Along the way through life, each one of us, we may have come across an individual that embodied great leadership skills. These skills are difficult to sum up in words, but when embodied in its totality, it is truly magnetic. Such leaders are difficult to find, but they exist if we look hard enough. An effective leader draws from their values, to guide their decision, conduct, and dealing with others. They are a person of passion that struggles toward a cause that is bigger than themselves. They have dreams of bettering society and strive towards improving their character. Such leaders possess great attributes that takes years to forge. As well as providing great leadership, they provide inspiration, direction, commitment to excellence and most importantly, they lead by example.
Effective leaders have clear convictions about what is right and what is wrong.
An effective leader has self-knowledge. They have learned throughout their life experience, both the good and the bad. They have made mistakes. Great leaders learn from mistakes. They grow and develop their skills based on past occurrences. When they make a blunder, they take a mental note and try not to repeat the same mistake twice. They also realize that people who don’t make mistakes, are reluctant to try different perspectives. According to Shirley Hufstedler, a lawyer, former judge, and former U.S. Secretary of education, “If you haven’t failed, you haven’t tried very hard.” Even through such mistakes, they remain firm in their ethics as they establish boundaries of what not to cross. They demonstrate integrity and remain consistent in their behavior.
A great leader is not born, they are made. It is through an inventory of life experiences that great leaders are molded to lead their particular circumstance. “The techniques of leadership,” wrote Frederick and John Dyer, “are admittedly the most mysterious and the most difficult to teach. Yet, in the long run, the very fact that the (person) is trying to be a good leader shows through. People become what they seek to be. While everyone can become a great leader, not everyone has the inertia, the discipline, and patience to lead successfully. Such people lack the willpower to be patient during setbacks and they may not always have the vision to develop their true potential. Becoming an effective leader is the ultimate act of spirit, mind, and body. If anyone has the willpower and if they want it badly enough, they can become a great leader.
One recipe of an effective leader is to direct the dream. Managing or directing the dream is first done by sharing the vision with all employees. The vision must also give purpose for the employees and staff to act and carry out the dream. It also has to be strategical. Everyone in business knows that people perform different functions. Therefore, it is important to give all employees in different departments an overarching purpose of the companies mission statement so everyone can rally towards the same goal. This involves creating a blueprint of how to reach the end goal. Once the goal has been set, the leader must begin to hire meticulously. Every great leader knows that great results are the result of great teams. The challenge occurs when trying to make the team become a cohesive unit that clicks. It’s a measured process that takes time for everyone to acknowledge each other’s skills. An effective leader must create a wow team. Successful hiring requires the leader to know the particular skills and behaviors to make the team flourish.
The first step to creating a wow team is to create positive energy. The leader should create a culture where no individual feels left out. Everyone on the team should be motivated and encouraged to work together. A culture where great ideas are admired for their effort rather than punished. A culture where people are rewarded for their performance. A culture where people don’t have to jump through hoops to get work done. The leader should enable a culture that uses trust and truth as a mechanism to unlock peoples potential. When an employee begins to degrade the work environment and removes the wow factor, the employee should be reminded and called out for their lackluster performance. While on the other hand, when an employee adds to the fun and excitement of the work environment, the leader should celebrate just as loudly. It is important to maintain a culture where enthusiasm remains high. Effective leaders use a checklist when trying to hire great employees. The checklist should incorporate traits such as self-awareness, regulation, motivation, empathy, and social skills. By looking for these traits in candidates, it creates alignment with the companies vision. It is important not to bypass any one of the traits. If there are ten pivotal checklists that aligns with the companies mission, it’s important that the employee has all of those qualities. One such important characteristic that should be sought after in employees is emotional intelligence.
Emotional intelligence is a great characteristic for not just employees but also great leaders. Emotional intelligence allows the leader to develop and articulate character building, self-awareness, intuition, and the ability to extend these emotions as a vesicle to create a dynamic working human experience. It is not enough to just have a smart intellect; it is also vital to nourish the intellect with emotional intelligence. Separating emotional intelligence from the intellect can create friction not only amongst the individual but also in the work place and society at large. Emotions serve as an authentic source of human energy, a guiding principle and a light. The feedback from the innermost core and not the head is what facilitates human creativity, kindness, and shapes trusting relationships.
For generations, leaders have allowed IQ to dictate their decision-making process. Yale Psychologist, Robert Sternberg said it best when he said, “If IQ rules it is only because we have let it. And when we let it rule, we choose a bad master. Leaders can pay a difficult price if they only rule by IQ. This can cause problems not only in their personal lives, but also in the life of organizations. When leaders disconnect emotions from the intellect, this can have long term repercussions. Great leaders should not rely on solely technical rationality to decipher and analyze the complex world around them – if they do, then they we will begin to treat humans, markets, organizations, concepts, as numerical objects, bereft of change. Emotional intelligence gives meaning to the vibrant world around us; EQ manifests itself in the human heart that growth, synergy, cooperation, and transformation is possible.
