by Brian Ward
Many people in leadership positions struggle with understanding
what makes a great leader.
While billions of dollars are spent annually on leadership
development, quality leadership is still in short supply. For
example, the move towards Total Quality has inspired many
organizations to take a long, hard look at building their
leadership capacity. Quality management systems such as
Baldrige, ISO 9000, European Foundation for Quality and
the Canadian National Quality Institute all demand an
emphasis on quality leadership.
Organizations have responded to this with myriads of education
and training resources, which seem to be plentiful,
(Amazon.com has over 9,000 references on leadership.), yet
most attempts at building quality leadership are either far too
complex or too simplistic to be of any practical use to leaders
who need to make things happen.
So what does work?
In working with leaders we have isolated five key characteristics
that successful leaders consistently demonstrate. These work
extremely well whether the emphasis is on 'quality' or some other
approach to building and sustaining a customer focused, team based
organization that pays as much attention to results as it does to
process. So, if you want to become a better leader, even a great
one, study and apply these five key facets of high performance
Focus - Authenticity - Courage - Empathy - Timing
Effective leaders stay focused on the outcomes they wish to create,
and don’t get too married to the methods used to achieve them.
They provide this 'outcomes focus' for their organization by
emphasizing the mission, vision, values and strategic goals of
their organization and at the same time building the capacity of
their organizations to achieve them.
This capacity building emphasizes the need to be flexible, creative
and innovative and avoid becoming fossilized through the adoption
of bureaucratic structures, policies and processes.
Leaders who are authentic attract followers, even leaders who
are viewed as being highly driven and difficult to work for.
Simply put, they are viewed as always being themselves - and
therefore followers know what to expect from them and can
rely on them, come thick or thin.
Authenticity provides the leader with the currency to obtain 'buy-in'
from key stakeholders, because it builds and maintains trust.
Authenticity is the bedrock upon which the other facets are built.
The challenges facing leaders today are immense, and require great
courage to overcome. Leaders are constantly being challenged by
others, be it their own team, customers, the public or other
stakeholders. Standing firm in the face of criticism, yet having the
courage to admit when they are wrong, are hallmarks of courageous
For example, shifting an organization from being introspective to
becoming customer focused requires courage when people pay lip service
to the new direction...it means calling people on their bluff.
Effective leaders know how to listen empathetically - thus
legitimizing others’ input. By doing so, they promote consensus
building, and build strong teams. They coach others to do the same,
and so create a culture of inclusiveness. They tend to be great
listeners who capitalize on the ideas of others, and provide
for these ideas, yet they don't get bogged down in overly complicated
While they create learning organizations that place a high value on
dialogue and continuous feedback, they know when to take action, when
to 'fish or cut bait', which brings us on to the fifth facet...
The one facet that can make or break a leader is in knowing when to
make critical decisions and when not to. All of the other facets must
be viewed as subservient to getting the timing of critical decisions
There is a need to be focused, authentic, courageous and empathetic,
but get the timing wrong on critical decisions and everything else
to be nullified.
Great leaders move with appropriate speed. They don't believe that
everything must be done immediately...they know how to prioritize, and
how to get their team to prioritize. As well, they engage in timely
follow-through to ensure actions that are committed to happen in a well
coordinated and timely way.
Is that all it takes to be a great leader?
These facets of high performance leadership are not exhaustive. Just as
one would look at the facets of a diamond, upon closer observation
facets become observable. Any person can aspire to being a great leader
commencing with these key facets. If you are in a leadership role,
regardless of your position in your organization, start by asking
the following key questions:
o How focused am I? How much of my time do I spend communicating
and inspiring people about our mission, vision and strategic goals?
How much focus do I create in my organization? How married am I/my
organization to methods that have outlived their usefulness?
o Am I viewed as authentic? Do people see and hear the real me? Do I
wear a mask at work, and remove it when I leave each evening?
o How courageous am I when my values, vision and goals are challenged?
Do I stand firm and only change my position when I know that I am wrong?
o How empathetic am I? Too much/too little? Do I create enough
opportunities for open and candid dialogue? Do I ever find myself
getting bogged down in consensus building, or achieving false
consensus? Is there a feeling of inclusiveness amongst the members
of my organization, and with other stakeholders, including customers?
o Do I make and execute decisions in a timely fashion? Do I know when
to 'fish or cut bait?' - do I demand well coordinated and timely
execution of strategy from others?
What can you do to create a high performance leadership culture in your
Asking these questions in a candid way will open up many possibilities
for you, your organization or your clients...if you have the courage to
Building and sustaining a high performance leadership culture takes
patience and a clear focus on the vital few characteristics that
can develop naturally and authentically. Start today to develop and
these five key facets, and watch as you attract enthusiastic followers
Brian is the author of The FACET Leadership™ ONLINE Workshop at: http://www.affinitymc.com/Lead_People_Manage_Things.html Master the Five Key Facets of High Performance Leadership -
Designed Exclusively for Corporate Trainers, Coaches, Managers
Others with BIG Leadership Development Goals On A SMALL Budget...