Lion Pride

How To Be A Great Leader

Have you always wanted to know how to become a great leader? For many years people assumed that effective leaders were born with certain traits. Therefore, the majority of research focused on trying to answer the question “what is an effective leader”? Maybe it was height, physical strength, or perhaps dominance or intelligence. Researchers like Stogdill (1974) and Lord a.o. (1986) demonstrated conflicting outcomes proving that there was no such thing as a shared set of traits as a predictive factor for effective leadership. Researchers then started to focus on the leader’s behavior, showing what they did became more important than who they were. I can already hear you “here’s hoping” because that means that anyone can learn how to become a good leader.

That, in fact, is very true! If you look at the underlying meaning of the word in a dictionary, it means “a person who leads”. There are so many types of leadership. And the basic foundation of leadership is the ability to influence. But what makes a leader a great leader? Throughout the years, many leadership styles have been reviewed. Let’s go through some of the most important ones before I come to the secret of great leadership.

Effective Leadership

Models that try to define leadership focus on the leader’s behavior. Researchers approach leadership by task focused, and person / relationship focused activities. Blake and Mouton’s Managerial Grid (Blake and Mouton, 1964) is one of the many models that can be used to define types of leadership and what’s most effective, including that “a participating way of leadership is the most effective.” But what does that mean? It means that an effective leader should be able to:

  • delegate decisions
  • give employees a chance to develop
  • communicate accurately with all people in the organization.

Situational Leadership

Let’s say a participating style is the best way to lead your employees. Would you be able to handle any situation holding on to just that style? I think the answer to that is no! Every situation is different. What does your team look like, how are the dynamics in it, what’s your relationship with your team, what’s the environment, what’s the task, and who are you as a person? Those are just a number of the essential factors that can have a significant influence on the effectiveness of a leadership style. Leadership seems to be precision work.

The model for situational leadership (Hersey & Blanchard, 1992) suggests that the best leaders need to be flexible in the style they choose, adapting to the stage of maturity of their staff members. Task maturity is very much a matter of wanting and being able to, in which confidence is an essential factor. To make situational leadership a success, leaders really need to know their staff members and how they work under a variety of circumstances and what they need to get the job done.

Charismatic Leadership

The most modern approach to leadership is the one focusing on the emotional effects of leadership behavior and the appreciation of staff members. Leaders need to share their vision and motivate their employees passionately, making sure they truly feel connected with the organization and its targets. Those that reach this state of leadership are referred to as charismatic leaders, a catching conclusion defined by Bloemers and Hagendoorn (2006).

Great Leadership

Becoming a great leader is very much about who you are and, more importantly, about who you want to be!  Great leadership means giving your very best in every situation and having an eye for individual needs and achievements in your team under all circumstances! Although to remain successful, you, at times, have to be hard and make decisions that won’t be easy and that affect your team. You can still do it with respect and empathy. Empathy is one of the essential skills to possess as a leader. It’s not just a matter of being cold or warm; it is the ability to understand another person’s experience, perspective, and feelings.

If I have to be honest, aside from the great enthusiasm, doing my work with empathy brings me closest to my definition of great leadership. What’s your secret to great leadership?

Stop the Silence

Stop the Silence!

Stop the Silence – Keeping your employees engaged…

Research shows that communication is a vital component for a high-functioning organization that wishes to empower employees and thrive as a business, regardless of the industry. Unfortunately, there seems to be a misconception by many in management roles that employees that don’t speak their mind and who go along with the management’s direction are more valued than those that express themselves.  While these silenced employees may be perceived as easier to manage, the opposite is actually true.  Employers must provide a platform for employees to have a voice.  This not only keeps employees engaged but increases performance.  It promotes creativity and stifles groupthink leading to greater innovation.

Several years ago, my former organization was exploring a new health care delivery model.  This change was based on the Southcentral Foundation’s NUKA model of care that focused on patient-driven care.  Part of the initial stages of this process included sending a delegation to a week-long training at the Southcentral Foundation in Anchorage, Alaska.  My director, at the time, asked if I would be willing to attend.  Naturally, I agreed.  Who doesn’t want to spend a week in Alaska at the boss’s expense?  The experience was invigorating and ignited my passion for healthcare again.  Later my director confessed that the reason she invited me to participate was due to my outspoken nature.  She knew if she didn’t have my buy-in, she would likely have some push-back.  She also understood that I could be her biggest ally in the implementation process if I realized the benefits of the change. Instead of silencing my voice, she understood the informal leadership role I had on the team and used it to benefit the organization.

Unfortunately, many organizations miss out on the ideas and valuable input that employees have to offer.  I’ve never understood why, but some organizations intentionally silence their people.  Perhaps management feels it is easier to manage or control situations, or possibly the manager is treated the same from those in the next management level up.  Either way, this culture of silence is counterproductive and diminishes the organization’s opportunity for sustainable growth.

Although high-performing organizations promote a culture of open communication, recent research shows that the majority of employees fear speaking up and that those that did speak up were less likely to move up the ladder.  Research also shows that suffering in silence leads to adverse outcomes for the organization. It causes low motivation, disengagement, alienation, and, low morale.

The benefits of employee input are numerous.  Employees work on the front-lines and are most familiar with the products, customers, and processes.  This day to day exposure to the workings of the organization offers insights that those at the management level may not be aware of.  Coming from a healthcare background, I will use the nurse-doctor analogy.  The nurse spends twelve hours with the patient while the doctor may spend ten minutes. Who knows the patient better?  Not that the nurse knows better than the doctor, but they will know more about the patient’s symptoms and overall condition. Ultimately, the doctor makes the decision, but without input from the nurse, the doctor wouldn’t have all of the information to make the best decision.  Without input from employees, management will not have all the information required to make the best decisions for the organization.

There are multiple strategies that organizations can use to encourage employees to contribute their opinions. First and foremost is leadership modeling behaviors that encourage and support active two-way communication.  By reducing formality and power cues, the leader assumes a collaboration role rather than a dictator role, making them more approachable.  Avoid speaking to only those employees that you are comfortable with.  This alienates the rest and promotes favoritism, which, in turn, silences your staff.

Make asking input part of a daily routine and then actually do something with the information.  Twenty-five percent of employees do not share ideas or information as they feel that nothing will be done with it.  Maybe it isn’t valuable today, but it may be tomorrow. Assuming that employees will speak up on their own is a gamble.  Perhaps previous experiences or lack of confidence will stop them from presenting what could be an amazing idea.  By not asking for their input, you are essentially silencing them.

To encourage diversity in your cohesive team, bring up controversial topics, and encourage debate.  Do not nit-pick or demand a plan or data during the brainstorming phase.  Allow the team to be creative and follow-up with data to support their suggestions. These approaches encourage active dialogue and set the tone for a safe environment for honest communication.

Promoting a culture of recognition encourages continuous input from employees.  Staff that feels appreciated for the achievements will gain confidence within the company.  The more confident an employee is, the more likely they are to offer input.  Commend staff for their suggestions and for asking tough questions.  Finally, reward and recognize employees that offer input that contributes to successes.

In conclusion, cultures of dialogue not only result in more engaged employees but the bottom-line results that organizations strive to achieve.  When organizations utilize the full potential of their staff, it diminishes creativity and productivity.  Worse yet, silencing employees leaves untapped potential, and eventually, that potential will go elsewhere to an environment that appreciates them.

Even if you don’t intentionally silence your team, I challenge managers to look at their own behavior.  What can you do to encourage employee input?  Is there a behavior that you can change to stop the silence?