Becoming a high performing leader is not easy. It’s like competing in a race without a finish line. I hope this blog will provide you with some useful insights as you run the leadership race.
I was at a netball game recently, when one of the other Dads asked me a hard, double-barreled question:
“What do you think makes a great leader and what do I need to do to become one?”
Here are my thoughts.
1. Stay Calm
The ability to manage your emotions and stay calm when under pressure ensures that you operate at your best and will assist everyone else work to their potential.
2. Make goals and expectations clear
Spell out your purpose and goals and ensure that others understand what you expect of them and what they can expect of you. This is always harder that it sounds.
3. Be honest and authentic
Be honest with yourself as well as others – this builds trust. Manage your ego, no pretension, no trickery, no cynicism, no hidden agendas.
4. Be self-aware
Step back and ask yourself: What’s going on for me here? What are the facts? What am I thinking and why do I think that? What assumptions am I making? What emotions are coming into play? What do I want? What have I done that is relevant to the situation? How might we move forward? Stepping back and looking at the “big picture” can create a new reality.
5. Perspective Take
Step into the other person’s shoes and look at the situation from their perspective. What are the facts as they see things? What are their assumptions, emotions, motivations? What might explain their actions? Your perspective is not the only “reality”. Research makes it clear that great leaders are very good at seeing things from alternative perspectives.
6. Listen attentively
Turn off your inner “chatter” and focus attentively on what the other person is saying and doing. To be a good listener is actually very difficult.
7. Be curious
Don’t rush to the”obvious” answer. Explore alternative views. Ask open questions (who, what, when, where and how?). Don’t dismiss different perspectives as “stupid”. Try to widen your horizons and you will make more creative and relevant decisions.
8. Speak so people understand you
Speak from your perspective (I, my) and share all relevant information (facts, thoughts, emotions, wants, actions) to reduce the risk of people making incorrect assumptions or misinterpretations. Use language that is simple, concrete and credible. Tell stories that illustrate what you are saying and make it easy for people to understand and retain your message.
9. Create Solutions
Be proactive in exploring solutions that might meet your needs and the needs of the other parties.
10. Hold people accountable
Hold regular one-on-one meetings with your team members and stay focused on agreed key performance indicators. Mentor and coach, but at the end of the day, you must hold yourself and others accountable.
In my experience few people consistently demonstrate these behaviours. Why is that? Knowing what to do is step one. In the real world we get distracted. We forget what we “should” do and react. Closing the “knowing-doing” gap is the hard bit. You need self-awareness, motivation, focus, discipline and practice. Not easy. But the rewards when you pull it off are huge.