The purpose and reason for a successful leader to have emotional intelligence is that it creates an awareness in one’s self to perceive, measure and manage the emotions of one’s self and others. Emotional intelligence requires a consistent evaluation so that it is neither extremely happy which lead to a false sense of celebration or praise or becoming too sad which can lead to self-inflicted pain to oneself or to others. Handling emotions so that they are balanced and appropriate helps builds self-awareness. People that solely rely on their IQ and fail to use their emotional intelligence can have a more difficult time bouncing back from life when they experience setbacks or failures. Therefore, emotional intelligence, once harnessed properly can elevate not just the leader but an entire organization.
Effective leaders reflect on lessons learned from the past. They take lessons from both their failures and success. Past experiences allows leaders to resolve future guesswork. It helps broaden the horizon and provide a more clearer vision. It allows the leader to get to the heart of the matter. It enables the leader to codify their vision and remain firm in their determination. Ernest Hemingway said that the world breaks all of us, and we grow stronger in the broken places. This statement holds true for all great leaders. They have the ability to bounce back from hardship and achieve even greater heights. Great leaders operate in environments where change is constantly occurring. The environment can become chaotic and unpredictable. Therefore, they must take lesson from past experiences and apply it to present circumstances. They must be willing to constantly evolve and adapt and adjust to external changes. True leaders are forged in an environment where change is a constant.
True leaders expect and accept adversity. Their high profiles makes them a perfect target for adversity both inside and outside the company. Throughout their careers, top leaders encounter fear, trauma, re-organizations, obstacles, and take overs. Despite all of the setback, true leaders remain consistent. They remain on course and dedicated to the vision. Hardship may hurt in the beginning. It’s only long after the bruises are healed, that true leaders reflect back and say, “You know, facing adversity hurt, but it actually taught me something very important. It won’t happen again”. Poor leadership is where they don’t learn from their setbacks and continue making the same mistakes again and again. The reason why leaders get wacked is because something bad happened. This is usually the case with young and up-coming leaders. Since they have yet to experience the up and downs of life, they will experience their share of failures and setbacks.
Effective leaders have six recovery methods in their arsenal. Their first remedy is to confront and own their short-comings. Great leaders don’t blame others for their setbacks. Comments like, “HR should have warned us about this mess”, “John from Marketing should have seen this coming”. Great leaders don’t blame others, they push back with determination and re-ignite the organization spirit. Most times, when a company gets in trouble, a poor leaders first reaction is to begin firing people. They choose a specific number, let’s say 10%, and fire 10% of the workforce. Furthermore, in order to make the firing process more smoothly, they offer buyout packages to any employee that wants to leave. Of course, the brightest employees will gladly take the buy-out package and leave. Effective leaders hold on to their brightest and most talented employees during times of great difficulty. They remain firm and keep the brightest and most talented employees filled with enthusiasm. They begin to use real data to carve out a growth plan. They hold meetings to re-strategize and re-group.
After carefully carving out a growth plan using real data, effective leaders go back to the strategy board. They create a plan that shows the company’s current weakness and strengths. They look at their current competitors. They outline the competitors’ products and compare prices. Then they take an assessment of the company’s recent landscape. They evaluate the underlying technology of their competitor and compare it with their own technology. Effective leader then anticipate what’s around the corner and plans accordingly. They work on the ‘wow product’ or next great idea to help capture market share. Great leaders make effective strategies pertaining to the future. They plan for today, tomorrow, and the future, they do not dwell on the past. Therefore, an effective leader has to have some ideas about change, about how the future could be different.
Charisma is an important leadership quality. Effective leaders work to improve this skill. While, many leaders lack this trait, they still manage to inspire trust and confidence. Lucky Stores’ Don Ritchey observes, “A real essential for effective leadership is that you can’t force people to do very much. They have to want to, and most times I think they want to if they respect the individual who is out in front, and if they have confidence that the person has some sort of vision for the company. Employees look up to great leaders for inspiration. They want a mentor. By setting a great example, employees will be motivated to get the job done. Great leaders earn the trust of those beneath them by leading by example. They demonstrate constancy, reliability and integrity. Therefore it is important for great leaders to show commitment to excellence and to work on creating a charismatic personality.
Genuine leaders know themselves. They recognize their strength and work to improve their weaknesses. They have the scars to prove it. Newspaper editor Gloria Anderson said, “It’s vital for people to develop their own sense of themselves and their role in the world, and it’s equally vital for them to try new things, to test themselves and their beliefs and principles. I think we long for people who will stand up for what they believe, even if we don’t agree with them, because we have confidence in such people”. When a leader leads with purpose, others listen. Conviction is incredibly important. This also creates alignment in the workplace. As a result, when an effective leader leads with purpose, direction and stands for what they believe, others will listen and follow.
