A leader as defined by John Quincy Adams is “If your actions inspire others to dream more, learn more, do more and become more, you are a leader.”
Following are the 7 keys I liked for anyone to become an inspiring leader in their field as identified by Jack Welch in his excellent book Winning with my take on each.
Establish a compelling vision
Vision is a key trait identified across all leadership studies as a distinguishing factor between great leaders and others. A leader is a dealer in hope. Leaders have to excite the troops to come out and play for the team. The best way to do this is to create an exciting vision and then ensure the team buys into the vision. The most important step in getting this done is to communicate the vision to everyone in the team through all mediums of communication including email, letters, conferences and meetings. In order for the team to buy into the vision they should also be allowed to participate on the formation of vision and at times help in refining the vision. When the team is involved in the overall wording of the vision statement it would ensure their commitment to the overall cause.
Be a Mentor
Mentoring is one of the most important jobs of a leader. A leader has to have great knowledge of his team members and understand what makes them tick. One key tool to improve the engagement of team members is to provide constant feedback on areas of improvement, acknowledging what is going well and keep appreciating/rewarding good behavior. Bottom line is leaders need to ensure that they help in maximizing the potential (my favorite word) of others. If they do this it will increase the self-confidence of the individuals which in turn improves performance.
Bring their best attitude every day
The overall attitude of the team is reflected by the attitude of the leader. If the leader is full of energy, is enthusiastic and passionate it will rub off on the team and will energize the team. One way a leader can inspire the team is to have regular weekly meetings where the team is provided appreciation, recognition for the things that are going well and also communicate where the overall organization is headed with respect to the vision. A leader who displays optimism leads by example and this rubs off on others. A leader who maintains a positive upbeat attitude even when things are not going as planned will surely have a team that is full of energy and optimism.
Establish trust at all levels
Trust is the foundation of leadership. Without it teams and companies can crumble. Whether it is politics, companies, sports or any other field leadership can successful only when trust is established. The best way for a leader to establish trust is to be totally honest. When a leader tells the truth always and displays candor at all times trust is sown. Leaders who criticize in private and don’t belittle others in their absence set the stage for a trust worthy culture. Being transparent means being open and one of the qualities all great leaders share is ability to see others point of view and being open to criticism. A successful leader shares the credit to the team when things go well and when things turn awry the leader takes personal responsibility.
Courage is one of the primary qualities to be a leader and again this is one quality which keeps coming up across all books on leadership as well. It is not the absence of fear but the triumph over it. No leader can go far without courage. Followers always respect a leader with courage. Leaders establish courage by having a track record of taking tough decisions. The tough decisions could be people decisions as the most important ingredient of successful teams is the selection of the team. The leader has to display courage to select only A players to ensure final victory. The leader has to make tough calls on which markets to enter for example GE made a decision under Jack Welch that they will remain only in businesses where they were Number 1 or Number 2 in that respective market. That is an example of courage in action. The best leader who exemplified courage was Nelson Mandela in my opinion. Please read my article on Nelson Mandela.
As T.S.Eliot said “Only those who risk going too far can find out how far one can go.” Taking risks is a part and parcel of leadership. Taking risks doesn’t necessarily mean unhinged bets or wild gambling. It is more calculated and has a high return on investment. The leader also encourages the team to take risks and encourages the team even when they meet with failure. As the IBM founder Thomas Watson said “The way to increase your success is to double your failure rate.” Innovation by its very nature involves risks. The only teams and leaders that are truly innovative are the ones who take risks and have confronted the outcome of failure. In a highly interconnected, globalized market place innovation is no longer a luxury but merely an entry ticket to play in the game of business. The only antidote to continuous change is learning. Leaders need to keep learning and be abreast of the latest developments in their field. This will encourage the team to follow suit and a successful leader can help this process by recommending books, certifications, training courses etc.
Promote Team Camaraderie
Work becomes exciting only when we celebrate victories. All successful leaders have a sense of humor. Also when the team does well it is important to celebrate. There are many ways to celebrate it could be a very simple pizza party or it could be a big Town Hall with the entire organization celebrating a significant milestone. The method of celebration is not the key here but the fact is to build winning teams celebration is critical. We see it in sports teams where after every goal or every set the team or individual celebrates. Using the same analogy for business whenever a new product is shipped, a customer appreciates or a new market is entered it is time to celebrate and have everyone savor the victory.
Finally here are some leadership styles as mentioned in the book Primal Leadership with my take on each. I also agree with authors that emotional quotient (EQ) is as important as IQ. In fact the higher you go up the organization the more important the EQ.
Visionary Style – This is the best form of leadership where a vision is built by the leader who inspires followers with an exciting vision for the future. All leaders have vision. Where there is no vision people perish. Most importantly employees need to feel excited to come to work and the only way that can happen is if there is something exciting to look forward to. This is where the visionary leader steps in and provides clear direction for the future.
Coaching Style – Coaching is a very important style for leader to adapt. Leaders are dealers in hope. They have to set the right example and show the way. What makes a superior leader is the ability to show competence in an area of expertise and guide the team through mentoring, coaching and teaching. Coaching is a necessary attribute of every successful leader. The team looks up to the leader who can provide guidance on how to proceed to the desired destination.
Affiliative Style – This is the ability of the leader to tune into the feelings of others. As the saying goes people don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care. EQ is developed by relating well to people, giving importance to them, recognizing and rewarding their exploits and providing candid feedback.
Democratic Style – This is where a leader listens to the team, helps them make decisions and reaches consensus on major decisions. This should be used along with visionary style. Being democratic in all decisions may not work out but it is an excellent people development style.
The views expressed in this article are my own and do not represent my organization.
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