Have We Overcomplicated How To Be An ‘Effective Leader’?

/ / Leadership / 20 December 2021

Could the answer to modern leadership be as simple as [really] knowing yourself and your people?

How many times have you read an article/blog/opinion piece about ‘effective leadership’ and walked away feeling like the authors are either: overcomplicating things; too theoretically based; and/or taking a rather one-size fits all approach...i.e. do these top ten things, and hey presto, you’re a great leader?  

What makes a great leader has changed so much over the last 20 or so years.  So much so, that what used to inspire, motivate, and foster loyalty in the late 90s and early noughties, could be seen as the arch-nemesis of modern day leadership today.

Leadership went from employees ‘adapting and fitting in’ with the style of their leader and doing what they’re told, doing their time, and earning their keep; to the exact opposite.  

The best modern leaders now appear to come from a position of how they can adapt to bring out the best in their people…but there’s a catch which I’ll address a bit further down. 

Ask not what your team can do for you, but what you can do for your team…

From this grand evolution in effective leadership shifting monumentally from what could be seen as draconian to now libraterian; focused on empowerment and the freedom to choose; it seems there are two core ingredients fundamental to being a great leader.  And it’s remarkably simple so long as you’re willing to be vulnerable and leave your ego at the door.

Great leadership requires you to know yourself…to [really] know yourself.  

This is less about what you like and dislike on the surface and more about how much self-awareness you have.  What motivates you?  What demotivates you?  What emotional biases do you have? (that WILL impact how you turn up as a leader).  What are your biggest insecurities?  And perhaps the most impactful one – how are you perceived by others?

Awareness about one’s self and taking accountability for who you truly are, could perhaps be the most powerful tool modern leaders can have.  Because once you have this awareness, you can make meaningful moves to bring out your team’s full potential by adapting and empowering.  To drive your team to become high performers.   

This only works when you nail the second component, which is this…

Great leadership also requires you to know your team…to [really] know your team.

How well do you really know your team as individuals?….again, not surface knowledge like what type of coffee they drink or who their husband/wife/partner is, but what motivates them, what demoviates them, what are their biggest insecurities, how they like to work, their attitudes towards team, individuality, trust, commitment, rules, the list goes on.  

And every person on your team will be different.  Sometimes polar opposites.   

What motivates one person in your team, may demotivate others.  How one person likes to receive feedback could be the opposite of how others like to receive feedback. 

Dominant and strong-willed employees tend to respond well to direct leadership.  The sensitive and introverted, tend to respond better to empathetic leadership.  

With this in mind, perhaps the best leaders are the ones who can adopt any style of leadership according to who’s on their team.

Sounds like too much hard work?  Not at all.  It requires an investment of your time upfront for sure, but once you have the foundations right, it should become second nature (see point below though).

Remember, people’s impressions of leaders after just a few encounters can be very sticky and hard to change so getting it right from the get-go is critical.

And like everything else, if you want to be good at leadership, it takes practice.  See it as a ‘practitioner’ role, where practice makes perfect.  

I mentioned above there’s a catch…here it is.

Knowing oneself and one’s team only works in an organisation if you can marry these understandings with the values and core goal(s) of the company.

If these are misaligned, then all the self-awareness in the world won’t work.

But the solution is simple once again.  Take the time to understand what the organisation’s ‘real’ goal(s) and values are, like you would with your people.  And integrate these into how you motivate your team and keep them focussed.  

See this as your team getting to know the ‘personality’ of your organisation, much like you investing in getting to know them.  See the organisation as having likes, dislikes, triggers, demotivators, motivators, and so on. 

Turn your organisation into a personality, much like the individuals on your team, so understanding its values and goals is as easy as getting to know someone new.

How do you get started on your journey of self-and-team discovery and understanding?  Consider either of these two personality profile platforms for you and your (ideally) entire team – Facet5 and Extended DISC.  I’ve used both and highly recommend them. 

Author, Michelle Hampton, Managing Partner


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