Over the course of my career I have been fascinated by the aspects of leadership and management within organizations. This has largely been driven by an experience I had early in my career with my first management role. A few days before I was to take over a team, my boss called me into his office and gave me some sage advice. He said, “be the type of leader that you would want to work for.” This very simple and common sense advice has stuck with me since that day, and I have continually tried to live by that creed. I ask myself frequently, would I want to work for me? That simple question has helped guide my view of management and leadership, and along the way I have picked up some observations about effective leaders and dysfunctional leaders.
An effective leader is not a dictator
Effective leaders understand that input from others is critical to their success. While the leader is ultimately responsible for the final decision, taking input from team members allows the leader to see different view points and make a more educated decision. Furthermore, it allows members of the team to have their voice heard. While the leader’s final decision may not be in agreement with some of the team members point of view, they are more likely to support the decision if they have had a chance to offer their input.
Dysfunctional leaders make unilateral decisions with little or no input from others. They ignore valuable advice from their team members and are quick to suppress any alternative ideas that are not their own.
An effective leader doesn’t ask somebody to do something they aren’t willing to do themselves
This is one of the most overlooked attributes of effective leaders. People want to know that their leader is in the trenches with them, willing to slog through the mud and other unpleasantness that may exist with a specific task. Effective leaders have demonstrated time and time again they are willing to get their hands dirty on the most difficult tasks. When people see that, they are more willing to step up to the challenge when they are delegated something hard or unpleasant. Knowing that it wasn’t because the leader didn’t want to do it, but rather because the leader may have had something more undesirable to do. Whereas a dysfunctional leader is quick to delegate the undesirable tasks to anybody other than themselves and is unwilling to provide assistance. This creates deep resentment and diminishes a leaders influence on their team.
An effective leader hires and invests in the right people
The most important asset a company has is its people. In order for a company to continue to support any type of growth, they have to hire and invest in the right people. Effective leaders do not succumb to cronyism and make hiring or promotion decisions because they have worked with somebody in the past or because they are friends. They make the decision because it is the right person for that position. (See the comment about being a dictator) Effective leaders provide their team with the skills required for them to take leadership roles throughout the organization and encourages them to pursue these new opportunities within the organization. This in turn keeps attrition low and morale high.
An effective leader gets out of the way
Stories abound about the manager from hell who micro-managed an employee’s every task. Effective leaders understand that micromanagement is not the answer. Instead, they need to teach employees ‘correct principles and let them govern themselves’. If organizations have hired the right people as previously discussed, and have provided effective training and some operational boundaries, and then get out of their employee’s way, great things will happen. Morale will improve, attrition will go down and productivity and innovation will increase.
These are just a few observations that I have garnered over the years regarding effective leadership. Don’t be a dictator, don’t ask somebody to do something you aren’t willing to do yourself, hire the right people, avoid cronyism, give them their operational boundaries, and get out of their way.
And ask yourself, would you want to work for you?