Leadership is becoming more and more challenging due to the accelerating pace of change, increased performance expectations, and the changing nature of the workforce. Leaders need to be able to skilfully adapt their style to meet the needs of the situations they encounter and the people they lead. This requirement is a constant whether you’re heading a start-up or leading a small, medium or large established business. There are various kinds of leaders, and some more effective than others. What kind of a leader are you?
At its most basic level, leadership enables us to accomplish change and achieve organisational goals through the efforts of others. When stepping up to leadership level, it is no longer enough to rely on the very skills that got you this far, such as your unique content knowledge and technical or specialist skills. Every leader’s success ultimately depends on being able to effectively achieve the organisation’s goals through the efforts of others. This entails a shift towards developing new skill sets and the development of greater self-awareness.
Increasingly, leaders are faced with these challenges:
- The increasingly complex and specialised nature of work
- Dealing with a more diverse workforce which is often dispersed across different time-zones and locations
- Having to rely on others’ specialised knowledge and expertise
- Escalating performance expectations
- Having to manage more staff with fewer resources
The old models of hierarchical (up-and-down) authority are fast becoming outdated. It is increasingly more effective to engage, inspire and influence as a leader in order to rally a strong and loyal support network around you in order to achieve the organisation’s objectives. It is necessary to influence your direct reports, your peers, bosses and clients. In order to successfully engage these various stakeholders, leaders must be able to do these three things:
- Set a clear direction for the organisation, drawing on their skills of creativity, judgement and the ability to synthesise information and make timely decisions.
- Inspire others to work toward that direction, drawing on the ability to engage, communicate effectively with people and to bring out the best in individuals and groups.
- Mobilise others to achieve the organisation’s goals effectively, which requires the ability to drive performance and to manage change.
So how does a leader develop the skills of effective relationship management and influence?
It all starts with developing self-awareness, this is critical for developing effective self-management and social awareness, which is underpinned by empathy and understanding others. When you develop these effectively, you have the key elements of Emotional Intelligence (EQ). According to research, the most effective leaders have a better-than-average Emotional Intelligence.
The best and worst bosses
So while the best bosses routinely demonstrate strong interpersonal skills, the worst leaders are often unaware of how their behaviour affects others and underestimate the impact of this on their effectiveness. It is not uncommon for people with weak EQ and, thus, low awareness of self and how others see them to fall off the leadership rails somewhere mid-career if they have not addressed this developmental need. It often comes as a surprise that they can no longer rely on the very specialist or technical skills that got them thus far. Trying to carry on as usual and ignoring the requirements of the changed landscape comes at a cost to not only the individuals and their career, but also to their organisations in terms of the damaging impact they can have.
A case study
I once came across a leader who was a very high achiever; he had strong entrepreneurial attributes, was very focused on his goals, quick to see opportunities, quick to act and not afraid to take risks. Sometimes it seemed as if luck was on his side. His strengths and skills enabled him to achieve business momentum and growth, but his lack of empathy and EQ almost derailed him a number of times.
As a leader, he was a force to be reckoned with and inconsistent in his moods and behaviours. He did not see the merit in undertaking self-development work to improve his leadership skills nor did he see the value of investing in developing the leadership skills of his managers. He chose to harness the empathy and relating skills of others, enlisting them to “fix” things and to try and mend broken relationships after the damage had been done.
The costs of poor leadership
Poor leadership practices left a fallout of disgruntled managers and staff. The inevitable outcome; staff unease, poor morale, a disengaged workforce and high turnover.
Not only was this costly to the organisation in the extra time spent putting out unnecessary fires, in mending broken relationships and finding suitable new staff, it was also costing money in the re-hiring, re-training and in the lost productivity due to staff disengagement and the damage caused to the organisation’s name and brand.
What you can do to improve your leadership abilities
You can improve your leadership abilities in a way that will adapt your own natural leadership style and personality wiring to the requirements of your role and situation. The best leaders are skillful at adapting their style to meet the needs of the situations they’re faced with and the people they lead. There are many resources available to aid leadership growth and development, including the use of personality assessments and coaching. The Myers Briggs Type Indicator is one of the most powerful tools used in leadership development.
The MBTI tool can help you to understand your natural leadership style and equip you to be a more effective leader by:
- Understanding how your personality type impacts your own thinking and behaviour and how this impacts your relationships
- Being aware of how others’ personality type differences affect their own interactions with their inner and outer environment, on their thinking, behaviour and interactions with others
- Gaining insight into people’s differences and identifying how complementary strengths can be harnessed to boost your team impact
- Empowering staff by supporting the development of their own self-awareness to:
- Enable them to appreciate their strengths
- Better manage their weaknesses and potential pit-falls
- Recognise and better manage the stress responses and patterns and behaviours related to their personality
- Improve their own productivity and effective engagement
- Improve their own interactions with others both within and outside the organisation (think of the impact on clients and major stake-holders)
- Develop strengths-based, collaborative working relationships
So now you have a way of not only developing your EQ, but also of boosting your own leadership power and effectiveness, and for magnifying this by getting the best out of your staff. What kind of a leader can you be?
Download my Free “5 Ways to Keep Employees Engaged, Happy and Productive” Poster.
To find out more or to arrange an obligation free discussion to explore how you can develop your leadership potential, you can get in touch with me here.