I have taken time to reflect and partake in activities that have taught me about my leadership style and the type of leader I wish to become. The situational theory of leadership suggests that no single leadership style is the best. Instead, it depends on the situation at hand and which type of leadership and strategies are best suited. According to this theory, the most effective leaders are those that can adapt their style to the situation and look at cues such as the type of task, the nature of the group, and other factors that might contribute to getting the job done.
As a leader, I have learned that I need to be a better observer and more conscious of others around me. Empower them to equally contribute to the overall success of the team. After all, there is no "I" in team. I certainly do not have to have all the answers, but I must be aware of the different situations, adapt and use various approaches if I am to get the best from those around me.
As a mentor, the passion to constantly engage, empower, and transform others remains constant. It is a never-ending road that may not always seem clear. But, while walking along this path, I have discovered that good or bad leaders have great influence over others including themselves. I choose to be a good and effective leader because good leadership means maximising potential and empowering people by recognising and indirectly or directly teaching them to leverage their talents and strengths.
Effective leaders make the workplace a more efficient and favourable environment for their team, which I believe I have been able to do throughout my career. Not everyone has the skills to achieve these results. Luckily, there are a few things we can all do to become better leaders and transform our respective places of business; even transform our lives.
Here are the three things we can all do better as leaders:
1. Clarify and share mission.
Before you can lead a group, you need to understand where you are leading them. Be transparent and clear about goals for your team and business. It is also important to help your team understand the overall mission and their role in making it a reality. In one of the many leadership exercises I have done, I recall a scene where my group and I were split into three smaller groups called islands. Each island was given different information and the same problem to solve. What was interesting about this task, is that some of us were blindfolded, hand strapped behind our backs, or not able to speak. We were all given different aspects of the same problem. While working separately with our various deficiencies, it quickly became evident that none of us had enough information to make sense of the problem. To find the solution, the groups needed to merge to gain enough insight, realise the bigger picture and solve the problem. Not only did this have a direct benefit of making work more productive, but it also empowered and motivated the team to work together to find appropriate solutions. Its key in these situations that happen in real life all the time, that we stop and think broader and ask ourselves, do we have all the information to help make an informed decision or solve the problem at hand? We generally always need others.
2. Be Aware of Situations.
How many times have you said to others ‘Don’t worry, I know what to do, I’ve done this before so I’ve got this’ only to find that the situation didn’t turn out quite as you imagined. It has happened to the best of us! We often believe we have diagnosed the problem and end up applying the same process or actions as we did to a similar problem. So why didn’t you get the desired outcome? You were busy feeling overconfident, thinking you know the answer only to get an awakening that your master solution cannot solve the problem. While you may have seen the problem before, you failed to pay attention to that ‘something’ that changed. What might seem a minor difference could change the entire landscape.
Note that it is easy to apply the same process as before, but every situation is different and may call for a different solution. Before you proceed to solve a problem, stop and think. The ability to adapt your style, action or process to different challenges will also help you address situations appropriately. You won’t fall flat on your face so often and likely to gain more respect as a leader, which will yield positive results.
3. Apply Active Listening
M. Scott Peck rightly said that: ‘You cannot truly listen to anyone and do anything else at the same time’. One key aspect of active listening is focus. This may seem very clear but if you delve deeper it may not be just external stimuli that may take our focus. Often, it may be our mind’s mouth, the conversation that occurs in our own brains, that may take our focus.'
For your team to be well-functioning, they need to feel heard and not just listened to. You may liken the relationship with your team to the relationship a driver has with their car. After driving the car for a while, you understand the car, the way the engine sounds, the way it drives. As soon as unrecognizable alarming sounds emerge from the engine you need to take time out to truly understand and diagnose the origin of the troubling sound. If you ignore the sound or poorly diagnose it, it may lead to a greater issue in the future. With my team, we schedule informal meetings which can be just showing up at their desks every month where we all just talk, it does not have to be work-related. This gives them a frequent avenue to express some of their highs and lows throughout the month and it also gives me the opportunity to show them that their voices are truly and wholly heard.
4. Build and Leverage Meaningful Relationships.
To be an effective leader, it is imperative to have great communication skills, as well as the ability to manage conflict to foster meaningful relationships with those around you. Leaders must create a fabric of personal contacts, whether local, national or global who will provide support, insight and resources. A leader’s ability to network effectively and keep relationships for the longer term is a critical aspect of relationship building. This is deemed as one of the core competencies for effective and influential leadership.
Building relationships is important at all levels; with employees, colleagues, industry professionals, business managers, influencers, graduates etc. It is key that you try to do this and ensure that it is mutually beneficial.
Think about the ability to call upon different people in various situations because you kept a good relationship. Not to mention, the power of your network can help introduce you to a key stakeholder you have been trying to reach for a while.
In summary, rediscovering leadership, as I tried to do recently, taught me more about my strategic and transformational approach. To be a good and trusted leader you must be assertive when leading a team and set clear measurable objectives that everyone can visualise. I also learned that situational awareness and actively listening are key. If we are unaware, then it leaves very little room to find the appropriate solutions. Lastly, we must learn to effectively network to establish an unwavering connection with likeminded individuals who can be a resource in times of need.
Are you on the path to re-discovering leadership?