Leadership Lessons: What makes a good leader?

May 16, 2017 | Nathan Barker

This month we’re putting our business psychology hats on – and we’re going to give you some great tips to help you improve how your organisation or team functions in the workplace. People who aren’t in leadership positions are very quick to criticize their superiors – I know I’ve heard “I could do a better job than that” paraded around on more than one occasion. However something worth thinking about is that being in a leadership role may have its perks such as pay and recognition but it’s also the first person someone blames if things go wrong, and resultantly the pressure and stress is much higher. So what makes a winning formula – how can you inspire your team to be the best at what they do?

Establish an inspirational purpose.

This one might seem fairly obvious – but it’s all too often forgotten, especially in higher pressure environments where results are expected quickly. The ultimate motivator is a ‘cause’. Finding a higher purpose is important to encourage individuals to shift the ‘why ’from achieving a personal goal to a bigger cause – what does that person’s individual goal contribute to the overall goal and do they recognise that? People are often inspired by achieving things that link to their own personal value system to a shared common purpose.

Create a strong team identity.
Successful organisations are those that have a strong identity based on core values developed by the employees themselves. This can also apply to a team within an organisation but as mentioned above its good practice to ensure you’re working for the same ‘cause’ as the rest of the teams or groups within the organisation. When people take ownership of these values and give them meaning, performance levels will likely increase. Every organisation should have a clear identity based on their history, heritage and future aspirations. Creating a strong identity should be aligned with accountability and a structured review process to ensure the identity and values are lived by all.

A strong culture is required for sustained success.
 Leadership Lessons: What makes a good leader?

Consistency of your people, behaviours and environment are key components of creating the right culture to be successful. A strong culture should be built upon a set of winning behaviours (these behaviours may be learnt from previous negative experiences), collective identity and strategic goals. A blend of experienced and hungry leaders is required to sustain a strong working culture over time.

Change culture through influencing mood, mindset and behaviours.

Changing culture is hard. Whether you’re going into an already successful organisation or a failing one – it’s tough! A failing organisation might be slightly easier to convince of change given most people in business are hungry for success; however changing culture in an already successful organisation is nigh impossible – “If it isn’t broke, then don’t fix it!” may be the attitude of most people, but if you can convince them things are only going to improve further it’s certainly achievable. Once you’ve broken this barrier, starting a change process during a healthy organisational period is going to allow everyone to think and act more clearly compared to when in difficult times. So how can you implement culture change? Start by influencing the mood and mindset of your people. Mood is transient and temporary, mindsets can be changed and then you culture will transform and last longer. In order for people to be willing to change behaviour they need to be psychologically minded in the first instance, they need to have sufficient reward or suffering and be committed to the change.

Build a diverse leadership team.

Surround yourself with a diverse group of people who are full of fresh ideas and offer all sorts of different perspectives. It’s important to inject inquisitive people into your leadership team. It’s also important to allow your leadership team to have a voice and be valued to give them longevity in the leadership role.

Value people rather than values.

It’s essential to value the people in your team and demonstrate what value you see in them. This should be clear from the hiring process and reinforced through working relationships. You will get the most from people when their personal values are aligned to the inspirational purpose of the organisation. Don’t let someone’s lack of technical expertise for a job shadow the fact that they are 100% committed to working for your organisation – technical skills can be taught, passion can’t.

Give ownership and responsibility.

People are likely to be more engaged and motivated when they are given ownership over their specific task – by showing them that you trust them and value that they are the expert for that given task, it will increase their commitment to the cause. However you should always ensure people understand that with ownership comes accountability and responsibility.

Communicate and provide regular feedback.

Providing feedback is vital and leaders should adopt a coaching approach to ensure understanding – a coaching approach is more of a guided, facilitating style than a telling style. People prefer to be a participant in the learning process rather than being a recipient. Question your employees, challenge their ideas, guide their learning – but never tell them what’s right or wrong. Regular de-briefs are essential to maintain communication and keep expectations transparent, they should be honest but not confrontational.

Success is the biggest threat to sustained success.

Being successful is the biggest threat to sustained success as it can change the level of people’s motivation and the focus turns to outcome rather than process. Recognising the importance of this is vital to prevent the downward spiral. To build a sustainable team it is important to balance experience with hunger and commitment.

Recover quickly from performance dips.
  • Accept and acknowledge
  • Use logic and emotion to identify problems
  • Focus on process not outcome
  • CORE (Commitment, Ownership, Responsibility and Excellence)
  • Early rewards to reinforce desired mindset
  • Compliance and consequence

Be massively driven to improve.

Never take your eye off the game - continuous improvement is only achievable by the desire to learn. Instilling this mindset in the organisations culture will ensure the focus is always on “how to add value” - What value did we add today? What value can we add tomorrow? And how will this impact our overall cause? -  Facilitate this desire in everyone by showing them that your enthusiasm to educate and improve is extremely important to the cause. Even if your team or organisation is performing at the top don’t let this success become stagnation and disconnection from the purpose of the work – use this success to motivate for higher levels of future success, striving for a commonly valued goal.

If you think you can benefit from what you've learnt above and would love the opportunity to learn more - book in to see one of our team today and we can help you thrive, grow and develop further; both in a personal sense and a business sense.

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