Business Management Consultants
What is Leadership?
Today’s workforce is more diverse, educated, and informed than ever before. They understand the notion of effective leadership. They expect a quality work environment, TEAM, fair accountability and compensation.
Merriam-Webster defines leadership “as the ability to guide, direct, or influence people.”
We see all kinds of leaders. Some are more successful than others. Some have a transformational approach, while others demonstrate a more dictatorial style. Leadership is a balance. A leader requires the respect of others to be considered a leader. Leaders are not entitled to respect, it’s earned.
Leaders establish perception. Leadership styles which are constantly changing send mixed messages. Leadership isn’t about extremes, it’s about consistency.
Sometimes people confuse leadership with education. Education provides one with more tools and perspective, not necessarily judgment or leadership skills.
The recipe for leadership is consistent simplicity. These five attributes offer a solid foundation for quality leadership.
Leaders who consistently follow company mission, vision, and core values send a message of predictable behavior to employees and customers. When employees and customers observe leaders straying from the mission, vision, and core values they develop doubt and become skeptical.
Too many skeptics invite scrutiny and cultural shifts within the company. These cultural shifts are transmitted to customers, suppliers, and competitors. Experienced team members begin to question the leadership skills of the individual and management team. This hampers the ability of the company to achieve its strategy and objectives.
Challenges to core values eventually cascade down to every level of the company. We usually observe it in the form of productivity losses, employee turnover, and diminished sales revenue.
Pursuing new innovation and opportunities allow enterprises to grow and expand. Wise leaders incorporate value statements and consistent processes into every new opportunity. This communicates one message to gain commitment and positive perception.
Tip: Are your mission, vision, and core values on task? Do they reflect stakeholder goals? Does the leadership team align to these values?
Effective leaders are great listeners. They seek to understand so they can assess and guide. Leaders should encourage others to share in a constructive process. Listening invites collaboration and commitment which supports a strong culture.
Leaders making impulsive decisions built on emotion, speculation, and inaccurate facts sometimes lead entire organizations astray. Effective leaders who gather facts and opinions from others tend to make more informed decisions.
People want to contribute and be heard. Subordinates want to be included in the contribution process and success of the organization. Leaders advocating listening develop a more strategic enterprise.
It’s difficult to operate a quality enterprise without TEAM. Leaders need the support and advice of others. Creating an environment where “Listening” is viewed as an important process develops confidence and self-management among the team.
Tip: Do you actively listen to what others communicate? Is the environment such that others have the opportunity to express their views. Are you approachable and respectful of others input?
Quality leaders don’t put enterprises or employees at excessive risk. Leaders should assess risk on a constant basis understanding there is always some level of market risk. Leaders don’t bet on maybe’s. They plan for a predictable outcome.
People by nature are not risk-takers. Leaders tend to be greater risk-takers. When a leader makes decisions threatening business perpetuity, or job loss, people become wary and threatened. When the organization’s intellectual capital begins to question leadership skills, perception diminishes. While change is inevitable, excessive risk can damage the respect of both employees and customers.
Customers become dubious of suppliers with ineffective leaders. When quality products, supply chain, and service are interrupted, customers seek other suppliers. Quality customers have a very limited tolerance for dysfunction.
Leadership not understanding the boundaries or constraints of internal initiatives and projects is a source of risk. A very relevant example we’ve seen is the installation/application of ERP systems (Enterprise Resource Planning). Leaders not understanding the expectations and requirements of the system create dysfunction.
Effective planning is a process to mitigate risk. Enterprises with well defined strategies and operating plans tend to establish a risk threshold. That is, they decide what acceptable risk is, and what is not. Included in this risk threshold is customer satisfaction.
Leaders, who leap first and later try to figure out solutions, send a clear message to subordinates and customers about their leadership skills.
Tip: Do you operate with a defined risk threshold? Is information management and strategic planning part of the operating environment?
Fair accountability is a concept stating “management and employees should be held to fair and equal standards.” We have conducted a number of 360 enterprise assessments. One of the most common challenges to leadership from the employees view is unequal accountability.
Leadership as I noted earlier, “is ability to guide, direct, or influence people.” Without well defined expectations, a leader is communicating they lack consistent standards. The performance bar is vague and sometimes misunderstood. How does a leader effectively influence others when clear expectations are absent?
Leaders are responsible for their actions and behaviors. Not every initiative or strategy is going to be perfect. When something is not right take responsibility, then dig in to succeed.
Legacy relationships tend to cloud the practice of fair accountability. Tenured employees with less than acceptable performance or habits cannot be overlooked. Effective leaders understand tenure is not an entitlement for performance.
All people have some form of challenge. Some have no solutions. Leadership has a human component if you want to sleep at night. The human component of leadership should have a moderate level of empathy for those with personal and career challenges. Those with challenges should have an action plan with a completion date to correct deficiencies.
Tip: Do performance standards and fair accountability exist in the company? Do all managers subscribe to professional business practices and communication? Has an Employee Assessment been completed to measure success?
Culture is everything. Culture defines the human capital of the organization. It’s the bedrock for sales revenue and earnings. Continuous people improvement sparks critical thinking and innovation. Employee perception translates into customer perception and satisfaction.
Leaders developing a positive culture can feel it. Take the time to really observe an employee work area or production plant. Observe the behavior of management and employee’s. If employees are smiling, productive, and engaged, chances are your culture is on the right track. If it’s a sweatshop and activity based, maybe it’s time to understand why.
Effective leaders measure and manage the pulse of their company culture. They never assume it’s perfect. Cultures change as companies grow. Subcultures develop and it’s important for leaders to recognize the boundaries of these cultures.
Tip: What is the status of your company culture? Has it been assessed? Do people better respect leadership or threat?
You may have noticed that in each of our leadership tips, there are several overarching approaches to solve each need. One includes handling things internally – with focus groups or by management actions. The other approach recommends bringing in an unbiased, outside source for knowledge transfer or analysis. Both have their merits.
You know your business. Consider whether you need to redirect your efforts to a new approach, or if what you’re doing now is bringing you success and staying true to your company culture.