Real leaders — not those people who run for office every other year, promising “real” leadership for a change — possess a combination of qualities and leadership characteristics that make us want to follow them. Whether we naturally gravitate to these quality individuals or we subconsciously recognize their leadership, we follow them. So, what does it take to be an effective business leader?
Leaders are able to create a vision of a positive future, which begins the process of getting buy-in from the team. A leader without a vision is not a leader all, they are called a manager.
An effective business leader understands how to capitalize on the assets of the organization in order to create a successful vision.
Leaders know their business. They know the market and they know their customers. This enables them to set a vision and strategy based on knowing, not guessing.
An effective business leader notices the details, which can be strung together to make the strategy. Leaders pay attention to the details and ensure that those details don’t fall through the cracks during implementation.
Leadership requires communicating the strategy in order to accomplish the vision. A leader must be a good communicator, must give speeches, and must motivate the group towards the vision. Leaders get buy-in to ensure results.
In order to lead others, one must truly believe in and care about the strategy and vision. Nobody wants to follow a half-hearted leader.
A leader must overcome many obstacles and objections when trying to lead. Maintaining ones position requires sticking to your beliefs.
Leading means making a commitment to the cause. An effective business leader leads by example and is the first to act on the strategy they are espousing.
Continuous improvement applies to leaders as well as processes. A good leader knows when to accommodate others to achieve a greater good.
Making decisions is what a leader does. Decisions may not always be liked but leaders make them anyway to keep the organization moving forward.
Is there such a thing as innovative leadership quality? It seems anyone can be trained to be a manager, but leaders are cut from a different cloth. Why? It’s not that they’re born that way. They can be made, but there’s no easily reproducible process, no easy-to-follow recipe or we’d be doing it all the time.
The service academies seem to have the greatest success in this regard — they purposely educate and groom individuals to be leaders by instilling discipline, self-sacrifice, and an unshakable work ethic and by constantly emphasizing the need to plan for the best but prepare for the worst. Still, even they don’t have anything close to a perfect track record when it comes to turning out leaders. Similarly, there are outstanding leaders throughout history who never served in the military.
Imagine yourself (CEO) in the place of the officer in charge. Your organization is the castle/outpost/fortress under siege. You can fight or you can surrender; you’re surrounded, so retreat is not an option. It looks like there’s little chance of a favorable outcome for your small group. What do you do?
Your company might not be literally “under siege” but when times are tough for your business, what do you do? You must execute good leadership in crisis.
Get out in front of your employees. If you don’t demonstrate leadership capability, who will follow you?
There’s the expedient thing to do and there’s the right thing to do. If you believe in yourself, your product, and your employees, you’ll do the right thing.
Convince yourself there’s no such thing as impossible, then demonstrate your conviction to your troops.
You know who your employees look up to — make those individuals part of your circle of command (“C of C”). Don’t lock yourself into one hierarchy.
Now that you have a more full circle of commands, determine your options within it.
Realistically assess your resources, strengths, and weaknesses.
Plan for both the best- and worst-case scenarios.
Do this for all your employees and explain why you prefer option ”x”.
Let them choose whether to take a stand with you or cast their lot elsewhere. Those who aren’t firmly with you will weigh you down.
Now that you have a great plan, the final step is to actually go through with it.
Remember — anyone can play a leader when things are going well. It’s leadership in crisis that determines who our true leaders are.