Leadership was challenging even before the year 2020 surprised us all and turned the world upside down. Since March, businesses and individuals have struggled to make the best of an otherwise bad situation. It was a real test for many leaders, and whether they failed or passed with flying colors won’t be determined for a while, as the whirlwind of hurdles and transformations doesn’t seem to be anywhere near over.
Effective leaders are those who manage to genuinely make an impact, and in this article, we’ll be looking at some ways of achieving that. The good news for leaders who are unsure about how well they are performing is that the skills they need are not part of some innate talent. They are all built in time and by various experiences.
1. Know where you are going
The fact that great leaders need to have vision has been established long ago by consensus. Although it is impossible for anybody to know at the moment exactly how the “new normal’ is going to look like, organizations (and the people in them) need to see some light at the end of all of this. and it is the job of leaders to formulate short term and long term objectives and goals and to draw up the strategy for reaching them.
It’s difficult to reach a destination if you have no map (or GPS in the modern version of journeys). Even if adjustments are very likely to be necessary along the way, it is crucial to have at least the important milestones set so that there is a sense of direction and (at least partial) accomplishment when they are reached.
2. Keep ruthlessly informed
Knowledge is indeed power, and in today’s extra volatile business environment, it’s paramount to be aware of all that is going on. Find your reliable sources and pay attention to what is being broadcasted. Even minor changes can have a tsunami-like effect in the long run, and it’s obviously best not to be caught unawares.
Gut feeling and the ability to sometimes improvise and make quick decisions are equally important, but knowledge-based leadership guarantees a steadier ride. Leaders have to appear reliable, especially in tough times, and there is no better way to achieve that than by proving time and time again that you really know what you are doing and why. In order to be right, you need to have all your facts straight.
3. Captains can’t sail a ship by themselves
You can’t be a great leader if your team is lacking. If given the opportunity, you ought to choose your crew wisely. If you become a leader in an already established team it’s still your job to do your best and improve it.
Reaching goals in a timely manner is impossible if people can’t keep up. Coaching needs to be a priority and allotted as much time of your workday as is necessary. It’s unfair to delegate tasks or set expectations if you don’t make sure that the people at the other end have the knowledge and tools they need to succeed.
Even though it may be tempting at times to just do things yourself instead of coaching others, in the long run, that’s a losing game. You’ll get overwhelmed, and they’ll feel overlooked.
4. Proactivity is better than reactivity
Enough stuff is coming our way regardless of personal choices anyway. Yes, it’s important to do damage control and fend off the storm as much as possible, but businesses don’t succeed unless they manage to move forward. Simply staying alive does not cut it.
It takes vision, determination, and no small amount of courage to set out to do something during these times, yet failure to do so could have more devastating effects than the global crisis itself. This is the time to have confidence in big, life-changing ideas.
Creativity and innovation have always been the most important drivers, but at the moment, they have become paramount. Encourage your team to think outside the box and support their initiatives.
5. You can’t pour from an empty kettle
That’s a very wise saying. In order to have the best results, make the most inspired decisions, and coach your team so they can achieve their true potential, a leader needs to be in the best shape. Especially in these stressful and demanding times, you should take the time to care for yourself – be rested enough, be healthy enough and be happy enough so that you can employ your tip-top leadership abilities to get and keep things moving in the right direction.
Furthermore, teams tend to mimic their leaders, so if you put the right amount of emphasis on personal balance and self-care, they will too. The time when staying up nights and living on energizing drinks to hop from one deadline to another was considered positive business behavior is behind us. Health and sanity and of the utmost importance, so tend to them judiciously.
Leaders are made, not born. Continuous learning, feedback, and the willingness to constantly grow and improve are the keys to becoming a leader that truly makes an impact in the organization. Leading is a very dynamic and rewarding process that requires the right amounts of knowledge, acumen, and strategic abilities.
Raluca Cristescu is a Faculty of Letters graduate with over ten years of experience in corporate training, focused mainly on soft skills for customer service and direct sales.