“Leadership is not about titles, positions, or flowcharts. It is about one life influencing another.” John C. Maxwell
Challenging. Fulfilling. Stressful. Essential. Responsible. Trusted.
What does each of these adjectives have in common? Each relates to an aspect of leadership and the key role men and women in leadership positions play as the guiding force for companies, organizations, and communities.
What qualities aid a leader in his/her quest for success? What strategies enable leaders to make a positive impact?
While personality traits and leadership styles vary, even among the best of the best, those who’ve studied the ins and outs of Leadership have pegged these “best bets” for making the kind of difference most leaders long to make.
- Ask more questions
“A leader should not present themselves as someone who knows everything all the time,” says Phnam Bagley, co-founder and creative director of Nonfiction Design. “When needed, a good leader is comfortable asking for advice from anyone, regardless of rank or experience. Once you have a good idea of what people recommend, explore what doing the opposite would do to your business. It might mean holding on to your original ideals or approaching a problem creatively.”
Asking the right questions brings clarity and deepens understanding as it uncovers the why, why not, how, and what if. While some folks assume an automatic ruffled-feathers stance when asked to reflect further via questions, a leader who seeks to go deeper while championing a team approach is likely to sway naysayers away from their negative perception of questions.
- Focus on reality
Tracey Bower relays advice from mentor Dr. Carl Frost of Michigan State University, who noted that the best leaders “tell people what day it is.” By painting a picture of reality—about the business environment, the competitive climate, what is necessary to accomplish results—people are better equipped for success.
“We must know where we are to conceive of how we’ll get to the other side,” says Bower. “Great leaders don’t sugarcoat the truth, and they don’t motivate by fear. They stay calm in the face of chaos. They balance being realistic with providing hope for the future. People can’t do their best or make good decisions if they don’t have clarity—and effective leaders ensure people are in the know.”
- Empower those you lead
Should I micromanage every single detail or allow employees a degree of autonomy? While the critical decisions should fall on the shoulders of leadership, delegating some responsibility to those being led, allows for more time to teach and results in happier, more engaged employees. Why not take advantage of Bob’s expertise or Sally’s advanced skills? By delegating, you demonstrate trust in the employees’ skills, knowledge, and judgment. And if Bob or Sally happens to know more than you do about XYZ, an effective leader will not be bothered by that fact.
- Commit to being a life-long learner
Leaders poised to make a lasting impact will be those who continually seek to learn, grow, and experience.
- Look for ways to expand your skill set and knowledge base.
- Keep up with industry trends, developments, and technologies.
- Stay abreast of technology in general.
- Strive to improve communication skills.
- Seek avenues that will provide the team with growth opportunities.
Leaders who take the time to care and put in the effort to make the workplace a welcoming environment will have the greatest chance of leaving a positive, lasting impact.