Successful and Effective Leadership

The Ideas in Brief:
What is needed to be an innovative leader, capable of driving engaged employees,organizational changes and business outcomes?

Leadership: leaders manage organizations!leaders manage people! Yet, not all leaders are good managers, and not all managers are good leaders. Key is that leaders need to be able to lead as well as manage.
Leadership is about creating an engaged employee population.So,this paper is about providing insights into leadership characteristics and an awareness of key management skills along with the right competencies.Motivated employees are more engaged and a result of effective leadership.Successful leaders have courage, take charge, know the right things to do,and actually do them.

Foundational Background

Before identifying key leadership capabilities and providing an understanding of the impact they can have on business outcomes, here is a quick picture of the value and purpose of employee engagement as well as the application of the competencies which will serve as the knowledge foundation.
Highly engaged employees are emotionally and intellectually committed to deliver high performance.  They take pride in their work as well as in the organization.  They are more aligned with the company goals and willing to exert discretionary effort.  An “E Cubed Employee” is an individual who is energetic, enthusiastic and engaged.  These direct reports to leaders and other employees usually stay with organizations longer and are more creative as well as innovative.  Quality and productivity are high and these engaged employees contribute more successfully to the bottom line.  Strong and effective leaders build organizations with an engaging cultural environment, recognizing and rewarding contributions, driving innovative approaches, and a more adaptive willingness to accept change.
So, now let’s define what leadership competencies are, why they are important, and how they can bring value to an organization.  A competency is based on three categories – knowledge, mastery of subject understanding; - skills and abilities, learned capabilities, both mentally and physically; - behaviors, conduct, pattern of actions and standards.  We can actually group these three categories into two components:
1.    Hard Skills - the know-how and technical skills
-    the cognitive abilities
-    the “what”
2.    Soft Skills – the abilities to listen, influence, adapt, communicate and collaborate
-    the human capabilities
-    the “how”

The purpose of having clearly identified leadership competencies is that they define the applications of leadership as part of performance management, workplace planning and people development.  Basically, the value of using competencies helps define desired behaviors, establish a leadership style, drive a common communication approach, build the desired work environment, and create a specific culture. Clearly identified leadership competencies helps create a structure which defines a focused leader who is fully aligned with the organizational strategies as well as unique priorities.

Leadership Competencies and Value-Resulting Outcomes

Leadership competencies define and unleash effective leadership which can drive positive, innovative and impactful outcomes.  Yet, the list of capabilities, skills and behaviors can be substantially long, and may even be defined differently based on the expected results.  Therefore, the ideal approach would be to group the competencies so that there is a simpler, clearer focused and easier utilized set so that personal leadership successes can be achieved.

The carefully assembled group of ten competencies represents a blend which can drive employee engagement, motivation and results.  Utilizing all of this (or most) of this consolidated list of capabilities is very different from past management practices, where being strong in only a few areas was acceptable and based on desired effectiveness practices.  Of course, being a flexible leader as well as a vulnerable one remains a critical component of dynamic leadership. 

Each competency represents the “how’ in the building of strong organizations.  It is a process and a set of behaviors which can differentiate the company from the competition.  The “what” describes the desired results through the application and utilization of specific competencies.  It helps define the direction one takes to achieve the established goals.  And, the “why” provides the value and purpose for each special skill and capability.  This thought process follows the “Golden Circle” model of Simon Sinek, the author of Start with Why, published 2009.  The model codifies the three distinct and interdependent elements that make organizations function at their highest level.  The key is to always understand the complexities and volatility of an ever-changing business climate as well as the escalating challenges leaders have to address to achieve shareholder value and to create profitable growth.

The following informative details describe a consolidated list of ten competencies and leadership behaviors which can have a major impact on business outcomes and a competitive advantage. A strategically focused company can become more creative, very customer focused, and capable of achieving, in an outstanding fashion, the established vision and mission.  The vision is the big picture based on core values, and the mission is based on an innovative purpose.  Leaders, utilizing most of the competencies, have the ability to inspire and energize the employee population to achieve the organization’s vision for the future.

