What makes a great leader? Is it someone who is confident and committed to their work? Someone who is positive and inspires others? Have you worked with such a leader?
If you are fortunate, you will have the opportunity to work with this type of leader at some point in your career. Unfortunately, there are ineffective leaders, too. The good news is, no matter where you are on your leadership journey, there are things you can do to become a more effective leader.
There’s a delicate balance when it comes to leadership. Executive coach Bill Zipp says it comes down to two things – relationships and results.
“I find leaders fall off the balance beam on either of those two sides,” he says.
In fact, the two are intertwined. On the one hand, leaders can be really good at getting results, but destroy the relationships in their business. And without those relationships, ultimately you won’t see the results you want. On the other hand, leaders can be well liked and great at the relationship piece, but don’t get any results. Without the ability to achieve results, that undermines the relationships.
That’s why it’s important for leaders to build strong, respectful, and trusting relationships, while still meeting the expectations needed to grow their business.
Clarity + courage = better focus
There are many challenges that act as distractions to effective leadership. The biggest challenge facing leaders today? Focus.
“We are working at a million miles an hour,” remarks Zipp. “Leaders that get caught up in that whirlwind lose their focus.”
According to Zipp, focus means having a clear understanding of the company’s vision, what that means, and being able to execute it. It’s also about knowing who you are personally. Being able to maintain your focus acts as an anchor in the constant busyness that exists in our lives.
“If you get swept downstream instead of really understanding clearly what you’re about and having a sense of focus to things, you really drown in this sea of constant busyness.”
There are some ways to improve your focus. One is through clarity, the other through courage. Clarity requires having a distinct vision of what is important. Courage is about saying no, and pruning the things that are not going to help you achieve your vision. This is no easy task, especially when so many of us have the fear of missing out. Zipp says leaders have to be bigger than that.
“You have to say no to almost everything because of your vision, because of your sense of conviction about what you must do. I think that takes courage.”
Do something impossible
If you are looking to improve your leadership skills, Zipp suggests trying to do the impossible. Find something hard, that has the real possibility of failure, and go do it.
“We really learn how to lead when we are stretched beyond our abilities and we’ve got to figure things out, and we’re out of our comfort zones,” he explains.
Things that are easy don’t push you enough to cause growth. But doing something that is not a guaranteed success allows you to rise to the occasion. And if it crashes and burns, you dust off your clothes and move on.
“That’s when you learn how to lead,” says Zipp.
Know what you don’t know
Good leaders also understand that they don’t know everything. They bring in people who are just as competent and just as capable as themselves, and they free them up to work. Zipp says doing this is wise as it makes the organization, as a whole, a better place.
“This leadership flourishes,” he says. “They really bring the brightest and best to work for them.”
For those early in their leadership path, he suggests finding a mentor. Find someone to meet with who is willing to share their journey with you and grow from that person.
“The relationships you’ll make, more than likely, will for your entire life be able to nurture you and help you grow.”
Most of us will know many leaders throughout our careers. Those who bring focus while building relationships and getting results will be the ones who are not only lead effectively, but build future leaders as well.
Bill Zipp is a speaker at the LEAD Business Summit on April 27, 2016. You can learn more about this event at leadempowered.com.