Those of you familiar with MBA textbooks, business coaching material and management babble already know that effective leadership styles can range from being Transformational, Visionary, Affiliative or Democratic amongst many other approaches. But what does being an effective leader really mean in simple terms? Is it about setting direction, pumping the bottom-line, inspiring employees, being ethical or all of the above? Let’s take a look and find out.
Be a Super Communicator
Management books, executive coaches and practicing CEOs have repeated ad nauseam that being a great communicator is the first and foremost key to becoming an effective leader. Your message, whatsoever it may be, has to percolate loud and clear to the lowermost rung of your organization – and that remains much easier said than done. With Indian companies expanding operations globally, communication is the only tool that will help you as a leader to cut across challenges like assembling virtual teams for impromptu problem solving, managing diversity, formulating inclusive strategies of decision making, engaging with employees to discuss their welfare and so on. From stakeholders to employees to vendors to potential investors – everyone will validate a leader or a CEO to be effective, only if he/she is a great communicator.
Promote an attitude of learning
Gone are the days when leaders were expected to ‘always be right’ in hierarchical institutions. In flatter organizations these days, leaders are as much human as their subordinates and they are known to accept their mistakes in the open, if any. To accept mistakes doesn’t necessarily mean to be humiliated and to say you’re wrong.
The real motive of becoming an effective leader by accepting your mistakes is that you promote a culture of ‘Make mistakes as long as you learn from them and don’t repeat them’, thus eliminating the employee fear. Since growing, learning and innovating often involve a great deal of trials and repetition, you will only ‘humanize’ the process of employee performance by being a part of your subordinate group rather than being ‘above’ them.
Focus on growth and innovation
Being an effective leader is not just about execution, maintaining the bottom-line and delivering results in an emerging marketplace like India. While that is a part of the job, an effective leader will get an edge if he/she allows subordinates to grow by preparing for the future, by innovating and by ideating.
Linda Hill, a Wallace Brett Donham Professor of Business Administration at the Harvard Business School and the co-author of ‘Being the Boss: The 3 Imperatives of Becoming a Great Leader and Becoming a Manager: How New Managers Master the Challenges of Leadership’ tells TOI on her recent visit to India that it is in fact dangerous for Indian companies to focus merely on delivering results since India is an emerging market and a key player in the global context.
She states that effective leadership is all about enriching the collaborative process in an organization by bringing people together from different perspectives, creating a community of shared values and probing capability in people to bring about innovation.
Watching shows like ‘Undercover Boss’ or reading about how heads of Indian organizations mystery shop at their own retail outlets will only surprise you. There is an immense lack of familiarity that employees at the bottom most level have with their leaders. Forget knowing their face, employees of many mid to large sized firms don’t even know the names of their CEOs if they’re not very famous. This simply shows how inaccessible and unavailable leaders are, sitting in their ivory towers in corporate headquarters.
Leaders may not be available all the time on a one-on-one basis, but they can take advantage of the growing power of social media, podcasts, video conferencing and other such IT tools to present them as being accessible to their employees. If you want to be an effective leader, don’t just show up at annual meetings.
Allow your behavior to reflect what you want for the company
While this obviously includes ethical behavior, with the Satyam scam being a case in point, effective leaders must always maintain an image which they want their employees to see. Talking about cost cutting while you jet set for unimportant seminars and conferences or asking for a focus on innovation when you as a leader are not willing to tolerate even the slightest of monetary loss will not make for good examples. Wall Street Journal India states that in the age of information being freely available and completely transparent, leaders are bound to be under constant public scrutiny. A great tip for becoming an effective leader is to consciously think about the repercussions of your words and actions while you are and aren’t at your workplace.