What makes a good leader?
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What makes a good leader?

Now this is a question that we have been seeking the answer to for decades and I am sure we will continue to study this for decades to come. One thing is for certain is that there is not currently a definitive answer to this.

When I consider this question myself, I automatically reflect on my personal experiences of good and bad leaders. From those experiences I can establish what I believe have been effective leadership practices:

Vision

A leader should have a clear vision for the organisation. They should build the vision upon core values and link to the mission statement. The vision of the organisation informs staff, customers and other stakeholders what the organisation is trying to achieve. It also outlines how they are going to go about it. It is aspirational and inspiring and provides a criteria for effective decision making. The vision of the organisation, if communicated correctly, should “speak” to us as individuals. It should show us that what we are doing makes sense. The leaders should translate the vision of the organisation into specific goals and objectives. From a team and individual perspective, these help us to identify and understand how what we do contributes to the overall success of the organisation. If we don’t know what we are trying to achieve, then how can we achieve it?

Communication

Effective leaders have good communication skills and excellent interpersonal skills. They can relate to people at all levels and because of this, are able to get the best out of their people. They have high Emotional Intelligence and are able to monitor their own emotions to ensure that they can relate and empathise with whomever they are dealing with. Effective leaders understand that it is important to keep their people informed. They will also involve them to ensure that staff are engaged in the organisation’s strategy, intentions and decision making.

Engagement/Motivation

Effective leaders provide levels of responsibility to their staff and will allow varying degrees of autonomy dependent upon experience levels and ability, and it is their knowledge and trust in their people that creates an engaged workforce. When I think about what engagement means I think of a stick of rock – if I cut you across your middle, would it say the name of your organisation there? Do you love your organisation so much that you are an advocate for it? Do your friends and family want to work at your organisation because of the things you say and how happy you seem to be?

If you are the leader of that organisation, does your enthusiasm and passion come through in all you say and do?  It’s true, these things are infectious! Engagement and motivation go hand in hand. By creating a culture of trust, innovation, team work and recognition, you are likely to have a highly motivated workforce.

Values/Ethics

Values and ethics within an organisation help us to define its’ culture. It determines how we behave and what we believe. By communicating the organisational values through our practices, policies and behaviours, we are sending out a message that our workforce can subscribe to… or not as the case may well be! Sometimes there may be a mismatch, a lack of fit between an individual and the organisation. This is often down to an incongruence between what the individual values and the organisations beliefs.

So why does this matter?

We need to ensure we communicate our ethics and values in every way.  From recruitment, selection and throughout the working practices of the organisation. Ensuring this will save money in recruitment costs, staff turnover and retention. It will also ensure that your workforce is happy, engaged, motivated and feel like they “belong” within their organisation. As many a leadership theorist has established (Maslow, Herzberg, Adair etc) that feeling of belonging and fit is vital to ensure high performing teams.

Watching with Interest

So, it is with interest that I reflect on the mistakes that well-established organisations have made.  Leaders of Volkswagen substantially breached their ethics in their attempt to cheat emissions testing. Or consider the demise of BHS and the mishandling and unethical milking of money by certain high level business leaders. This illustrates how the leader’s behaviour and values can impact on the lives of thousands of employees. But, who’s to say what does actually make an effective leader?  Look at the communication ability, behaviour and values of Donald Trump. Who would have thought that he would become the President of USA? This is one that I will watch with interest!

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