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“Leadership is the capacity and will to rally men and women to a common purpose and the character which inspires confidence.” ― Bernard Montgomery
By: Cristiana Radulescu
Leadership styles have changed significantly in the past few years. We moved from Gen X, who placed significance in hierarchies and formal qualifications, to Millennials, who disregard titles and years of experience. Placing more emphasis on work-life balance and finding purpose and fulfillment at work.
How a leader is viewed and is expected to act differs from generation to generation. With 87% of millennials believing professional growth and development is important and expecting to represent half of the workforce in the next ten years, what qualities are important when looking to train for succession nowadays? This article explains the different qualities of a good leader and how anyone can embody them to become the leader that an organisation needs to be successful.
Due to their numerous responsibilities, leaders control their time tightly. To save and maximise it, leaders prioritise, remove distractions, give up the need for perfection, focus on one task at a time and constantly reassess their priorities. Understand that there is a finite number of hours in a day and choose to stop or delegate certain activities based on where you can deliver the most impact.
To reinforce your company’s identity and impact the bottom line, leaders must consistently assess and reward what is important to both employees and customers.
Leaders seek to align everyone and ensure growth by look to break down silos and removing the barriers for people to collaborate and perform in their jobs. Make sure that the people that report directly to you are good managers who understand the strategy, keep informed and have the resources they need and consistently take care of the people reporting to them. This way everyone feels they can give their best at work.
To remain relevant, companies must innovate, and they need leaders who drive employees forward. Rather than trying to do more yourself, put in place the right systems and processes that enable employees to take the lead themselves and become more entrepreneurial.
No matter how fast your organisation is moving, it will rise or fall by their leaders’ vision. The ability to lead people in that direction is even more important than the skills a leader is demonstrating daily. Leaders are future-oriented and fast learners, continuously identifying opportunities for the business.
The best leaders don’t lead with authority but inspire others to act through stories and make them feel like they belong. There is no universal method to inspire people. Be consistent in your behaviour, embody the organisational culture, put yourself forward and recognise people, not only based on the outcome they deliver, but also on the effort they put in.
Your attitude will impact your actions. And because they’re driven by a higher sense of purpose, leaders in the 21stcentury focus on the bigger picture and don’t dwell on present setbacks, meaning they have a more positive attitude and are more resilient.
There will be times when initiatives and actions take a wrong turn, are not successful or become obsolete. During these times, taking responsibility and corrective action can open new doors. And even when they don’t, leaders go beyond just accepting an outcome. They show up every day and have the attitude of always trying to make things happen. This is because leaders feel connected with what their organisation stands for and feel both pride and responsibility for the outcomes.
Ethics are increasingly important in today’s corporate environment. Leaders are responsible for setting ethical norms and establishing a learning environment where people are positive and supportive of each other. Leading is an important responsibility and as a leader, you should choose to speak the truth for yourself and others to build trust on. Act with integrity and honesty, rather than gossip and create a hostile work atmosphere.
Effective communication is at the core of being a good leader. Leaders need to clearly outline what they expect from everyone and do so in a way that is simple and feels authentic to those around them. It’s also important to strike a balance between communicating and listening. If you’re trying to improve your leadership skills, listening to debates or other leaders delivering speeches can help you identify and shape your communication style. For example, Richard Branson is known for his energetic and on-point communication style. Warren Buffett is also often credited as a great communicator due to his ability to explain complex concepts in simple terms. He even writes the annual shareholders’ letter himself, always with his audience in mind.
Listening with empathy helps you gain a better understanding of other people’s knowledge, strengths and opinions. Listening can build trust, respect and increase engagement by making stakeholders feel like their input is being valued.
In a recent interview, Wendy Nelson, CEO of LeadingBioTech describes the best advice she received from her mentor was “make sure your team is ready to roll without you”. She continues “I always want to feel like my team is respecting me, respecting themselves, they’re accountable for their own work and they always feel like they’re growing and thriving. If they don’t feel like they’re developing career-wise, then I have failed.” Good leaders encourage their employees to follow their passions and make use of their best skills.
Sometimes the decisions that are best for the company are not the most popular ones. Don’t confuse having a following with leadership but understand that leaders that inspire will be supported even in times of hardship. A leader will not always be the most popular employee, but the one who can steer employees in the right direction for them and the organisation.
Similarly, a leader needs to be able to say no. Whether you are communicating or listening, do so with empathy. This is not synonym to always agreeing, but it’s about understanding other people’s point of view and learning from it. Daniel Goleman explores the different types of empathy and identifies the following categories:
Empathy is only one of the four components of emotional intelligence (emotional quotient or EQ), alongside self-awareness, emotional self-management and relationship skills. EQ “refers to the ability to identify and manage one’s own emotions, as well as the emotions of others.” according toPsychology Today.
As a leader, you should always try to understand what makes people tick and allow them to find meaning and fulfilment in their work. The role of the leader is to manage fear and inspire hope by keeping people focused on where the organisation is going.
As Brian Tracy discusses, it’s important for leaders to set and achieve business goals, without being fixated on the numbers. As he puts it, the first responsibility of a leader is to get results. That’s why good leaders prepare for the strategic implications of their decisions.
Leaders today disseminate a lot of information fast and adapt in times of uncertainty and to the many changes brought by the digital age. In his famous TED Talk, Simon Sinek, an expert in strategic communications, discusses the power of inspirational leadership and shows how great leaders start with the “why?”
Greg Dyke, former chairman of the Football Association also discusses the impact of communicating that you value what your employees do. They will support you if you give them the ability to get on with things by removing obstacles and letting them enjoy themselves. This way, they will accept the hard times.
The next generation of leaders are diverse, collaborative, resilient, impact-driven and self-aware. Leaders are increasingly responsive to the unique and varied needs of their customers and employees and display behaviours that are more resilient, yet flexible.
After the financial crisis and with the increased distrust in businesses, transparency holds extreme importance. Modern leaders believe in “bringing your whole self to work”, more engaged and responsive to both internal and external ideas and most of all, an organisation’s people.
Leaders also work in more diverse environments driven by increased globalisation and technological innovations. This leads to change taking place considerably faster than ever before. Respecting diverse opinions and gaining the trust of those around them is critical to a next gen leader’s success. You can do so by not losing sight of the big picture and entrusting crucial aspects of an organisation to other employees, being receptive and empowering others to do the work that is meaningful to them.
It’s important to distinguish between being a leader and being a people manager. Leaders are not always given the title, they simply are leaders and they come with a different mindset.
Leaders are visionary and insightful, managers are action-oriented and informed. Good managers however are those who make sure that their leaders provide them with the tools and resources necessary to deliver, so they can in turn inform and direct their team in the right direction.
Managers are those who take a leader’s strategy and vision and break it down into actionable goals for their team. As such, they are tasked with maintaining the status quo through implementing the available systems and processes. They are also good communicators, mentors and possess a level of strategic thinking, but don’t often design a long-term vision.
Having trouble developing any of these leadership qualities or establishing your leadership style? Browse our list of leaders for in-depth articles and video advice from Simon Sinek to Beth Comstock, Eric Ries and more so you can become a next generation leader!
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