The concept of effective leadership has changed over the years. The old-style concept of a leader being the directing chief at the top of a hierarchy is incomplete at best, harmful to the organization or company at worst. In today’s world, this view simply does not truly appreciate the very nature of true leadership.
Leadership is also misunderstood to mean directing and instructing people and making important decisions on behalf of an organization. Yes, leaders make decisions. Yes, leaders instruct and teach. However, effective leadership involves much more than these.
The very nature of effective leadership is seen in an understanding of the difference between “management” and “leadership.” They are often mistaken as one and the same, which they are not.
There are distinguishing differences:
- Management is concerned with processes / Leadership is concerned with behavior.
- Management relies on measurable capabilities like systems, goals, planning and evaluation.
- Leadership, while involving many management skills, relies on less tangible and measurable things like trust, inspiration, motivation and personal character.
While a bit simplified, we can boil down the main difference between management and leadership to be: Leadership is about leading people and influencing behavior. Management is about managing processes and securing results.
With this difference in mind, let’s look at five tips for effective leadership:
1. Become a servant. Effective leadership involves serving. Too many leaders go about this backwards. They see the role of their people as servants to them as the leader. Good leaders see themselves as a servant of the organization and the people within it. Ineffective leadership takes. It sets itself up to garner favor or personal gain. Servant leadership is an opportunity to give and to give in such a way that fosters growth in people.
2. Understand that leadership is about people. While leadership does involve making decisions and taking action, it is centrally concerned with people and behavior.
Strong leaders are able to see and understand vital relationships even within large and complex networks of people. These leaders then focus on building those vital relationships in such a way that adds to the trust level between them and these networks. People follow leaders they trust. They also are drawn to leaders who possess positive qualities like:
Integrity, honesty, humility, courage, commitment, sincerity, confidence, positivity, compassion; just to name a few.
When it all comes down to it, effective leaders can express their humanity in such a way that fosters trust and builds commitment from those they seek to lead.
3. Be an engaging conversationalist. Smart leaders spend their time starting and advancing conversations within their organization, not running away and hiding from them.
It is nearly impossible to engender the necessary confidence, trust and loyalty a leader must possess without being fully engaged. A leader spends as much time out of the confines of the office engaging in real conversation with people as they do in their office planning, decision-making and organizing. Whether in person, over the phone, via email, through the social web, or even by sending a good old fashion “thank you” note – be an engaging conversationalist.
4. Listen. This tip piggy backs off of the former one. As you are an engaging conversationalist, listen. Great leaders realize that there is far more to be gained by surrendering control of the conversation than by dominating it. Being a leader doesn’t give license for you to talk just to hear your head rattle. Powerfully effective leaders realize the value of what can be gleaned from the minds of others. Know when it is time to stop talking and start listening. People want to be heard. They need their voice to be affirmed.
5. Lead yourself. It’s important that leaders have the ability to focus and motivate themselves as they motivate others. In fact, without this ability securely fastened in your own life, you cannot be a truly effective leader of others. I believe we really do lead by example. It is vitally important that we have a handle on the leadership of ourselves so that we have a positive, strong and trustworthy example for those we lead. Leaders know that while some people can be considered “natural born leaders,” most have to learn the art. Therefore, effective leaders seek opportunities for personal growth. They seek out books to read, seminars they can attend or personal coaches to foster their growth. Leaders never stop learning for their benefit and the benefit of those they serve. Leadership is an exciting thing. It can be the most joyous and personally fulfilling work you do. It is my hope that you find these tips helpful along your journey.