Another recipe for an effective leader is that they don’t have a finish line. They are always looking for ways to better themselves and the company. They embrace growth initiatives and make it part of the cultures DNA. There are many reasons why growth is important. The main reason is that everyone loves growth. It is the elixir of life for any organization. When a new product or service is offered, the end goal is to create growth. This creates excitement throughout the company. Bumping up revenues and profits allows the organization to expand and to research new and emerging products. Growth allows an organization to attract top talent. The fact is, growth isn’t a mindset. It’s an attitude – an attitude that starts with the leader, and then gets passed through the organization, like one candle lighting the next until the whole room is ablaze. Growth gives employees job security, pays for a child’s college tuition, builds long term careers and buys homes.
There are some effective strategies that aspiring leaders must follow to initiate growth. The first thing they must do is to bring in fresh eyes into their industry. They must be willing to accept change and allocate resources based on different perspectives. An effective leader doesn’t just sprinkle resources, they pour resources to a specific project or service. They put their best people on growth initiatives and then get out of the way, allowing the team to build the product. Effective leaders empower their employees by giving them opportunities early in their careers to take on risks to reach empowerment. These opportunities should include strategic, conceptual, and tactical skills, special projects work, troubleshooting and other responsibilities. While some leaders empower their employees within the confines of their current product offerings, effective leaders put their employees on a mission to purse the next great idea. Very few leaders tap into their employee power. They focus primarily on the bottom line without giving consideration or thought to nurturing their current employees. In Thriving on Chaos, Tom Peters says that organizations that succeed over time will have the following characteristics in common:
● A flatter, less hierarchical structure
● More autonomous units
● An orientation toward high-value-added products and services
● Quality controls
● Service controls
● Innovative speed
● Highly trained and skilled workers who use their minds as well as their hands
● Leaders, rather than managers, at all levels
Effective leaders try to maintain a work environment where there is less of a hierarchical structure. They try to maintain small teams. It’s highly trained small teams that are a force to be reckoned with. Take for example, the highly small team such as SEALs or Delta Force. There’s nothing like the agility, focus, inventiveness, and spirit of an effective small team of committed and talented individuals, willing to put the team’s success ahead of everything else to deliver the seemingly impossible. Once a trained of highly effective team is in place. They allow the team to work autonomous units within the organization. Another recipe of an effective leaders is that they strive towards high value-added products and services. They strive towards making products that have high impact and high retention. They strive for product excellence. Such leaders create an environment where quality and service controls are in place to allow for innovation. They allow the highly trained teams to take on risk. They create an atmosphere that encourages its people to take risks. Then assures them with words and actions that the only mistake is to do nothing.
Great leaders learn as much as they can and they are never happy with how much they already know. They are willing to take risks and to innovate during the process. They learn from every misstep and grow from each adversity. In 2007 when Jeff Bezos launched Amazon’s grocery delivery service, Amazon Fresh. He didn’t choose a successful executive or delivery company to assist his new venture. He decided to hire the people that failed. He chose the people that launched Webvan. They were one of the first online grocery delivery service companies back in the nineties. It was backed by millions of dollars. Two years later after filing its IPO, Webvan failed. The team that started Webvan had a bold idea but its timing may have been too early. Jeff Bezos admired their bold vision. Successful leaders advocate towards hiring people that fail at bold initiatives because they eventually succeed at doing something pronounced. Effective leaders create a culture where failure is embraced. It is viewed as an opportunity to grow rather than feeling defeated when it fails. This creates a culture within the company that flawless execution is not expected from anyone. It allows the leader to value the efforts of those beneath them, creating a mirror effect and in time, earning their respect.
The path to becoming a great leader is a lifelong pursuit. To master such a skill, you must endure many hardships and be committed to lifelong learning. You must master the context of the leadership environment, learn and employ the basic ingredients of leadership, become intimate with your true self, reflect on and resolve significant life experiences, and chart the boundaries of the world in which you live. Great leaders are forged through a wide array of events. It requires determination, patience and the ability to know one self through character building. Great leaders set out to exceed expectations. They are hard on themselves and easy on others. In conclusion, an effective leader has to have a sense of purpose that is much larger than themselves. They have to have a balanced personality skillset which includes commitment, passion, empathy, honesty and integrity. They must also have to have emotional intelligence, creative thinking, as well as a futuristic vision. When embodied as a whole, such leaders radiate confidence by creating a work environment where everyone looks forward to giving their best.
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Khalid Saleh is the CEO of Zaytech. He understands that behind every great technology is a great team. He believes that having the right team and a great culture is foundational to making great products.
When he is not working, he enjoys learning, reading, and spending time with his family.