What distinguishes a great leader from a mediocre or even good leader?
The truth is there is more than a single quality that differentiates the great leader from others.
Rather, great leaders are great because they employ several leadership tools to turn goals into desired results!
Leadership tools are skills and mechanisms that great leaders use to get the most out of themselves and their teams.
Just like a mechanic has a specific tool for a specific job, the leader has similar mechanisms to respond to the wide array of challenges faced in the current workplace.
The more tools a leader is equipped with, the quicker and more capable they will be at keeping operations running smoothly and efficiently.
Below, are examples of 10 mechanisms used by great leaders:
1. Accountability. Because they believe they can be effective, great leaders hold themselves accountable. They promise what they will do and do what they say when they say they will do it. They hold themselves responsible for their commitments and efforts, even when they cannot control the outcome.
2. Responsibility. A key step in becoming a great leader of other people is becoming a great leader in your own life. And that means taking responsibility for everything that happens to you and your business, while maintaining the ability to respond in an adaptive and constructive way. This means that the leader has the responsibility to respond to the inputs or messages received from a centered place, one that is not overly influenced by past interactions or news of the day.
The leader’s responsibility is also being able to clearly recognize their own strengths and weaknesses, as well as the strengths and weaknesses of their team. It is only with honest assessments of strengths and weaknesses that improvements can be made.
3. Clear Direction and Goals. Great leaders provide clear direction on goals and roles. They inform the team of the specific goals of each project and either assign roles or instruct the team to work together to clearly define each person’s role on projects.
4. Do not Assume. Ask and observe.1 Whenever we try to guess another person’s motives or intentions, over 90% of the time we are wrong. For this reason, great leaders also do not assume they know the reason a team member may be performing less than ideally. So, when a team member’s performance falls short of expectations, or they are late on important assignments, do not assume you know the reason.
5. Proactively Address Problems. When team members are not meeting expectations, however, it is best to have the difficult conversation. But this conversation should initially involve close listening. Phrases such as “Help me understand what specific barriers you encountered when working on this project” can open the conversation to help inform the next steps and the appropriate response from the leader.
6. Maximize Creative Intelligence. Creative intelligence increases when we stop rushing, and think less, not more. The leader who can infuse creative intelligence into the workplace can positively impact the energy and creativity of the entire group. When team members feel the calm energy emanating from the leader, they are much more likely to also work in a non-rushed manner, which means the creativity and quality of the work of the group could exponentially increase.
Great leaders also recognize the difference between creating and problem-solving. Although both are important to success, the energy behind the two is distinct.
The energy behind creation is typically calm, rather than anxious or frenetic, with attention being focused on converting what is in the mind’s eye into reality. In contrast, the energy behind problem-solving is typically a bit more aggressive, and can sometimes feel manic, as the goal is to solve a problem as quickly as possible, and then move to the next problem.
7. Work with Humor Every Day. Another way the leader can help the team feel comfortable and maximize the collective creative intelligence is to instill a little levity by using humor. In every enterprise, there will be unexpected setbacks, barriers, and surprises, both negative and positive. At these times, it can be helpful for the leader to not react too strongly or seriously to keep the morale of the team positive.
8. Acknowledge Others. Every person needs to feel genuinely seen and valued just for showing up. This means that the leader should always take time to acknowledge and validate others, no matter how busy he or she is at the time.
Another way a leader can give individualized valuing to others is by recognizing their unique situation whenever he/she makes a request or assignment. For example, the leader can inform the individual of the specific reason they are being asked to work on a task with phrases such as the following:
- “Here’s why I’m asking you…”
- “I know you are busy. If you will help with this, how can I take something else off your list?
After the completion of an important project, the leader should identify and recognize distinctive individual effort. Group recognition always fails because it inadvertently makes individuals feel invisible and devalued. It is, of course, ok to acknowledge effective team effort, but after doing so, the leader should acknowledge specific individual contributions.
9. Give Access to Others Even When Limited for Time. When we are busy of feel overwhelmed, it can be easy to withdraw from our team and not be available to them. An alternative approach during busy times is to still be available to your team but to set clear boundaries before impromptu meetings. The power of statements such as “I have one minute…” can let the team member know what they have to say is important but that your time is limited now. Such statements can be followed with statements such as “If we need more time, we will schedule it.”
Time can also feel differently based on our physical position. For example, standing for one minute can feel like almost nothing, whereas sitting for one minute can feel like 10 minutes.
10. Long-Term Vision. Finally, great leaders have a long-term vision of where they are going and how they are going to get there. In a world with new fads and trends emerging weekly, and sometimes daily, it is essential to have a north star that can be referenced at all times.
When dealing with especially difficult challenges or situations, it is the anchor of a long-term vision that keeps a leader centered and simplifies the path moving forward.
To start leveraging leadership tools, look through the above list and see how many of the mechanisms you are currently employing. If any of the above seem foreign to you, that is more than likely the exact area you need to focus on.
The act of increasing your awareness about leadership tools is the first step. The next step is being a receptive enough leader so when challenges present themselves, you are able to naturally exercise the information you learned to capitalize on the opportunity.
At CEOE, we can help you develop leadership tools and increase receptiveness in the workplace. Get in contact to learn more about how we can work together.