Examination of each of the Ten Competencies

One: Leader as Coach
Coaching is a fundamental part of developing the skills of the people in an organization so that they have the capacity to solve today’s business problems and challenges.The competency of coaching vastly increases the leader’s ability to enhance employee performance as well as to enrich relationships.  Coaching is a process of developing new strengths and building the capacity to facilitate change.  Through new approaches, alternative problem-solving is discovered and learned.  And employees are able to identify potential opportunities so that they can become stronger contributors to the organization.

    “Coaches anchor people to their own internal strengths; they inspire organizations
     to dream beyond their plans.  They apply emotional and intellectual intelligence
     to the long haul of life and work.”
Frederic Hudson – Hudson Institute of Santa Barbara, California

Resulting Outcomes and Values

•    Increase in innovative thinking
•    More competitive organization
•    Ability to handle continuous change within the organization
•    Self-discovery of new levels of creativity and imagination
•    Personal development
•    Higher levels of energy and commitment to challenges

Two: Leader as Feedback Expert
Giving and receiving feedback is a discovery process which fosters growth and development.  Everyone wants and relishes feedback so that they can learn and enhance their actions as well as personal results.  Feedback provides clear direction instead of allowing people to make assumptions about their abilities to contribute to the organization.  The competency of conducting feedback conversations is based on two types – formal or documented feedback; and informal or regular, day-to-day feedback.  Both are development opportunities and drivers of performance.  Beyond providing “no” feedback or only giving “positive” or “negative” feedback, blended or balanced feedback has the greatest benefits for the individual as well as the organization.  Leaders have the responsibility to provide honest feedback based on good intentions and with a focus on behaviors as well as actionable activities.  The skill of giving and receiving feedback is a powerful leadership competency.

“Before you become a leader, success is about growing yourself.  When you become
     a leader, success is all about growing others.”  Jack Welsh

Resulting Outcomes and Values
•    Growth of both the individual and the organization
•    Stronger performance and engagement
•    Understanding of the value of being pushed out of one’s comfort zone
•    Building of trust and ability to handle change
•    Fortifies employee retention and morale
•    Resolves issues and helps maintain goal alignment

Three: Leader as Active Listener
Active listening is an art.  It is also a process of removing filters and judgments, and of building awareness and deeper understanding.  This competency is based on seeking insights and not just mentally preparing a reply.  It is based on developing complete context and being fully present.  It involves both the mind and the body.  The mind needs to be open, looking for the central theme and analyzing what is being said as well as not being said.  The body requires eye contact, watching for non-verbal signs, and not interrupting.  The leader must develop engagement and connections from the heart.

    “When you talk, you are only repeating what you already know; but when
     you listen, you may learn something new.”  Dalai Lama

    Resulting Outcomes and Values
•    Greater insights and diverse perspectives
•    Stronger collaboration, especially in decision-making
•    Higher levels of engagement and motivation
•    Growth of relationships and personal bonding

Four: Leader as Visionary
Leaders need to develop and communicate a clear and compelling picture of the future for an organization.  They need to secure the commitment to the established vision.  This competency of setting a challenging and motivating directional focus establishes the guidance for the allocation of time and resources.  It is the foundation for all decision-making processes as well as for creating the expected standards.  An inspiring vision builds effective relationships, supportive followers, and a comprehensive understanding of the long-term direction.  The vision is used to establish various goals and specific objectives.  Goals are usually defining the “big-picture”.  They are the drivers of the organization and more strategic in nature.  Objectives are more tactical, short-term focused, and are used to set concrete action steps.  For this reason, objectives are more individually driven.  Key is that both (goals and objectives) have clearly defined and desired end-points, have observable and measureable end results, and have achievements with fixed time frames.  Objectives help individuals reach company goals.  The leader builds an inspiring vision which is meaningful and uplifting.

