Leaders are the key decision makers and drivers of change within any business. Their attitudes, actions and behaviours set the tone and establish the direction for the business. The pace of change and development within any business is inextricably linked to the pace of change and development of its leaders. How can you ensure that you are providing the leadership that your business needs? Here’s five questions that the leaders of growing businesses should ask themselves in order to help them become more effective in their role:
1. How can I maximise the value I add as a leader?
2. Am I spending enough time on strategic activities?
3. What % of their potential are my people achieving?
4. Have I created a strong sense of purpose within the business?
5. How effective am I at getting my message across?
Question 1 - Am I maximising the value I add as a leader?
The developmental leadership model is a way of looking at the value you add to the business. The model shows a continuum of leadership roles. On the left hand side of the continuum we have the operational leader who spends 90% of time on operational activities and 10% on operational activities. On the right hand side we have the developmental leader who spends 90% of time on developmental activities and 10% on operational activities.
Question 2 - Am I spending enough time on strategic activities?
The role of the leader in any growing business is to deliver the business plan. The most effective way of achieving this is to increase the amount of time that you spend on strategic activities. For many business leaders the most important actions that would enable growth get lost among the minutiae of day to day responsibilities and actions which conspire to fill the day and soak up energy Our research shows that many business leaders only spend as little as 15% of their time on strategic activity.
Simply raising the strategic activity level on itself will not allow you to deliver your growth objectives. You also need to have a clear focus on the priority strategic challenges and a clear delivery plan. However, the relatively low starting point for time spent on strategy for most leaders, suggests that a significant increase on the time spent on this area will increase the focus on and provide the level of time required, to create and implement an effective plan.
Over the past twenty years we have observed how the most successful business leaders have been able to step back from the day to day actions and focus themselves (and their teams) on the actions which will deliver business growth. Increasing the amount of time spent on strategic activity is a key causal factor in delivering business growth.
Question 3 - What % of their potential are my people achieving?
Leadership involves getting things done through other people and a good way of measuring your leadership effectiveness is to consider how effective you are at getting the most from your people. Moving to the next level of growth requires a move away from a dependence on one or two key individuals and an increase in the breadth and depth of management. Only by creating a strong management team will the leader gain the confidence to step back from the day-to-day operations. Developing a strong team requires the ability to inspire others and delegate effectively.
The best leaders inspire their people to deliver higher levels of performance. This requires flexible leadership, the ability to create influencing relationships with individuals, purposeful communication and a strong focus on people development.
Effective delegation will not only stretch and develop the capabilities of your people, it will also free up time for you to spend on strategic activities.
Question 4 - Have I created a strong sense of purpose within the business?
Everyone requires a sense of purpose; a meaning to what they do. For a leader this is about creating a vision. A vision is simply a picture of the future. Leadership starts with a vision - one which inspires you to act and encourages others to follow.
At a company level a vision bonds people together in a common purpose and acts as a catalyst for company-wide change. At an individual level it provides a focus and motivation for personal achievement. The driving force of a strong vision is a powerful focus for personal and organisational change. A vision provides guidance for management, inspires employees, gives the company a sense of direction and creates a focus for effort. Progressive organisations require visionary leaders. Individuals who are able to see a picture of the future and energise their people towards making it happen.
Question 5 - How effective am I at getting my message across?
There is no point in having a vision unless it is communicated effectively throughout the business. The purpose of leadership communication is not just to convey information, but to influence behaviour. It influences behaviour by persuading people to take action toward the organisation's objectives.
As a leader, communication is not just about what you say; it’s also about what you do. Leadership signals and actions set the tone for how others think, act and behave. The actions of the leader and the signals given off, give a strong indication of the behaviour which is valued and rewarded within the business. Regular signals to people about what is important and how business should be carried out, backed up by consistent actions from the leader, go a long way to encouraging the attitudes and behaviours which are required to develop the type of business you want. To paraphrase Ghandi – you have to become the change you want to see.
The best leaders continually challenge themselves to improve their performance. Addressing these leadership questions should help you to consider the extent to which you are providing the leadership that your business needs and highlight potential improvement areas. The pace of change and development within any business is inextricably linked to the pace of change and development of its leaders.