Ten of the Best Ideas in Leadership

My colleagues and I frequently hear senior executives express concern that they aren’t able to stay on top of the endless stream of new books and magazine articles focusing on topics pertaining to successful leadership.  Most recently, one of my executive coaching clients said, “I know I would benefit from doing more reading, but even with the best of intentions, I never seem to find the time!”

This comment prompted me to attempt to capture the essence of successful leadership in a manner that even the busiest executive would likely have time to read.  Here, then, is what I’ve come up with—the top ten leadership practices for the “people side” of the organization, particularly during CHANGE:

  1. PROVIDE VISION DURING CHANGE.  To ensure openness and trust, avoid surprises.  Offer specific information, reasons for anticipated change, and continuous updates.  Help employees feel like change agents, rather than victims of change, by inviting them to help make decisions and solve problems.
  2. BE AN EMPATHETIC LEADER.  Encourage employees to give voice to their concerns and fears.  Listen generously.  Affirm their feelings.  Provide extra measures of support and optimism.  Make a sincere effort to boost employee confidence and attitude by expressing appreciation and offering pats on the back on a daily basis.
  3. CUT A LITTLE SLACK.  Though we always want to encourage excellence, we must also recognize that mistakes are inevitable when learning new skills and procedures.  Unless employees are allowed to take reasonable risks and learn from their mistakes without fear of retribution, they are likely to hold back, rather than to give their all. 
  4. BECOME A MASTER COMMUNICATOR.  At its best, effective workplace communication starts at the top with leaders who create a culture that prioritizes open and continual communication in all directions.  Navigate by curiosity and ask questions to encourage participation and critical thinking; then pay close attention to responses.
  5. COACH A WINNING TEAM.  Creating cohesive teams out of employees with varying skill and experience levels rests on the shoulders of the organization’s leaders.  Winning teams need excellent coaches to guide, develop, inspire and help motivate team members.  It is important to lead, yet not dictate or dominate.  Encourage interdependent relationships which stress cooperation, not competition, among team members. 
  6. BE AN EMOTIONALLY INTELLIGENT ROLE MODEL.  Set the high standards you expect others to follow.  Lead the way with purpose and passion, demonstrating the values and behaviors expected throughout your organization.
  7. PRACTICE RESILIENCE.  Be flexible and nimble enough to respond to the unexpected in today’s complex environment, and change direction when the situation calls for it.  Know when to take control and when not to over-control an uncontrollable situation.  Learn to bounce back from inevitable setbacks. 
  8. LIVE A WELL-INTEGRATED LIFE.  Pressures and demands, concerns and worries can quickly put you on overload and diminish your effectiveness.  Successful leaders have learned how to keep the negative aspects of stress within manageable limits.  Such basics as getting enough sleep, eating healthy, keeping fit, relaxing to recharge your batteries, and setting aside quality time with family and friends are critical components of good health, good humor and good leadership.
  9. BUILD A LEARNING ORGANIZATION.  Optimize your effectiveness by staying on the cutting edge of your industry and by keeping up with best management practices.  If book reading is not an option because of time constraints, take advantage of opportunities to learn via professional associations and industry literature.  Encourage your employees to be lifelong learners by offering them ongoing education and development opportunities. 
  10. INSPIRE TRUST AND LOYALTY.  Retention of exceptional talent has become a major challenge in many organizations.  Take steps to avoid this concern by recognizing that loyalty and trust go hand-in-hand.  Do you provide the strength of leadership that inspires trust and promotes loyalty and retention?

 We’d love to hear from leaders reading this post:   If you were to pick the one or two most important leadership skills, which of these would you emphasize, and why?

Written by June Kriviskey, VMC Consultant

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6 thoughts on “Ten of the Best Ideas in Leadership

  1. What a great “Top Ten!” I would underscore #6 re: role model. This requires self-awareness and a dose of humility. Research has shown that people consistently look for four characteristics in a leader when they choose to follow: honesty, competence, and the abilities to inspire and be forward-looking. The leader who can honestly assess these characteristics and practice them consistently will likely follow these “Top Ten” practices and be a leader of a high-performing team.

  2. Karen:

    This is most likely the most complete leadership lists of ideas in one article/place that I have ever seen, and I am a practitioner of Servant Leadership and speaker on the subject as well as on change management, vision and mission creation, customer service and other related subjects.

    I would only make one comment that I have found to be immensely important to leadership. Vision is not only highly important during a change process as you wrote, but also as a continual leadership practice. Leaders need to continually keep the vision alive in the minds and hearts of all employees, to insure buy-in by everyone, in order to completely and successfully turn that vision into a reality.

    Thank you again for the list. Unless you object, I intend to share it with my Leadership Seekers group for their edification. I think the article is vitally important.

    Thank you. Keep the Quest Alive!

  3. The best measure of positive results is how well leaders communicate. Empathy would be next on my own personal list, because of the nature of the job market and economy in general, most employees have job security on their minds during tough times.

  4. It is not possible to pick the top one or two leadership skills without knowing the specific needs and motivators of the team you are being asked to lead. I think you have listed some excellent examples but they are not relevant in a vacuum. Leaders need someone to lead and a true leader adapts their approach to the team they are leading.

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  6. I recall the stress of leading in a bankrupt facility: the most important leadership attribute that allowed all of us to survive the ordeal was a clear consistent VISION in the midst of the chaos.
    I think many times leaders think they have communicated a vision, when in fact, they have not articulated a clear path that others can follow or share.

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