Inspiring Excellence

Steven Gaffney 7 Keys to Effective Leadership

We are all leaders in some area of our lives. We lead our staff, boss, coworkers, clients, family, and friends. The following are seven critical points to providing effective leadership no matter what the situation or whom we are leading. Rate yourself on a scale from 1 to 10 (1 being the worst and 10 being the best) to determine what area you need to focus and improve on.

1) Be honest and keep your word: The foundation of all relationships is trust and the way to establish trust is through honesty. Being honest and keeping your word are key. For example, I knew of a company that lied to their employees about layoffs because they did not want to lose the good employees. After they announced and implemented the layoffs, the employees who were left did not believe when management stated the layoffs were over. Trust had been broken, so additional good employees left the company anyway. While it may be tempting to make a lot of promises, or withhold information to avoid upsets and issues in the short run, everyone usually loses in the long run. The benefit of trust is priceless for everyone involved.

2) Paint an optimistic, positive vision for the future: Look at the great leaders of our time. They do not exude “doom and gloom, misery and heartache.” Rather, they personify optimism and lay out a bright, exciting future. It is not to say that leaders ignore the problems and challenges of the present, but laying out the positive, proactive, optimistic future is the key. It is okay to take people through the valley of issues and problems as long as we show them how we can make it to the mountaintop of success.

3) Take full responsibility: Ineffective leaders blame external factors for why things aren’t working in times of difficulty. Effective leaders focus their time and efforts on what they can do about the external factors. After all, we may not be able to control everything that happens to us, but we are always in control of our response. By focusing 100 percent of our energies on what we can control, we can inspire others on our team to do the same.

4) Provide clear goals and an implementation plan: My friend, Jim Ball, author of DNA Leadership through Goal Driven Management, says that having crystal clear goals and a plan to achieve those goals is paramount to success. If we are not sure where we are going, how can we expect anyone to follow us? How often have we encountered someone who was not sure what they wanted or couldn’t articulate it, yet they wanted us to follow and support them? If we desire to lead others, we must have a clear path of where we are going, and then ensure that others know and understand the path, and how we are all going to get there as a team.

5) Clarify expectations: People often have a hard time focusing on and prioritizing what needs to be done. As leaders it is important to be explicit and remind team members what they are accountable for and what you expect of them. For example, in our office being honest and keeping your word (doing what we say we are going to do) are non-negotiable expectations. Because we have stated the expectation everyone knows what is expected of each other and operates accordingly. People tend to rise to the level of expectations--they just need to know what those expectations are.

6) State the benefits for the other person: The universal language we speak is, “What is in it for me?” Make sure people explicitly and implicitly know how your organizational goals, plans and expectations will benefit them on an individual and personal level. Incidentally, this is why many organizations’ vision or mission statements sometimes don’t have the desired impact on employees; employees often don’t see the benefit to them. Great leaders show how everyone impacts the bottom line and make a difference, as well as how everyone will reap the rewards by working together and achieving their goals.

7) Appreciate the people around you: One of the biggest complaints among employees is lack of appreciation. It is astonishing when you think about it because appreciation does not necessarily cost anything and yet it can make a huge difference. After all, I have yet to hear of someone who left an organization (or a marriage for that matter) because he/she was over appreciated and yet people leave situations because they don’t feel appreciated. So, acknowledge and appreciate your team and organizations members. It’s usually quite the opposite. We all want to know that we make a difference.

Now that you have rated yourself, pick the lowest score, share those scores with 5 people and ask them for advice. Then chose three specific actions that you will do based on this advice. Ask someone to hold you accountable, and do it. For extra motivation (and to be held accountable) set up a consequence for what you will do if you don’t do what you commit to. By concentrating on these seven points, you can successfully lead others and make a significant difference in the lives of many.

Copyright 2005, Steven Gaffney Company, All Rights Reserved

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