systems and processes
A functioning business can only be as good as your systems and processes. Take McDonald’s for example, they have perfected their systems and processes so that when you order a burger and fries regardless of where you are in the world, it is consistent every time.
Effective business leaders develop good systems and processes and ensure those systems and processes work. If you put good people in to operate poor systems and processes, you are setting them up to fail. This is because you see the people using the systems as failing, not the flaws in the system itself. As a result, you blame people for the inadequacies and lack of results rather than inadequate systems and processes.
On the other hand, no matter how good your systems and processes are, people still need to operate them which means providing them with adequate training and support through exemplary leadership and management skills.
4. Communication skills
Having great communication skills is essential in leadership and management in order to influence others. Most conflicts and misunderstandings in the workplace comes down to a lack of communication. Communication involves asking effective questions along with active listening. It also requires listening for understanding and hearing what’s not being said as well as what was said.
In order to inspire others, leaders need to communicate their vision and set the direction for the future. Managers need to communicate business operations by directing, controlling and keeping people accountable to agreed standards.
When you assume responsibility in a leadership role, you become accountable to some form of authority. This means you are usually measured against a set of key performance indicators.
You cannot manage people effectively if, as a leader, you don’t communicate the vision, goals and objectives of the organization. You also can’t manage people if you don’t set performance standards. If a person doesn’t know what to do, when to do it and how to do, it’s not their fault if things go wrong, it is the fault of management. That’s because management either failed to communicate the required standards or, failed to provide adequate training.
You cannot manage performance if there are no communicated performance standards to keep people accountable to.
Effective leaders are constantly in the Wheel of Leadership™ always looking to improve their personal skill sets along with the skill sets of their people.
On a final note
When leaders are prepared to continually learn, they become more effective.
In a Nutshell
Leaders must continually look to:
- Set the direction of with a powerful vision of the future
- Develop their people skills in order to inpsire lead their people
- Ensure there are robust plans, systems and processes in place to operate the business
- Communicate well with all internal and external stakeholders
- Keep people accountable along the way