What exactly does it take to be an effective business leader?

Figuring out just who our effective leaders are has become somewhat of a challenging task. Leadership qualities can be elusive, and it’s not always easy to pinpoint.

Many people tend to over-intellectualise the notion and place too much focus on carving out a clear trajectory to top. This might work for some, but it shouldn’t be considered the norm. Instead, aspiring leaders should concentrate on inward reflection and uphold a simple but focused ethos towards their work and their professional relationships.

As they take time to climb the corporate ladder, there are a number of things they should consider:

Don’t “big note” yourself: While it’s tempting to think that you have to be on the radar of the leadership team at all times, this really isn’t always the best way to get ahead. It’s more about showcasing what you do well. Do that and your reputation will take care of itself.

Balance empathy with assertiveness: Strong leaders are those that have empathy for others, but don’t let that get in the way of doing what needs to be done. They must be comfortable with setting out clear instructions and expectations for team members while also offering support as required. It’s essential to know how your team members tick, what drives them, and how to best communicate and motivate them.

Be humble: In many cases, confidence and leadership go hand in hand, but it’s important to always keep your ego in check. At all times, do your job to the best of your ability, stay professional and let your success speak for itself. An inability to stay grounded will warp your perspective on things and ultimately could restrict your progress.

Don’t be a “micro-manager”: Strong leaders give clear directions, but then allow their teams to get on with the job. Avoid the temptation to constantly lean over their shoulders or require continual updates and reports. Workers should be allowed to breathe and be who they are as individuals. It’s about inspiration, not suffocation.

If you get knocked down, get back up: Not many people manage to navigate their entire working life without hitting some hurdles. It could be that you’ve just landed the job of your dreams but when you get there, the role you were sold is really all smoke and mirrors. Or it could be that you lose out on a big promotion opportunity to a colleague. Regardless of the setback, it’s key to not lose faith and focus on what’s next.

Understand your company: The more you can understand the organisation you’re working within, the better you’ll be at your job and the easier career progression will become. It’s therefore vital to understand aspects of the company beyond your immediate role such as the impact of brand, profit and loss, and employee engagement. A true leader is one who goes above and beyond in living and breathing the values of their organisation.

Never stop improving: It’s been said that the skills that got you into your job are unlikely enough for you to continually progress. It’s important to keep developing your skillset to get to the top of your game. There is always room for further development and there is never nothing left to learn. This is especially true when the rules of the game constantly change due to factors of a technological, economic or social nature.

Becoming a successful leader is something to which many people aspire but only a smaller number achieve. By understanding yourself and working in a cycle of continuous improvement, you’ll be ready to grasp the opportunity when it appears.

Tim MacCartney, APAC Managing Director, Miller Heiman Group

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