The Roadmap to Effective Leadership
By Timothy F Bednarz
Leadership effectiveness can be thought of as “an influencing relationship process among leaders and employee followers who work collaboratively to effect real and necessary changes.” These changes tend to reflect shared purposes, goals and efforts. It is a dynamic action process focused on mutual understandings and beliefs between leaders and employees.
As there are specific rules and principles that tend to guide leadership vision and actions for effectiveness, leaders need to consider certain questions that ultimately forge their roadmap for success.
The journey toward leadership effectiveness should always begin with a question such as: “What improvement is needed within the organization, and what specific steps do I need to bring it about?” Though senior management typically passes down mandates, timelines and expected goals, it is the individual leader’s responsibility to put them into a time lined and vision-directed framework in order to generate positive results.
The roadmap for effective leadership also includes developing higher levels of self-direction, vision, planning and goal achievement, which comes from inspiring others and building cohesiveness, as well as maintaining personal accountability.
In order to begin the path for leadership effectiveness it is important to ask another question: “What’s possible here, and how does the organization and its members stand to benefit?”
A leader’s roadmap to effectiveness consists of a series of factors that motivate people to follow. There are four basic qualities that help develop a focus on individual efforts that consistently will lead all involved workplace members beyond routine thinking and performance.
Leader effectiveness is not simply defined by actions made in response to obvious or crisis situations and circumstances. In reality, true effectiveness centers around the ability to move from a “mission impossible” to a “mission outcome” stance. To move consistently forward, leaders need to rely on specific procedures and actions encompassing multiple areas of skill and direction.
Elements of management and leader effectiveness often tend to overlap. However, leadership effectiveness is defined in a completely different context. Instead of focusing on basic management principles, practices and procedures as a roadmap for success, the four elements that leaders focus on are self-direction, goal achievement, flexibility and inspiring others to attain greatness. As an integral part of focusing on these factors, leaders recognize the importance of:
Gaining the Cooperation of Others
Establishing and cultivating a cooperative spirit is one of the primary means of increasing leadership effectiveness. Leaders use it to generate and maintain personal and employee enthusiasm for task and project facilitation. This spirit drives an organization and its people to higher levels of productivity and accomplishment.
Building and establishing a cooperative spirit takes concerted effort and begins with understanding basic human needs and desires. Effective leaders use needs and personal desires to nudge employees in the right direction, while constantly detailing and emphasizing just how motivation works to everyone’s benefit.
Making emotional connections is part of the process. This implies being able to evaluate performance and results by measuring them against one’s own expectations and goals. It also means acknowledging that as a leader, one needs followers. A truly effective leader builds a sense of workplace interdependence, which is able to gain and produce more in the long term than all combined individual efforts.
The basis for establishing a cooperative spirit lies in examining and analyzing how best to initiate and excel in tasks. Leaders need to be continually identifying their weakest areas, and, in order to improve upon them, need to set specific goals to turn them into strengths. Excelling in tasks and in implementing procedures and assignments helps leaders feel more in control over work-related situations and occurrences, which tends to increase their personal job enthusiasm and stamina.
Leaders Gain Cooperation by Understanding Their Employees
Beyond workers with a job, effective leaders know their success is inextricably tied to their employees-who like them have concerns, hopes and aspirations. As such, they take the time to converse with and ask questions of their employees. They find out what motivates as well as hinders, frustrates or concerns them. This brings information, concerns, ideas and perspectives to the forefront in order to identify problems, opportunities, and the best actions to take in regard to them.
Effective Leadership is Predicated upon the Ability to Listen and Learn
Continuous learning and listening needs to become a top priority if leaders are to excel. Effective leaders never forget where they have been, and use their own as well as others’ experiences to dictate where they should go, and why. Learning from past errors in judgment prevents similar types of problems and negative consequences from occurring.
It is essential for leaders to have their ears and eyes on every person, process and situation, not in a controlling sense, but in order to listen for ideas, impending concerns, problems, successes and unhappiness. Effective leaders absorb everything and act on the knowledge they gain to prevent conflict or work slowdowns from occurring. They are watchful for opportunities to make people feel successful, competent and comfortable in the work environment.
Effective leaders further recognize they are not reactive, but proactive by nature, where good listening and learning habits set both a positive example in the workplace and the foundation for corrective action before problems can take root and sap productivity.
Effective Leaders Sacrifice Self to the Needs of Others
Acknowledging and taking the stance of self-sacrifice is what separates leaders from the rest of the pack. Good leaders set their egos aside. They are not afraid to get involved and help out in various projects or situations alongside the people under their direction. They are flexible, continually slowing down or speeding up as they assess their employee’s productivity and individual efforts.
Skilled leaders never set or rescind a rule that becomes disruptive to workplace harmony or to any individual employee. Placing employees’ needs first means keeping tasks clear, simple and obvious, which makes for a committed workforce. It means making sure employees know exactly what is expected of them and how to complete the tasks assigned. They also focus on ways to make their own assignments and projects simpler, more direct and clearly defined.
Success Springs from a Consistent and Positive Workplace Example
Accepting others as they are and embracing differences and unique qualities tends to generate mutual respect and open communication. Thus leaders work at building cohesiveness through cooperative efforts and hold employees and themselves accountable to achieving their goals and vision.
Positive examples can only be set when outward actions correspond with words and do not send a mixed message. Success is entirely dependent upon following through with promises and commitments without deviating from what was promised, even under stress and adversity. Therefore leaders remain inwardly and outwardly genuine, and use discretion in everything they plan, say and do.
Timothy F. Bednarz, Ph.D. is the author of the 125 books included in Pinpoint Skill Development Training Series. He has also authored “Great! What Makes Leaders Great,” which was selected by “Foreword Review Magazine” as one of the top ten career books published in 2011, as well as a finalist in the “2011 Foreword Review Book of the Year Awards.”
Excerpt: Becoming a Leader of Your Own Making: Pinpoint Management Skill Development Training Series by Timothy Bednarz (Majorium Business Press, Stevens Point, WI 2011).