Leadership is a challenging mix of art and science that few fully master. Hundreds of books continue to be published each year to feed people’s desire to get better at the subject yet we continue to see the evidence of leadership falling short of the mark all around us.
One of the keys to success is keeping things as simple as possible. While there are many factors which all contribute to leadership outcomes, there are five areas which really stand out; do these well and you’ll stand out. In short, what we know about great leaders is:
1. They get the job done
2. They have a clear sense of direction
3. They build highly motivated teams
4. They have the confidence of their constituents
5. They manage themselves well
Leaders will be judged, formally or informally, by how well they address these areas. Think of them, therefore, as your primary indicators for leadership success. Here’s a little more detail about what we mean:
- They get the job done. We’ve all seen the fluff and bubbles type of leader who talks everything up but at the end of the day fails to deliver the goods. Top leaders build a reputation for meeting and exceeding their goals year in, year out. They are good at marshalling resources, managing risk, solving problems, meeting budget and keeping everyone focused until each goal is conquered.
- They have a clear sense of direction. While the best leaders have their eye on what’s required to meet current delivery, they also have their eye on the agenda beyond the horizon. They understand what the critical success factors for success in 5 years are likely to look like, they have a good sense of how they must re-position and grow their organisation to stay relevant in an ever-changing marketplace and they know what they must do to build the strength of their internal talent bench. They convey to others a sense of what this direction looks like and they inspire their people by the challenge and the glory of what’s ahead.
- They build highly motivated teams. The leaders we admire are typically strong at building teams of people who are passionate about their work and who achieve top results. They understand that teams operate best when they have clear goals, strong trust, a sense of empowerment and great communication. They groom and mentor leaders within their ranks to achieve the same outcomes with their own people.
- They have the confidence of their constituents. The best leaders build a sense of trust and confidence with those they report to, with their customers, with their employees and with others holding a clear interest in the outcomes of their work. This enables the leader to achieve far more than their less trusted counterparts. The foundation for this confidence is more than simply the leader’s track record of delivery, vision for the future or ability to communicate. It emanates from the exceptional character of the leader, evidenced by consistent displays of integrity, fairness and selflessness.
- They manage themselves well. The top leaders carry with them an aura of being on top of things. They respond with a sense of calm and presence when confronted by challenge, preferring to invest their energy in dealing with an issue rather than reacting to it. Because they are well organised with good people around them, they are able to take the time to enjoy a wholesome life beyond the boundaries of work. They model an excellent standard of behaviour.
In most organisations the top leaders do enough things well to keep the wheels of the place in motion. Yet by addressing just one or two areas these leaders could so often enjoy a whole new dimension of success. Most times, you’ll find those one or two areas in the five we’ve covered here.