    “Some men look at things the way they are and ask why?  I dream of the things
     that are not and ask why not.”  Robert Kennedy

Resulting Outcomes and Values
•    Driving results and adding value based on a future orientation
•    Clarity of purpose and expectations
•    Effective time management
•    Assessment of progress and action, as well as performance
•    Impact on bottom line through the management of resources and costs

Five: Leader as Observer
Leaders mobilize people throughout an organization to meet the challenges expected of them and to continuously build adaptive behaviors.  They do not need to have all the answers and always be right.  As already stated, there are many specific competencies a leader needs to embrace, such as being an active listener which is an important one to possess.  This competency can be overlooked at times, yet an effective leader needs to be a good observe, able to gain full “context” for change.  They need to know their people and understand their complexities which drive performance.  The “observing” leader needs to be able to feel the pulse of the organization and to be able to recognize employee patterns of functionality as well as dysfunctionality.  Stepping back out of the actions, a leaders needs to observe and reflect on the requirements of the company so that they can better drive the inspirational vision and make sure it is fully aligned with the strategies.

 “To raise new questions, new possibilities, to regard old problems from a new angle, requires creative imagination and marks real advances in science.”
        Albert Einstein

Resulting Outcomes and Values
•    Drives the ability to meet individual and organizational needs
•    A way to demonstrate an understanding and interest in others
•    Builds empathy and shows support
•    Recognizes and appreciates outstanding contributions
•    Improves employee commitment and morale

Six: Leader as Acknowledger
Leaders need to fully understand and recognize the importance of showing direct reports, colleagues, and all employees, appreciation for their contributions.  Both formal and informal recognition drives employee motivation and engagement.  Key is to reinforce successful accomplishments along with the desired behaviors.  All of this can be achieved by praising others with depth and enthusiasm, along with making individuals feel valued.  So, this leadership competency is about using the power of acknowledgment – the ability to deliver true, heartfelt, profound and generous appreciation and gratitude. 

“When employees are engaged, they are passionate and feel a deeper connection
 to their work.  Grateful leaders achieve the bottom line and foster a value-driven
 workforce to build stronger professional relationships with customers, stakeholders,
 and employees.”  Judith Umlas – International Institute for Learning, Inc.

Resulting Outcomes and Values
•    Builder of commitment and a willingness to work harder
•    Driving a willingness to try new things and to go the extra mile
•    Helps with retention of talent
•    Inspiring higher levels of openness and empowerment

Seven: Leaders as Conversationalists
Leadership conversations are the foundation for the connections and alignment of the leader with the organization’s people – peers, direct reports and individuals at all levels regardless of roles and responsibilities.  It can be the straight forward path to success based on building strong “followers”.  This leadership competency of being a conversationalist is based on establishing connections through interactions along with aspects of “hearing” insights and “accepting” feelings.  Being an effective leader communicator propels an organization to produce successful results.  These types of key conversations can drive strategies, serve as a way to grow others, and build visionary alignment.  As with all leadership competencies, conversations build trust and respect, and supports the flow of bi-directional feedback.  Actions flow into relationships and a continuous cycle of decision-making and learning discoveries.  Innovative ideas move forward and into new possibilities.  Simply put, leadership conversations are constructive dialogues.  Again, one can see the cross-over and connection of this competency with the other leadership competencies – such as coaching & development, feedback & growth, and goal setting & vision.
    “Designing strategic conversations leads to continuous organizational learning
     about key decisions and priorities.  Yet, the most successful leaders are those who
     will see their fundamental work not as making-decisions, but as making mutual
     understanding.”  Peter Schwarts – author of The Art of the Long View

    Resulting Outcomes and Values
•    Fostering productivity and authentic relationships
•    Building higher levels of self-awareness
•    Driving team spirit and a dynamic team environment
•    Gaining higher levels of commitment

