Think leadership can be learnt in 6 months or even a year? The road to masterful leadership takes many years. Here are five keys you’ll need along the way.
One of the keys to leadership is alignment. On the surface, alignment seems like a straightforward concept – but don’t be fooled. At a basic level people need to be aligned to be able to work together effectively. Leaders are responsible for making sure this happens. It starts with a vision or mission, something that people can see the value in and that they can become emotionally attached to. Great things come when a group of people voluntarily buy into a mission. But alignment is a subject in its own right, encompassing expectations, individual career needs, modes of cooperation and how skills are utilised and developed. It’s not a one time event, to keep a team aligned the leader needs to constantly communicate, provide feedback, remove roadblocks, make difficult decisions and solve problems that arise.
Delegation and autonomy
Delegation and autonomy are linked concepts. Leaders need to know how to delegate, to whom and how much autonomy to provide. Autonomy is powerful but it isn’t a one size fits all. At a senior executive level, strategy and plans are executed by delegating outcomes not tasks. Considerable autonomy needs to be given to people with the right skills and resources to achieve these outcomes. At less senior levels, the picture isn’t as clear. Leaders need to understand the experience and skill level of their team and balance autonomy with the need for direction.
Leaders show respect and expect it in return. In practical terms this means providing as much autonomy as the role and skill level allows. It means talking to people respectfully, recognising effort and helping people achieve what they want from a role (ie. career). Being personable helps a leader show they truly care about the people in their team. If a leader doesn’t care for the people in their team, the team won’t care for the leader.
Coaching is an increasingly important skill in the new world of work that leaders need to master. Good coaches understand that coaching is more about helping people to learn than telling them what to do.
Perhaps the most important skill of any leader is communication. This is a considerable topic in its own right that covers the ability to inspire and motivate people, setting clear expectations and effectively communicating feedback. Communication must be two-way and leaders must be willing to hear things that are uncomfortable and take action.