These days, companies and individuals face tough global challenges in a changing world. The need to recruit and train innovative and inspiring leaders, who can create and implement innovative solutions and instill hope and passion is greater now than ever. But what are the qualities of an effective leader? The latest research suggests it’s more than a list of traits. Leaders have to be able to flexibly adapt their strategies in line with their personal qualities, the company culture, and the situation. The new thinking about leadership emphasizes authenticity, openness, caring and flexibility. A leader needs to be genuine and lead by example, understanding and emotionally connected in order to inspire loyal followers. Below are six important ways to become a more effective leader.
"A leader is one who knows the way, goes the way, and shows the way.”
A leader who has walked a mile I his/her follower’s shoes is more likely to inspire loyal followers. A good leader needs to demonstrate that he lives by the same principles and rules that he expects of followers. Leadership by example can be powerful and inspiring. Inspiring personal stories of overcoming personal and organizational challenges and adversity can help "show the way" to move the organization to a new level.
“A leader's role is to raise people's aspirations for what they can become and to release their energies so they will try to get there.”
Great leaders speak to the best in us – they inspire us to reach for the stars and to become what we dream of being. Through inspiring stories and personal connection, leaders motivate and energize followers towards goals that exemplify positive values for the organization and society. The best leaders put in place a structure that allows for employee personal development so they can acquire the necessary skills and attitudes to move the company forward in line with the leader's vision.
Give whatever you are doing and whoever you are with the gift of your attention - Jim Rohn
Good leaders take the time to listen to, and connect emotionaly with followers at all levels. They demonstrate that they understand and empathize with followers' concerns, values, priorities, and aspirations. They take these into account in making decisions and strive to build an organization in which people feel heard, empowered, and cared about. They are actively engaged in finding out what followers want and need to do their best work.
"People do not follow uncommitted leaders. Commitment can be displayed in a full range of matters to include the work hours you choose to maintain, how you work to improve your abilities, or what you do for your fellow workers at personal sacrifice."— Stephen Gregg, Chairman and CEO of Ethix Corp.
The best leaders show passion, commitment, and dedication. They put the organization first and are willing to make personal sacrifices to achieve group goals that they highly value. They display self-discipline and unselfishness. A great example of this attitude is Nelson Mandela, who spent years locked away in an isolated prison doing hard labor because he was totally committed to achieving freedom for his people. These actions earned him the respect and admiration of people all over the world.
"If you want to build a ship, don’t herd people together to collect wood and don’t assign them tasks and work, but rather teach them to long for the endless immensity of the sea."— Antoine de Saint-Exupery
A key quality of leadership is the ability to inspire others through emotional connection as well as rational arguments and explanation. Leaders should articulate their vision in such a way that followers can see an image of the desired future in their minds’ eyes, can feel it, hear it, smell it, and long for it to be a reality. Leadership involves engaging the whole person including the sense, thoughts, and emotions.
"Before you are a leader, success is all about growing yourself. When you become a leader, success is all about growing others."— Jack Welch
Great leadership involves bringing out the best in your followers. You need to create an organizational culture in which the strengths and potential of each individual are valued and recognized; one with sufficient flexibility to motivate different types of people and allow them to thrive. The leader has a a vision of the diverse skills that the team needs to succeed and invests resources in growing and rewarding these skills and removing barriers.
As the above quotes illustrate, leadership is more than a set of procedures and activities. It is an expression of the type of person the leader fundamentally is at heart. To become a great leader, you need to know your higher purpose and believe in it passionately. You need to develop the qualities of empathy, openness and compassion as well as drive and determination. You need to be committted to nurturing the welfare and commanding the trust of those who follow. Only in the context of a trusting relationship can people feel safe, empowered, and freed to demonstrate their greatest strengths.
"Leadership is not so much about technique and methods as it is about opening the heart. Leadership is about inspiration—of oneself and of others. Great leadership is about human experiences, not processes. Leadership is not a formula or a program, it is a human activity that comes from the heart and considers the hearts of others. It is an attitude, not a routine."
— Lance Secretan, Industry Week, October 12, 1998
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