While successful leaders from various industries and companies possess similar attributes, they are still individuals with their own set of motivations and engagement triggers. Understanding leadership qualities is part of the success, the greater balance is when a leader can identify, deliver and accelerate the implementation of the strategic plan to transform the business and engage those around them.
Throughout the years, I have worked closely with many successful leaders and have observed that their drive and focus tends to concentrate around five defining areas of motivation and activity - Learning, Traction, Agility, Visioning, and Personalizing. I am sure there are other slight variations to this list; however, these five areas seem to consistently exemplify where strategic leaders thrive.
Looking, listening and observing are the key actions to learning. You need to absorb and understand clearly what your role is as a leader, what the company and stakeholders expect from you and if the people you are leading will follow you. Leadership is not about the titles, it is about whatI call “followship.” As a leader, if you don’t have followers then you are just out in the front by yourself!
Whether you are new to the organization or heading into your third decade, great learning comes from employees on a 360-degree level. The ability to relate to all teams and individuals and foster ideas and innovation from all demographics and profiles is one of the best enablers to gain commitment from those within the organization. At times it can be difficult to digest every piece of feedback and information. That’s why, when possible, it is important to spend more time cultivating a collaborative environment. No success has been dependent on just one individual – the idea may surface from one person, but it takes many people along the journey to implement the idea.
Whether it’s “your” strategy, the strategy of the business or something that just has to happen (which many refer to as the “we need astrategy fast”), a leader needs to be able to translate and gain traction quickly. This can be thought of as velocity.What you have learned over the many years – experiences, mentors, wins, failures and sometimes “no idea but I’ll go with my gut” – will all link toyour accountability. The moment will come where demonstrating what you have learned has never been so important.
What is absolutely critical with traction is your relationship to the team around you: you need to be able to lead and at the same time be a part of the team. This balanced approach involves both independent thinking and a careful application of actions that have been built through consensus with the team and discussions with your peer group. Being boldis good, though remember, the thinnest part of the branch is right out at the end. In saying this, there are times when you have to apply and engage with only 80% of the facts. The ability to act is what differentiates strong leaders from the weak ones – risk is inevitable in most decisions but when a decision is made, make sure to accelerate.
Showing your team where the activity and focus is and setting the pace to meet business goals and objectives is a crucial action. One law that is always in play is “the plan” will always go off track. As a leader, you must command the agility to not only change direction but also ensure individuals and teams are moving quickly to the new direction. At times, it is less about why did this happen (as there is always plenty of time to read about the past) and more about how to mobilize the “realignment” team.
Most leaders develop their troubleshooting list, or “checklist for success,” by capturing everything which may go wrong or off script and then titling this list at the top “Success Indicators.” Changing direction brings challenges. The key to achieving success is to make sure that communication gets out, across and down. Otherwise, it’s like a sharp turn on a sailboat – if everyone is not aware of what is happening, some will fall overboard.
Whether you have been in your current company and position for many years or for a few months, a leader should look at what they want to be known for while they are at the organization and, equally importantly, what they want to be known for after they have left.
As a leader are you to be known as one who has pioneered a new market position, driven significant financial growth or turnaround, become a true culture builder through living the values and ethics of the organization or impacted social responsibility beyond current trends? This visioning usually starts from day one – what will be your greatest legacy?
Of course, there needs to be alignment between a leader’s visioning and that of the organization. The success of this alignment will also pivot on the time spent building the right teams. This will be very much about attracting, motivating and engaging those with highly different but complementing skills who are ‘like-minded' in their visioning ability. The right winning leadership teams will also cascade down to cultivate a “one focus through many employees” culture.
One of the greatest gifts a leader can give is their personal time. Your vast knowledge and experience can have a significant impact on those not only in the immediate organization but also on those within your sphere of influence outside of the organization. Investing an hour, a day, or more on a regular basis for others will be instrumental to their success. The important thing is that you must want to do this and see genuine value in giving back. Some leaders tend to either seek approval or recognition for their deeds of giving back.True leaders do not. Their reward is that they have made a positive change to someone’s career, future, or both.
Whether you are called a mentor, coach, counsel, or even a conscience, it is imperative to remember that your involvement can (and will)shape others professionally, and at times financially, personally and even morally. Take this role seriously, it is a huge responsibility!
About Mark Lindley:
Mark Lindley is a member of the Bâton Global Advisory Board and Executive Director of CHASE Consultancy. With over 20 years as a HumanResources and Business leader, his career success has been through an entrepreneurial and curious approach to new challenges and ventures, keeping a firm focus on the strategic direction, regardless of the changing and ambiguous environment. Operating across the Middle East, Asia, Europe, UK, North America regions at Director, SVP and Group level HR positions within FTSE 100, MNCs and leading national brands, Mark has always had a highly commercial focus on sustainable growth of an organization. He is a proven leader, trusted adviser, coach and HR entrepreneur. Mark is invited and actively participates as a key note speaker, panelist and contributor to think-tanks on topics such as, business transformation, change management, culture engagement, talent capability, leadership, organizational design, learning frameworks and employee motivation.