Eight: Leader as Communicator
As a key organizational communicator, the leader needs to be the primary deliverer of messages to the total company regarding overall direction, achieved successes, and the identified challenges.  This specific competency goes well beyond coaching as an assertive “asker”, and beyond just connecting one-on-one in “tell-oriented” conversations.  The leader as communicator must be able to build relationships with the total organization based on passion, by being very tell assertive, and even being willing to be vulnerable in-front of the full employee population.  Effective communication results in building trust.  The leader uses experiences and wisdom along with skills of persuasion and resilience to establish trust and integrity.  Walking-the-talk, and being open and honest with all messages, the leader becomes fully transparent and collaborative with the workforce, strengthening the organization based on “partnerships”.
    “The glue that holds all relationships together – including the relationships
     between the leader and the led is trust, and trust is based on integrity.”
         Brian Tracy

    Resulting Outcomes and Values
•    A more transparent business environment is created
•    Trust leads to respect and an appreciation for values as well as standards
•    A feeling of being valued as a contributor
•    Engagement, loyalty and retention are all increase

Nine: Leader as an Empowerer
To empower others helps drive other leadership characteristics such as high levels of rapport and trust.  The empowering leader shapes the organization as well as the culture by demonstrating a positive and nurturing quality in all employee interactions.  The competency specific to empowerment in the workplace is a way to mobilize employees to drive performance effectively and efficiently.  Empowerment enhances engagement, personal confidence and individual accountability.  The leader needs to have courage and become more accepting of new approaches to problem-solving and in finding innovative opportunities.  A leader should also delegate tasks, trusting and empowering employees to make key decisions.  A more dynamic organization evolves, one which is able to embrace complex challenges with higher levels of autonomy and interactive teams as well as colleagues.
    “People who don’t take risks generally make about two big mistakes a year;
     And people who do take risks generally make about two mistakes a year.”
        Peter Drucker

    Resulting Outcomes and Values
•    Building a more creative organization
•    More action-oriented
•    More trust, acceptance of risk-taking and errors
•    Stronger levels of ownership

Ten: Leader as Influencer
The skill of influencing is similar to several of the other leadership competencies, yet it is important enough to call it out as a specific value-oriented leadership characteristic.  It is a way of developing followers who are empowered to be leaders themselves, and who are able to build relationships and build performance.  The organization’s values and the leader’s authenticity become the foundation of this competency.  Effective leaders are developing and growing their own strengths as well as doing the same with all employees.  They are maximizing their teams and utilizing all of the leadership competencies to enhance employee engagement.  Basically, the influencing leader is able to create influencing followers, individuals who take charge, speak up, and make sure the goals as well as the direction of the organization are both “heard” internally and externally.

    “If you want to build a ship, don’t drum up people to collect wood and don’t
     assign them tasks and work, but rather teach them to long for the endless
     immensity of the sea.”   Antoine De Saint Exupery

    Resulting Outcomes and Values
•    Higher levels of engagement and organizational results
•    Building critical thinking
•    Driving abilities to move out of comfort zones
•    Improvement in self-confidence, commitment and loyalty

Reflective Discoveries
When the human heart begins to severely fail, a medical device may be used to serve as a bridge to a heart transplant.  This is called an LVAD – Left Ventricular Assist Device.  In organizations, similarly, there are occasions for a form of LVAD, leaders who will Value Added Determination.  They need to use multiple leadership competencies to be successful and effective.  These leaders go beyond being strong in only one or two areas.  Besides possessing good judgment and the ability to communicate an inspiring vision, leaders today are individuals who are personally self-aware, who have high standards which builds trustworthiness, who are strong listeners and influencers, and who have exceptional tenacity to drive an organization to successful outcomes.

Leaders need to build great companies which represent a great place to work – a work environment which is fun and intrinsically rewarding.  A trust-based environment, a clear vision and a workplace which is engaging are all important components, yet it is the leader which utilizes several key competencies to create an evolving and successful business.

    “Leadership is all about the release of human possibilities…the capacity to inspire
     the people in the group….to help them get centered and operating at peak capacity.
    A key element of this capacity is communicating to people that you believe they
    matter, that you know they have something important to give.  The confidence you
    have in others will to some degree determine the confidence they have in themselves.”
        Joseph Jaworski – author of Synchronicity: The Inner Path of Leadership