Improving employee performance and raising the engagement of the workforce requires both strong leadership and constructive culture especially during times of uncertainty. Twenty-first-century leaders must pave the path for highly-functioning, progressive teams to perform. Developing the level of skill needed to bring out the best in their people and hold them accountable for both performance and effective operating behavior, is a primary component of how effective leaders need to spend their time.
Today, up-leveling the leadership team’s ability to actually lead requires a clear assessment of how leadership competencies impact culture. The top leadership competencies that drive culture are encompassed in the following seven leadership categories: Envisioning an Outcome, Understanding Your Supporters, Communicating the Vision, Serving Others, Inspiring Others, Guiding Others, and Developing Yourself. Encompassed in these seven categories are multiple underlying competencies that drive leadership performance overall.
- Envisioning an Outcome – Leading begins with realizing and clearly envisioning the overall mission to accomplish. A mission is what is going to happen, not how. Realizing your mission leads to an understanding of where change is required and why it is needed now. It takes initiative and determination to solidify the vision and set goals around its achievement. “Starting with the End in Mind,” as Stephen Covey wrote in The 7 Habits of Highly Successful People, is how you point the way for others who can’t see it yet.
- Understanding Your Supporters – Understanding how your vision satisfies peoples’ perceived needs is crucial to engage them. You must know what changes others are receptive to and ready for. Listening carefully and objectively will ensure that your mission is one that others will embrace. Without followers, you can’t be a leader, and followers will only voluntarily engage in something they think satisfies their needs as well as your goals.
- Communicating Your Vision – In order to engage people to follow, you must clearly communicate your vision to them. The most powerful movements for change are created by people who have an emotional commitment to the mission and are passionate about it. Therefore, you must be able to communicate with people not just through logical arguments, but in a way that touches them emotionally. You must first have that passion for your mission and to allow others to see your passion. It takes a certain amount of courage to champion a new idea, which by definition, others can’t yet see.
- Serving Others – People will not chase a difficult dream for very long unless they think it supports their own personal goals. You must ensure that people connect both your vision and your actions with their own goals. They initially chose to follow you because they thought that by helping you they would help themselves. Now that they are engaged, you must work at reinforcing the initial faith they placed in you.
- Inspiring Others – Embarking on difficult and uncertain journeys requires a special kind of energy in order to continue for the long term. Inspiration draws forth that special energy that can only come from the individual. Therefore, leading others for the long term requires that you are able to recognize and bring this energy. People become inspired when they start believing they have more ability than they thought they did. Therefore, leading includes challenging people to do more than they have before, and empowering them to make efforts that will yield a positive result. Sharing hope and courage will keep people motivated to continue on with the mission, even when it seems like the goal is still a long way off.
- Guiding Others – In taking action and moving toward completion of your mission and vision, there will inevitably be surprises and unexpected results. A person skilled in leading will continually assess the plan for achieving the stated goals and make course corrections along the way. Part of this process is to test, in the real world, the initial assumptions that were made. Leading requires a focus on the milestones along the way, not only on the long-term mission. Followers require some indication that they are on the right track and this builds confidence in the leader. A leader requires great courage and character to be tenacious about moving forward, and not exhibiting loss of confidence, even in the face of disappointment.
- Developing Yourself – In order to understand, motivate, and lead others, you must first understand yourself. As Chris McCusker, Chairman and CEO of Motorola once said, “Leadership is going first in a new direction – and being followed”. So, before a person can lead others, they must lead the way. This applies to help people become better. Leaders must practice what they preach and be able to see and develop themselves before they can do so for others.
Understanding and mastering leadership competencies is just one piece of being an effective leader. Knowing your developmental strengths and opportunities will pave the way for you to competently develop your team. It also provides you with the insight on where you may need additional support in aligning strategy, people, and resources to achieve organizational objectives and business results.
Interested in learning more about how to be an effective leader amidst uncertainty and chaos? Learn more about the KeenAlignment Leadership Survival Series.