Over the years I’ve met many leaders across a wide range of ages, cultural backgrounds, languages, experience levels, and levels of authority. Most of the people I coach are either vice presidents or C-level leaders in their organizations.
Many of them will ask me for advice on how to be a better leader. This issue of True Insights is a brief summary of my thoughts on great leadership.
Who is the Best Leader I Know?
There is John, who is known as the smartest person in the company. When John is in the room, you know the right decision will be made, and John’s strategic awareness and planning skills are expert level. He is unfailingly polite and respectful to people he works with. But John sometimes struggles to delegate. He will assign a project to a team, then take over later at some point if he discovers that something isn’t right. People feel disempowered and wish their super smart boss could truly let go.
There is also Jane, who finds a way to lead her to team to deliver amazing performance numbers in a difficult market year after year. She knows the business in and out. Jane is unfailingly confident and truly cares for her people. Sometimes Jane asserts too much control over things, leaving her senior leadership team feeling frustrated. They respect her but they wish she could fully trust them.
Then there is Jim, an execution-oriented leader who is also sincerely interested in the well-being of the people in his group. Jim makes others feel confident and balances drive for results with developing others better than most leaders I’ve seen. Still, Jim has a tendency to pull his puncheswhen he wants to speak directly. People think “I already trust you. Just tell me what you really think. I can take it.” Sometimes Jim’s core team members fear telling him the truth about issues they face because they don’t want to disappoint him.
Do you see a pattern here?
I know many great leaders. They each have a unique style. And none of them are perfect.
What is the Best Leadership Style?
This is a related question that I hear quite often from both junior and senior leaders.
I appreciate the humility behind this question, but I think it’s not the right question.
I understand why people want to be as perfect as they can be. When you are in charge, not being perfect comes at a cost to others, not just to you.
So let me state the obvious, from my perch as a coach and leadership trainer: You will never be perfect. You will always have weaknesses.
And this: The best leadership style is rooted in who you really are, adapted to your circumstances.
So the goal is not to develop the perfect leadership style. The goal as a leader is:
- To understand your strengths and weaknesses.
- To understand what your environment, your company, and your people need from you in order to succeed.
- To develop and execute a plan for building on your strengths and managing your weaknesses.
- To go forward with confidence, knowing you are improving every day.
The Core of Great Leadership
If you are a leader looking for an answer to the question: How should I be as a leader? I will share my view on the overall “must haves” of a great leader.
Note:My tips are ultimately informed by my values and are therefore subjective. Take them for what they are worth to you, not as absolute truths for everyone.
To be an effective, even great, leader, you need to do these things:
Everything you do as a leader—increase your productivity, manage your energy, innovate, etc.—should support these two goals. There are lots of things I haven’t listed that will help you, but these are the core things you must do well.
The Best Leader I Know
So who is the best leader I know? The best leader I know is the leader inside of you, hoping you will bring her to the sacred work of leading others each and every day.
Yours in Learning,