Effective leadership isn’t always about giving orders.
Certainly a leader has to speak up and provide direction at the proper time, but there are components of leadership that happen between the decisions, when due diligence, thought and regular maintenance take the place of hands-on command.
An effective leader sometimes has to do some quiet lifting on the side, outside of the spotlight, before stepping in front of the team and showing the way.
Time spent in three key areas can provide a foundation for success when the hard work starts and your team has to bear down on the job at hand.
Developing vision and strategy
It is important to embrace the down time between bursts of activity.
Avid kayaker and whitewater rafter Michael Brown, head of Insight Leadership Group, urges leaders to “find the eddy,” the quiet pools in fast water which allow adventurers to rest and gather their strength for the next set of rapids.
“Leaders find rest — find the eddy by looking to where they are going and how they are going to get there.”
Leaders can rest when they have a clear vision and a defined strategy. Chaos will come, but leaders will no where they are going and adapt to get there.
No doubt 2020 has been exhausting on the chaos front, Brown says, but effective use of rest can mitigate the chaos and provide a path to success so “the leader can get some sleep at night and the teams have clarity. ‘Ok, we’re going to get into the craziness in a minute and we’re going to get into that rapids and it’s going to clear up.’ “
Selfless ambition and valuing others
Certainly a leader has to be intentional about accomplishing a task, but that ambition should be tempered with consideration for individuals’ needs and communication tailored to their personalities and strengths.
A forceful leader might be able to steamroll a project, Brown says, but in the wake of its completion there can be hurt feelings and acrimony. When it’s time to hustle it’s also time to think about which person you’re speaking with and how they individually respond to instruction and praise.
“We’re not going to let anything get in the way of accomplishing our goals,” Brown says. “But we’re going to do it in a way that’s selfless and build up the people around us.”
Insight uses an assessment tool called SDI 2.0 (Strength Deployment Inventory) to help leaders use data to improve working relationships. A healthy relationship involves leaders who show they value their co-workers and know how to tailor praise and appreciation to the moment and the person.
“When people feel valued and appreciated and heard they are a heck of a lot more engaged and productive,” Brown says.
3. THE GRIND:
Ownership and agility
Technology or mechanical based professions require regular, minor maintenance of equipment and facilities. It’s the non-glamorous, due diligence part of the job that ensures everything functions effectively at crunch time.
So, too,must leaders put in the effort when it comes to maintaining work relationships and ensuring quality performance. It means having tough conversations, performing evaluations and adapting or changing processes that prove to be flawed or ineffective.
Leaders also need to look in the mirror, Brown says. Good leaders own what’s happening, hold themselves accountable and ask for feedback, so they can know how they’re perceived in running a meeting or managing a project.
“The grind is the performance management challenges,” Brown says. “The employee challenges where we have to create a culture of ownership and that starts with us as leaders, where the leader owns whatever is happening and says ‘That’s on me,’ so the team can process and problem solve and not feel like they have to find scapegoats.”
The grind means having the agility to realize something isn’t working and changing accordingly.
“You shift gears,” Brown says. “Could you imagine if an organization in 2020 said ‘We’ve never done it that way and we never will.’ [If] they never shifted. … They’re not around anymore.”
WHAT NOT TO DO
When Brown advises leaders to “remove the mask” he isn’t talking about flaunting COVID-19 safety measures. It means being authentic and leading in a way that’s true to who you are, and not performing an imitation of someone’s idea of an effective leader.
Find your voice and use it, Brown says.
“There’s no rest when we lead with a mask,” Brown says. “It’s exhausting, it’s frustrating, it’s depressing. So we need to find our voice, develop authentic connections with our team and be authentic to who we are and it will be good because we’re going to value people in the process.”