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“Invite people into your life who don’t look or act like you. You might find they challenge your assumptions and make you grow” — Mellody Holoson.
A true leader understands that leadership is an attribute that evolves with challenges. A Leader feeds on challenges. When every lesson learnt is put to test not only to achieve results but also to inspire others to follow is when real leadership transpires.
So what makes a leader competent? How does a leader perform? How can a leader put his leadership skills to work to achieve common goals? What is leadership in action?
Management is different than leadership. Though management is the hand-on component of leadership that involves planning, control and organization yet leadership is the skill that inspires followers despite the odds to listen and follow the vision of a leader that drives an organization towards new ideas and directions.
A leader’s job is to communicate the vision with clarity to management. To provide concrete directions and plans, to identify priorities, short term and long term, to provide timelines, performance measures and clear accountabilities based on quality judgment.
Effective leaders promote change and innovation. They try to find solutions to unique problems by encouraging a constant information flow in all directions. They encourage and emphasize responsiveness to changing demands.
Leaders take their team into the performing phase as quickly as possible. Leaders encourage debate and ideas from all stakeholders. Leaders inspire a commitment to success by valuing a productive culture where individual ideas and contributions are valued.
Leaders develop ownership of goals by engaging individuals/employees in the decision-making and planning process. They empower individuals/employees by devolving authority to get things done efficiently.
For both leaders and followers learning happens at every opportunity. Though leaders act as models for their employees/followers yet the most effective leaders not only teach by example but also take a personal interest in the learning of others that they serve as mentors.
Leaders can recognize both challenges and opportunities and are able to develop new business directions for their organization. They create enthusiasm and acceptance for the new vision or change and use the appropriate leadership style to inspire and guide followers to embrace the change to grow.
Sometimes, the best alternative may not be obvious. The best alternative is the one that produces the most advantages and the fewest serious disadvantages. That’s when a leader decides which option is the most effective that carries lowest costs to the organization. Since the followers are involved in the decision-making process everyone tries to ensure a successful outcome for the alternative chosen.
Along the course of action, a leader sets –up an evaluation system to provide feedback on how well the decision is being implemented, what the results are, and what adjustments are necessary to get the results that were intended when the solution was chosen.
Leaders who dare to dream are of course rare. For many the gravitational forces of limited resources, demands for accountability, and an inhospitable regulatory environment are just too strong to overcome.
True leaders know their ability to breathe life into their hopes and dreams and help envision others the exciting possibilities that the future holds. Such leaders see themselves as agents of change whose calling is to forge a unity of purpose that creates the will and the momentum for achieving their vision thus making leadership in action happen.