Four Steps to Leadership Success

THERE IS NO shortage of books on leadership. It seems that hardly a week goes by without some senior business executive or management guru going into print with their thoughts and insights on how to get to the top and become a great corporate leader. Visit any bookstore and you will find entire sections dedicated to weighty volumes on the secrets of leadership and management. There are television shows, websites, magazines and seminars focusing on the same topics. The reason is clear: businesses have to achieve better results in a highly competitive environment and must keep finding ways to do more with less.

Ultimate responsibility for making this happen lies with leaders, and that does not Simply mean CEOs. There may be hundreds of people in any organisation - department heads, functional managers, team supervisors and project coordinators – and each one of them is required to lead others effectively.

As a manager, you will be responsible for outcomes which may be measured in terms of profit, growth, revenue, efficiency and return on investment. These will always be based on what your team has achieved, and their performance is linked inextricably to the sum of how each person thinks, feels and acts.

Behaviour in the workplace is directly attributable to the culture of an organisation, which evolves from the way things are done, the accepted practices and routines, and the way people interact with their colleagues. That culture, in turn, is influenced predominantly by two major factors: management and leadership.

Hundreds of MBA programmes and “how to” books explain the skills needed to be a better manager, these cover planning and budgeting, accomplishing objectives, organizing things so as to maximise resources, problem solving and monitoring results against targets. In other words, management deals with the rational elements that drive a business.

Leadership, in contrast, is more people focused. It is about having vision, developing individual capabilities, motivating, energizing others to embrace change, and encouraging excellence.

Although the two always go hand in hand, leadership usually defines attempts at quantification or measurement. Nevertheless, it is fundamental to the success or failure of companies, business units, teams and initiatives. In fact, research suggests that the leadership style of a senior executive can be 70 per cent responsible for shaping corporate culture; management skills account for only 30 per cent of any impact made. Remember that when considering the direct line which runs between corporate culture, staff motivation, individual performance and business results.

So what does this mean for people in leadership roles? Firstly, they should recognise that broader objectives will not be achieved just by improving day-to-day management efficiency. They will probably have to change the way they act and behave, since leadership embraces so much. One International study found there are more than 800 different definitions of leadership, which touch on everything from integrity, trustworthiness and passion to being results-focused, energetic and inspirational. Whatever you look for from a leader, others will expect that and more of you.

You may not be at the top of the corporate ladder but your business unit, team or project is looking to you as a leader.

Regardless of the role you have in your organisation, as a manager you need a framework to establish and build your own leadership style. One framework is based on four As: awareness, aspiration, action and alignment.

Awareness is the first step in developing your leadership profile. In any given situation or event you go through, a conscious or subconscious thought process results in a response or behaviour. It is this behaviour that impacts your team. So, true awareness is not just an understanding of your thinking and behaviour, it is also an understanding of how your actions affect others. Find out how others perceive you; after all, it is your colleagues and team members who decide whether you are a good or great leader.

With awareness and insight, you can strive to maximise those traits that are working to your advantage and have a positive effect on the team, and minimise those traits which are self-defeating or working to your disadvantage.

Aspiration is your ability to communicate a vision. In the broadest context, the vision could be your team’s formal mission statement, strategic intent or business charter. Or it could simply be a message to increase sales, improve performance, drive quality or reduce expenses. Being aspirational is about communicating a way that helps your team create a relationship to the desired outcomes. To do this, your message needs to make a personal and intellectual connection with the audience. The challenge is to determine the amount and degree of each based on your audience, situation and objective.

Action is your ability to create a high-performance team where the sum of everyone’s input is greater than individual contributions.

For teams to be successful, there must be objectives which are clear and progressive; roles and responsibilities which are drawn from the skills and commitment of the team members; an environment which leverages diversity and differences; and processes for group planning and decision-making.

Teams need a structure and it is a leader’s responsibility to provide this framework.

Alignment is your ability to drive the behaviour and performance of individual team members.

Everyone you come in content with will have different skills and motivation

Motivation is a feeling within a person and not something that can be imposed on them. However as a leader you can create an environment that encourages people to want to do their best. By understanding what motivates a person and his or her skill level, you can coach, empower and delegate to ensure everyone’s actions are aligned with the business outcomes.

Being an effective leader is not a skill or attribute attained only by the few that have a natural gift. It is about using awareness, aspiration, action and alignment to build your leadership foundation.

As various respected academic studies have noted, 90 per cent of a leader’s role is communication.

The first step to becoming a great leader is understanding how your behaviour affects the people around you; the next step is taking concrete action to build the leadership presence you desire.

In the final analysis, it is about achieving business outcomes, and these outcomes are based directly on your leadership behaviour.



Management vs Leadership These two words are often used interchangeably, probably because they can be used to describe or define the same person. However, there is a clear difference between management and leadership. Management is more task focused, related to efficiency and implementation. It is about solving problems and consistently producing results; it is about getting things done. Leadership on the other hand, is more people focused. It is not about what happened yesterday or is happening today; it is about looking into the future. It is not communicating to inform, but communicating to bring people along with you on a journey. Leadership is also about developing individual capabilities, motivating and energising the team to embrace change and encouraging them to be the best they can be. In the end, a successful manager needs to lead and a successful leader needs to manage.

Being a Perfectionist A good leader should understand the difference between the act of perfecting something and the concept of perfectionism. Too often, leaders who are perfectionists are not satisfied with their own or the results achieved by others. Even if the outcome is high quality, the results may not meet expectations because the standards are unrealistic. The diligence and hard work might get noticed, but in the end this perfectionist behaviour may be self-defeating. Leaders then start micromanaging, doing it themselves or getting caught up in the details and losing sight of the big picture. This is not to say that the other extreme is acceptable, where leaders may be taking a more casual approach to completing a project or not pushing and testing the team enough to realise its potential. In such situations, results could be inferior or incomplete. For successful leadership, the key is to get the right balance.

Being the Coach A leader could take many roles – each with a specific purpose and process. One could be that of a coach. Coaching is an interactive process to help an individual achieve a goal. A trait of a good coach is the ability to align a person’s individual goal with that of the team. No two coaching sessions are alike, since everyone in the team has a different motivation and skill level. Some may be great at their job, but lack the interest. Others may not have the technical skills but possess a big desire to succeed. The key in coaching is to understand the individual and then plan for a coaching session that helps the individual unlock his or her potential. It is important to remember that coaching is more about enabling and encouraging than telling and instructing. To be a great coach requires a genuine interest in the other person. The coaching process is not about self, it is about the team member. It is about helping others realise their full potential.