Recent Gallup reports show employees in our nation dislike their jobs, don’t trust their leaders, and lack engagement. Becoming a leader in this negative environment can seem daunting, but don’t let it stop you.
For years we’ve standardized the measurements of a good leader into “‘competencies’, a psychometric-based method of assessing and developing leader behavior,” as defined by the Harvard Business Review. Organizations assess the competency needs of leaders within a company, work with them to develop the competencies that are lacking, and then measure the competencies within the company. This industry accounts for billions of dollars, but it seems to be inconsistent approach for developing leaders. Afterall, each situation is different, and the individual tackling the challenge will need to assess the context of his new test within a large organization. A great leader is not defined by the qualities he can check off a list. An outstanding leader will step back to see the larger picture and understand what they’re working with.
Many will lecture about abstract theories as to what leadership should be, but oftentimes applicable skills are the most effective demonstration of leadership. Leaders develop dynamically from day to day experiences, not from a competency assessment or grandiose theory. To become a great leader, observe the your organization’s social structure and routines. You will use this as a foundation for your leadership plan. Here are some simple initiatives you can take to make your applied leadership skills and routines effective:
Start with yourself and study your habits, routines, and behavior. Notice the differences between one-on-one interactions and team meetings. Assess which behaviors accomplish the most, and which work against you. The ability to honestly assess yourself as a leader will give you ideas for improvement.
Study the outstanding performers around you. Like you studied yourself, study those around you who consistently perform well. Observe the habits and routines of those around you, and compare them to your own. You will see changes you can make to mimic the performance of your peers.
Spark conversation about routines. Leadership is not a one-man band. You will not find success on your own, only by involving those around you will your reach your goal. Talk to your team about routines that improve performance. Focus on application and development instead of standardized leadership scores or annual reviews.
Accept your flaws and those of others, and be sure to ask for feedback. Picking the right leadership approach depends on the situation. Instead of focusing on finding the perfect competency formula for great leadership, recognize the different needs for each situation. This will allow you to tailor your approach instead of trying to be successful with a narrow minded definition of successful leadership.
Applicable changes can show you an improvement in performance in a new way. While competency assessments are still a valid form of measuring successful leadership, the abstract qualities a leader is expected to have are difficult to concretely develop. Learning applicable skills will change your outcomes in a practical fashion.