Does your leadership strategy take these key leadership traits into consideration?
If you were to Google “leadership strategy”, a whole list of articles and services will provide you an array of leadership strategy definitions and “proven” processes to help you increase employee engagement, improve bottom-line results, achieve your goals, etc., etc., etc. The reality is, though, that no leadership strategy will be worth the planning if you and/or your leadership team do not exhibit the four key leadership traits needed to truly make a difference and drive your company forward.
What is Leadership Strategy?
A white paper by The Center for Creative Leadership, titled Developing a Leadership Strategy: A Critical Ingredient for Organizational Success, states that a leadership strategy needs to consider the number of leaders needed, the qualities, skills, and behaviors desired, the collective leadership capabilities of those leaders, and the leadership culture desired. The white paper states: “A leadership strategy makes explicit how many leaders we need, of what kind, where, with what skills, and behaving in what fashion individually and collectively to achieve the total success we seek.” (pg. 3)
What Leadership Traits are Important for my Leadership Strategy?
Ron Crossland, one of Crestcom’s leadership training faculty members, conducted extensive research on the last 100 years of global leadership. He was interested in the adaptation and transformation of leadership traits perceptions across cultures and generations. What makes a universally recognized “great leader”? His research team found that there are four main characteristics that are in fact internationally recognized as key leadership traits. When you are considering the desired qualities, skills, and behaviors of leaders in your leadership strategy, these should be the top four traits to include.
If your staff and the people you report you cannot trust you, there is certainly no way you will be an effective leader – no matter where you are in the world. We all know that there are those uncomfortable times when we have to keep certain truths from our employees for the overall good of the company, but this does not mean that you need to out-right lie. It is far easier to lose credibility and trust than it is to gain it back again. Be authentic, do what you say you will do, and certainly never lie to your employees.
How you’re providing direction is a key consideration in your leadership strategy. Moving forward is all about setting and achieving goals, strategy, mission, and vision. It starts with really big ideas, and it’s also about putting those ideas into action – through motivating and engaging your team. Being forward-thinking (and forward-acting) is fundamentally important to the growth, sustainability, and success of any organization. As a leader at any level of the organization, it is your job to be a forward-thinking force to motivate your team and continually promote growth. Unfortunately, Crossland’s research has also found that there are two fundamental ways leaders fail at being forward-thinking.
Clearly, everyone expects leaders to be competent in their ability to inspire their team to produce results and get the job done. Competence is what makes us credible leaders and allows us to inspire and motivate our team to achieve company goals. Don’t be afraid to push yourself to learn and develop new skills outside of your current level of competency, but always be aware of your current limitations to make sure you’re not over-promising and underdelivering consistently. Always strive to push yourself and continue to broaden your horizon, learn new ideas, techniques, and skills.
As a leader, your team is looking to you to set the tone and cadence for the work they are doing. If you are only able to focus on facts and figures, I can pretty much guarantee you’re boring your team and certainly not inspiring them to perform at their peak level. Think about how you communicate with them. Are you talking about their work and performance, about the mission of the company, from your heart or from your budget? Do you link the goals of today and tomorrow to the ideals of the company or do you simply monitor progress over weekly, monthly, and quarterly goals? As Simon Sinek wrote in Start With Why, “Unless you give motivated people something to believe in, something bigger than their job to work toward, they will motivate themselves to find a new job and you’ll be stuck with whoever’s left.”
How do Leadership Traits Relate to Leadership Strategy?
The traits and characteristics of your leadership team directly relate to the execution of your leadership strategy. You can develop a leadership strategy – either formally or informally – that outlines the areas discussed above. But that leadership strategy quickly becomes useless if your leadership team does not personify these four key leadership traits that are universally recognized as necessary for strong leadership. Even one person on your leadership team who does not incorporate these leadership traits will unravel your leadership strategy and lead to lower employee engagement, productivity, and overall business results.
The good news is that these traits do not have to be inherent in people, but leaders do need to be open to further developing leadership skills. It is important to develop leadership skills in rookie leaders/managers, as well as in more senior leaders who may need a refresh or an outlet to reinvigorate their passion for leadership.