Leadership Principles that Count
What is the most important leadership principle? Sustainability – it includes all other leadership principles. Short term fixes are always everyone’s undoing in the long-run.
Unfortunately, the rewards for the current leader are usually for short term results rather than long term viability. He or she will also be dealing with the fall out from previous leader’s short term fixes.
System wide leadership
The leaders define the organization. By leader, we do not mean the main person at the very top, but leaders at every level. You can even consider that each individual is a leader of himself or herself.
If the strength of the leader defines the company, then the leader needs support from the company she leads. Of course, leadership is not just in commercial organizations.
Good training includes teaching of systems principles rather than a linear focus on separate techniques, models and methods. More importantly, they consider long-term consequences, as well as quick fixes.
Mentoring at all levels
The company must establish a clear-cut mentoring program, and use it throughout the company at all levels. Leaders at the top must determine what leadership traits leadership skills and values leaders at all levels should possess. When fleshed out, these skills and values can maintain unity and productivity within the company. In this way, you set standards not only for the leaders of the company, but also for every level.
Leadership by example
Ideally, those at the very top should find these traits, skills and values within themselves as well. Executive self-development must be a priority for a leader, and is one of the most important leadership principles.
Self-development is essential in that the leader must know her own strengths and weaknesses. She also needs to recognize the traits required to influence and impress others. Constantly improving one’s skills and abilities, particularly about people is vital.
Leadership in practice – task and relationship
Studies have shown (1) that the most valuable CEOs know their business or product inside out, are innovative decision makers, and are experts at risk management. While most leaders have strong technical ability, the difference that makes the difference relates to emotional capabilities and relationship management.
The leader must also be flexible in tackling emergencies and conflicts as they arise. We can judge a good, strong leader by how quickly and efficiently he/she deals with a crisis. Handling emergencies well needs established strong relationships and networks.
Focus on opportunities, but consider consequences.
Seeing opportunities is a skill. Western rational culture tends to be problem oriented rather than creative. A leader must be able to weigh decisions according to outcomes and consequences, as well as see the opportunities in situations. There is a tendency to have strengths in either seeing consequences or opportunities.
People move toward what they want or away from what they don’t want. These different strategies are skills that enable us to see opportunities and consider consequences. It is good to be able to do both
Ability to use feedback positively
Strong leaders take responsibility for their actions and are able to recover from failure quickly by using results as informative feedback rather than a comment on their abilities. Being able to stand back and evaluate a result without beating yourself up is a powerful skill.
Delegation is not about issuing commands
The ability to deal with subordinates and peers is the most important leadership principle. Making yourself and your vision understood is a big part of this.
Working out who is best for each task, as well as delegating work effectively is an advanced skill. Effective delegation means everyone must be clear what the outcome should be and how to measure results. It includes knowing what needs doing, who to give the task to, and what information and other resources you need to provide.
Telling employees how to do the task and then micromanaging can lead to their diminished capability. It is also time consuming and one of the biggest sources of stress.
Defining tasks accurately is important and often overlooked. We know what me mean and think everyone else does too. It also shows you where your own gaps are.
You must reward team work.
Many organizations say they want people to cooperate and be able to work as a team, but then reward individual effort. Competition between teams and individuals can be healthy and can advance a company’s productivity, but often does not.
As in team sports, competition is best directed to the other side rather than within. The individual who wants to be a superstar can sabotage everyone’s results.
The foundational leadership principle
These important leadership principles support executive self development. A strong leader is a leader who keeps improving; a definition that also goes for a strong company, as well.
(1) Daniel Goleman, The New Leaders