Essential Leadership Attributes For Success
The demand for stellar leadership is at the forefront of every business across all industries. The workplace climate has drastically changed requiring leaders to not only focus their time and attention on the success of their core business but also to provide strategic leadership and support to their employees. Leaders must be positioned with the right leader attributes and competencies to lead in an environment that requires constant re-evaluation and change. They must also meet the needs of employees who have new expectations for personal needs, development, inclusion, and more. In this article, we discuss the demand for new mindsets and how leadership must adapt to drive organizational success in the coming year.
Developing a Culture by Design
Leaders drive culture. Creating a positive culture by design is paramount versus allowing a culture to be formed at the water cooler. This includes living out a true mission, vision, and values with integrity as a central component of your business ethos. In Deloitte’s annual study of human capital trends, culture is consistently ranked among the top three most important issues for senior leadership. Bottom line, leaders must drive a well-planned culture in order to cultivate critically essential high-performance teams.
There are multiple books written on the subject of organizational culture, but one that I’ve found to be helpful with practical advice and direction is Culture by Design: 8 simple steps to drive better individual and organizational performance by David Friedman.
How Do Leaders Impact the Bottom Line?
Leadership drives engagement and retention rates. According to The Employee Engagement Group, 60% of disengaged employees are open to new jobs; but even more alarming, about 40% of non-engaged employees will actually STAY! Much of the disengagement is attributed to poor management and/or a toxic work environment. Turnover costs may accumulate to as much as 20%-40% of an employee’s annual salary. In reality, one employee making $80,000 per year can cost employers $16,000-$32,000 to replace. Leaders must have the ability and foresight to assess engagement on an ongoing basis and to make course corrections if/when needed.
What are the Key Attributes for Success?
Leadership starts with caring and empathy – seeing employees as people first and as employees second. Showing genuine care and commitment to your employees’ well-being builds trust and establishes mutual relationships. The need for servant leadership has not diminished, and leaders must ensure that leading with their heart as well as their head is the normal practice.
Humility can be a superpower in leadership. Authentic leaders admit mistakes, give credit where it’s due, and remain coachable. They provide inclusion and ensure all voices are heard knowing that while they are at the top of the hierarchy, those on the ground often have relevant knowledge and innovative ideas unknown at the management level.
Curiosity, emotional intelligence, and effective collaboration can’t be omitted from the list of key leader attributes. Asking why, how, and what-if questions urge employees to think deeper and speculate about possibilities. Holding people accountable, yet doing so without harsh condemnation, ensures employees are supported if they try and fail. And lastly, collaboration must be fostered to ensure each individual, regardless of their style/personality, are comfortable bringing their input to the table.
Tactics for Developing Leader Attributes
The 70-20-10 rule reveals that individuals tend to learn 70% of their knowledge from challenging experiences and assignments, 20% from developmental relationships, and 10% from coursework and training. If you’re building leaders, stretch assignments provide opportunities for new leaders to learn and grow to help them to experience firsthand what works and what needs further improvement.
Job rotations are effective in growing knowledge and perspective. Rotating a potential leader into a different department or job function can expand their practical and context knowledge of your business. It can help them to further hone their strengths while also providing them with a different perspective that benefits them now and in the future.
Situational-based questions can be designed to push potential leaders outside their comfort zone and to promote more extensive strategic thinking. It may also allow them an opportunity to insert or leverage their own personal style.
Use your most efficacious team members to serve as mentors. Select someone within the organization that can help the prospective leader to see the company and its employees from a different angle. Remember, your leaders are human too and often require the same support they are providing their teams.
What Leaders Need to Unlearn/Change
Strategic planning continues to be a business essential and best practice. However, with uncertainty in economics, politics, pandemic impacts, etc., scenario planning provides an alternative contingency. Annual plans are typically rather concrete. Scenario planning is when employers make plans that enable them to be prepared in many scenarios. “If this happens, then that” planning. This serves as a live and ongoing process of checking the operating plans for current relevancy.
Leaders should consider long-term business shifts to determine which changes that are in place now will transition into being permanent and how to adapt. Examples are remote work and the discovery that an office facility is no longer a necessity to run an organization.
Another significant change for leaders is operating in an environment that drives decisions with the use of artificial intelligence and technology. Data-driven decisions are based on factual statistics as long as the “data in” is credible. Automated tasks can make decision-making easier and also free up leaders to focus on other aspects of human capital and the overall business. The most effective leaders will ensure they are optimizing their use of technology so they can focus more of their time on areas that require a human touch.
Navigating toward future success may require leaders to make bold moves. Combat old habits; banish outdated and ill-informed ways of thinking; drive disengaging and toxic behavior from your business. Even if that means displacing a top leader who is not willing to represent the best interests of the organization both excellently, empathetically, and unselfishly. But it doesn’t stop there. Remember that people are human. Leaders must over-communicate, develop strong and lasting relationships built on trust and transparency, and provide recognition. Always catch individuals and teams “doing something right.” The best leaders of tomorrow will be those who help their businesses thrive while helping their employees to do the same.
Thank you to Angela Dunaway, SPHR-SHRM-CP for contributing to this edition of Emerging Issues in HR.
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