To become a truly great leader requires more than good genes and a vision; it’s a skill that can be honed.
Steve Jobs and Jeff Bezos have been called visionaries, yet those who worked with them also recall their stormy behaviour. Don’t get me wrong; raw talent is a rare and precious gift, but for it to lead you to success, you will need to embrace it and learn to polish your skills.
Evolving from a “natural leader” to a great leader requires knowing your strengths and accepting your weaknesses to make room for improvement. Asking yourself the five questions below can help you determine what to focus on to improve your leadership style.
What’s The Difference Between ‘Decisive’ And ‘Egotistic’?
Great leaders are self-confident and strong-willed. They trust their judgement and form their own opinions, despite what others or data might suggest.
Being decisive means you can evaluate a situation quickly, make a smart choice then stick to it. It doesn’t mean you can’t be wrong or have doubts, but questioning your own choices too frequently makes it harder for others to follow your lead.
Having a strong sense of who you are and what you and your team are capable of removes a lot of the anxiety linked to decision making, because you know you’ll get over failures and see them as opportunities to learn and improve.
If you don’t naturally have a thick skin, take a step back when facing criticism; getting offended won’t get you anywhere, and you can’t please everyone. Employees will always have an opinion, but it is your job to set the course and make sure to give the proper feedback and instructions.
How Do You Inspire Others?
Even if you have an innate drive pushing you to accomplish great things, you’ll need help to reach your most ambitious goals. Especially when facing change or adversity, your job is to motivate your team beyond their natural resistance so that your organisation can achieve its mission.
If you heavily rely on policies and control to regulate your employees’ behaviour, perhaps it’s time to rethink the rules and start using constructive feedback and role modelling more often. Remember: your role is to enable, not control.
If you feel like you can’t delegate or find yourself thinking all too often “I should have done it myself”, one of two things might be happening. Either your staff has the capability, but there’s a lack of clear communication on your side that causes them to misunderstand the mission, or you didn’t hire the right people for the job, in which case you should probably look for people who share and own the company’s values.
How Do You Define Inclusiveness And Empathy?
Great leaders want everyone on their team to be a part of their success. They can read how people feel, identify their motivations and empower rather than reward. They build a sense of community and belonging that fosters collaboration and minimises conflict.
In return, because team members feel connected and working together towards a common goal, they self-govern, keeping in mind the company’s vision rather than its policies or procedures.
For example, an empowered employee facing a situation for which she has no guidelines will based her decisions on the company’s core values, whereas one who doesn’t have a strong sense of what it stands for will likely get stuck until given clear instructions.
How Open Minded Are You?
Being open-minded has a lot to do with confidence. If you often find yourself feeling threatened by change, you will likely have some difficulty adapting to an ever-changing landscape and react to change rather than initiate it.
Failing to anticipate environmental and internal changes is one of the deadliest sins for a leader and has caused numerous successful businesses to perish abruptly. If you catch yourself saying “if it’s not broken, don’t fix it”, beware: this short-sighted attitude could be the end of you.
Encourage innovation and let your teams surprise you with ideas and projects you would never have thought of. Practice open innovation and make sure to keep your finger on the pulse.
What Is Your Thought Process Before Acting?
Some of us have a natural gift for analysis, yet wisdom in leadership comes with experience. Visualising the best course of action at any given time requires intelligence, decisiveness, and the ability to pause and think before you act.
This is the difference between crisis management and navigating a plan; the best leaders know where they want to go and understand the consequences of both planned and unexpected challenges, allowing them to course-correct and bring viable solutions to meet long-term goals.
Learn to study the situation from multiple perspectives, consider all angles and repercussions and assess the risks in a realistic way. What is really at stake? How important is this momentary issue compared to the bigger plan?
Don’t be afraid to bring “subject matter experts” on board if you feel you can’t fully grasp the complexities of the issue at hand. Bringing people on board reinforces their purpose and shows your openness. It also helps them accept change once you’ve made up your mind about the best course of action.
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