What does it take to lead well? Surprisingly even in high-tech, high-powered Silicon Valley, it takes less technical know-how than it does clarity of thought and expression, a sense of what makes people tick and how to motivate them, and a willingness to ask good questions of the right people and listen well to their answers. It’s really not rocket science but it DOES take a blend of skills that may not be rare as individual traits but are infrequently encountered in the optimum mix in one person.
Here’s a list of 5 of the best practices of the best leaders:
1. Develop the culture you know can bring success.
If you want your strategy to succeed, you need to create and embrace an organizational culture that supports it. Be clear about the kind of corporate culture that aligns with your business strategy and then exert all your influence to shape it. This will involve you as a leader articulating just what values drive the organization and defining the way business will be done on a day-to-day basis. Communicating your ideal organizational culture comes first. Then you must not only model it, you need to hire the right people, reinforce the right behaviors and put processes and practices in place that ensure organizational alignment and consistency.
2. When organizational change is needed, communicate it clearly.
Not many organizations can succeed without being able to flex with and adapt to internal and external changes. But organizational change often inspires fear and decreased performance in employees. The best leaders know when change is needed and are able to deliver the message in a way that inspires, rather than demotivates, their work force. To support major organizational change of any kind, employees need to understand the rationale behind the change, know what their role will be in accomplishing the change and feel confidence that management can affect the change in a way that puts the company on a winning path. The goal is organizational effectiveness. Once that is understood, the majority will work toward the better future.
3. Facilitate more than lead.
Many leaders suffer from an over-inflated ego. They rise to the top of their organizations and begin to think they know it all, especially if they surround themselves with fawning flatterers who don’t dare to disagree. Instead, the best leaders know what they don’t know. They seek differing opinions and ask good questions. They listen carefully to answers from those they respect and are willing to change their own thinking from what they learn. Good leaders are curious, eager to grow and encourage challenging discussion to get the best results.
4. Link behavior to results.
All successful leaders need to bring in results; but the best leaders focus less on the specific results than on the critical few behaviors and leading indicators that are predictive of the desired results. In other words, it matters more in the long-term that your employees are able, committed to the goals and doing their best to achieve their objectives in a way that makes sense than the actual short-term results.
5. Use time as part of a winning strategy, not the determining factor.
All effective leaders have become masters of time management. They have to be able to set priorities and use their time wisely. However, the best leaders do not focus on time alone; they keep the big picture in mind. The goal is not to do more things in the time allotted but to do the most important things and, when time has run out, adapt the strategy to what can be accomplished within the available time frame.
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We engaged LSA to design and deliver a 6-month custom executive coaching program for a group of our key leaders. The focus of the program was to help a core group of senior leaders to leverage previous investments in management training, to ensure the engagement and retention of key employees, and to push critical strategic initiatives forward. Even with the high expectations of our senior people, LSA has completely exceeded our expectations. I would recommend them to anyone looking to create and implement a custom coaching methodology using proven tools to drive true change.
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Director of Human Resources
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Beth A. Taylor
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