Leadership is becoming increasingly challenging due to the accelerating pace of change, increased performance expectations and the changing nature of the workforce, which are all adding pressure on leaders.
There is one core requirement of good leadership, whether you’re heading a start-up or leading a large established business or something in-between. It is the ability to skilfully adapt your style to meet the needs of the situations you encounter and the people you lead. Learning these skills is critical for effective leadership.
The transition from technical specialist to leader can be a rocky road. The very skills that got you to leadership level, such as your unique content knowledge and technical or specialist skills are no longer enough to make you a successful leader. You can no longer rely on just your own efforts to get the job done. It takes different skill-sets to effectively harness the efforts of others to meet the organisation’s goals.
Whether you’re planning for the transition into leadership or already in such a role, it is a must of good leadership to ensure your softer skills are up to the job. This entails a shift towards developing your Emotional Intelligence; building greater self-awareness, developing your self-management, social awareness and relationship management and influencing skills.
The old models of hierarchical (up-and-down) authority are fast becoming outdated and less effective in a world of rapid change.
What has changed to cause the shift?
- Work is becoming increasingly complex and specialised
- The workforce is more diverse and is often dispersed across different time-zones and locations
- Having to rely on others’ specialised knowledge and expertise
- Escalating performance expectations
- Having to manage more staff with fewer resources
Relying on your role, title or seniority to wield power and influence is no longer enough. You will make a greater impact by developing your skills of leading and influencing not just down (direct reports), but sideways (peers) and upwards (bosses). A much more effective way is to engage, inspire and influence others as a leader by rallying a strong and loyal support network around you and getting key players and stakeholders on-board. So, while the “hard” technical skills will still be useful, it is the softer leadership skills that will help you to achieve the organisation’s goals.
3 LEADER MUST-HAVES
1. Ability to set a clear direction for the organisation
Skills: Creativity, judgement, ability to synthesize information, timely decision-making
2. Ability to inspire others to work toward the required direction
Skills: People engagement, effective communication, ability to bring out the best in individuals and groups
3. Ability to mobilize others to achieve the organisation’s goals effectively
Skills: Ability to drive performance and to manage change
The skills of effective relationship management and influence
It all starts with developing self-awareness. This is critical for developing effective self-management and social awareness, which is underpinned by empathy and understanding of others. All are essential for effective relationship management and influence. When these are well-developed, you have the key elements for strong Emotional Intelligence (EQ), which is key to good leadership. So these components of EQ are worth cultivating.
EQ and the best and worst bosses
The best bosses have higher-than-average emotional intelligence (EQ). They develop the competencies of self-awareness, self-management and empathy for others or social awareness. This enables them to become skillful at relationship management and of influencing others. They routinely demonstrate strong interpersonal skills, encourage and guide others but don’t micromanage. They see potential and give staff the opportunity to learn and grow.
The worst bosses are low on EQ and self-awareness, they have low empathy and often unaware of how their behaviour affects others. These leaders don’t communicate goals and expectations clearly, don’t take the time to listen and don’t encourage learning from mistakes. They have a tendency to focus on what is wrong with people and situations. These leaders often underestimate the impact of their behaviour on their leadership effectiveness and organisational results.
It is not uncommon for people with weak EQ and thus low awareness of self and how others see them to fall off the leadership rails somewhere mid-career if they have not addressed this developmental need. It often comes as a surprise that they can no longer rely on the very specialist or technical skills that got them thus far. Trying to carry on as usual and ignoring the warning signs comes at a cost to not only the individuals and their careers, but also to their organisations in terms of the damaging impact they can have. There is often a high price to pay for neglecting this key developmental need of effective leadership.
A CASE STUDY
Imagine a type A high achiever business leader, with strong entrepreneurial attributes, who is very goals focused, quick to act and not afraid to take risks or to make mistakes. His bold and unconventional methods, strengths and skills enable him to see and sieze business opportunities. He faces business challenges head-on and often beats the odds to come out on top.
But there’s one problem, as a people leader he has a negative impact. His moods are up and down and his behaviours are inconsistent. He manipulates and berates people in front of others. With unfiltered emotional outbursts, he regularly leaves in his wake a fallout of disgruntled managers and staff. He fails to inspire and engage and hardly brings out the best in his people. His lack of empathy and EQ almost derail him when it comes to rallying the full support of the people around him in order to achieve his business goals.
The inevitable outcome; staff unease, poor morale, poor teamwork, a disengaged and disgruntled workforce and high turnover. This leads to low productivity and the expensive additional costs of putting out avoidable HR fires, rehiring, retraining and dealing with rebellious staff behaviour. Not only is there a negative impact on the bottom line, but also damage to the organisation’s name and brand.
The problem is he does not see how he is creating the problem himself. He chooses to blame others rather than undertaking self-development work to improve his leadership skills. His modelling of poor leadership behaviour rubs off on his managers, leading to more negative impacts on the workforce, creating HR dramas, low productivity and high turnover.
By focusing primarily on driving top revenue line numbers and business deals, the leader does not see how these wins are being eroded through poor people leadership practices. Instead, he relies on others to apply band-aid fixes and to try and mend broken relationships after the damage has been done. There is little self-awareness and reflection and little learning and adjustment of behaviour. He does not see the value in addressing this by developing his softer skills, and this pattern just keeps repeating – a constant cycle of putting out fires! All that hard-won top-line effort is being eroded, resulting in poor bottom-line results.
Does that remind you of anyone? Unfortunately this type of leadership is far too common.
WHAT YOU CAN DO TO IMPROVE YOUR LEADERSHIP ABILITIES
It is possible to improve your leadership abilities in a way that will adapt the best of your own natural leadership style and personality to meet the requirements of your role and situation. There are many resources available to aid leadership growth and development, including the use of personality profiling and coaching. I use the Myers Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI), amongst other resources, because it is backed by more than 50 years of research and is one of the most widely used tools in leadership development. Here is an outline of how it can be used to enhance your softer skills and meet your leadership developmental.
Using the MBTI tool to be a more effective leader
The MBTI tool enhances your understanding of your personality type and how it influences your thinking, behaviour and relationships. It equips you to understand yourself better and to better-manage your own behaviour and to relate to others better so you can build better relationships. When the implications are explored through the leadership lens it helps you to improve your leadership abilities in ways which bring out your natural leadership style and enable you to adapt to the work situation.
- Just knowing your strengths, challenges and blind-spots equips you to better manage them
- Understanding others and relating better and knowing what people need to be at their best helps you to get the best out of them
- Understanding people’s differences can help you harness complementary strengths to boost your team impact so you can achieve more with the current resources
- You can take boost your leadership effectiveness further by empowering your staff and supporting the development of their own self-awareness and EQ through undertaking their own MBTI profiling and exploration to:
- enable them to recognise and -appreciate their own natural strengths and to put them to use more often
- better manage their weaknesses and potential pit-falls
- recognise and better manage the stress responses and patterns and behaviours related to their personality
- improve their own productivity and engagement
- improve their own interactions with others both within and outside the organisation (think of the impact on clients and major stake-holders)
- develop strengths-based teams and collaborative working relationships
Exploration of the MBTI profiling through the leadership lens can provide insights into your own unique leadership style. It shines a light onto your blind-spots and equips you with the insights to better utilise your natural strengths and to better manage challenges and potential pit-falls. It is a great way of developing key competencies behind your EQ and of boosting your own leadership effectiveness, so you can rally those around you and get the best out of your staff.
Don't risk derailing your career through weak awareness of self and others. Get in touch
to find out how easy it is to start developing your own leadership skills and potential.