Effective leadership is not something that can be learned overnight. It requires a combination of skills, knowledge, and experience to truly excel. While reading books and attending training courses can provide a solid foundation, real experience and continual practice are essential for developing proficiency in leadership.
Today we will explore the six key areas of practice that are crucial for developing leaders, including (1) building a unifying vision, (2) developing strategy, (3) getting the right people hired and motivated, (4) focusing on results, (5) innovation, and (6) leading themselves.
1. Building a Unifying Vision
A unifying vision is a clear and inspiring direction that brings people together and aligns them towards a common goal. Developing a unifying vision requires practice in areas such as communication, active listening, and empathy. Leaders must be able to articulate their vision in a way that resonates with their team and stakeholders. They must also be able to listen to feedback and adjust their vision accordingly.
One example of a leader who has developed a unifying vision is Richard Branson, founder of Virgin Group. Branson's vision is to create a brand that stands for innovation, sustainability, and customer satisfaction. He has communicated this vision effectively to his team, and it has inspired them to work towards achieving the company's goals.
2. Developing Strategy
Strategy development is another critical area of practice for leaders. Leaders must be able to analyze data, identify patterns, and make informed decisions that align with their unifying vision. This requires practice in areas such as critical thinking, problem-solving, and decision-making.
One example of a leader who has developed a strong strategy is Jeff Bezos, founder of Amazon. Bezos has a clear vision for Amazon, which is to be the Earth's most customer-centric company. He has developed a strategy that focuses on providing a wide range of products and services, fast and reliable shipping, and exceptional customer service. This strategy has helped Amazon become one of the world's most successful companies.
3. Getting the Right People Hired and Motivated
A leader's success is heavily dependent on the team they surround themselves with. Leaders must be able to attract, retain, and motivate top talent. This requires practice in areas such as recruitment, employee engagement, and talent development.
One example of a leader who has excelled in this area is Howard Schultz, former CEO of Starbucks. Schultz has built a culture that values employee satisfaction and engagement. He has created programs such as comprehensive benefits, stock options, and opportunities for advancement, which have helped Starbucks attract and retain top talent.
4. Focusing on Results
A leader's primary responsibility is to achieve results. This requires practice in areas such as goal-setting, performance measurement, and accountability. Leaders must be able to set clear goals, track progress, and hold themselves and their team accountable for achieving those goals.
One example of a leader who has a strong focus on results is Mary Barra, CEO of General Motors. Barra has set clear goals for General Motors, such as increasing profitability and market share. She has also implemented a performance management system that holds employees accountable for their contributions towards achieving those goals.
Innovation is critical for staying ahead of the competition and achieving long-term success. Leaders must be able to foster a culture of innovation, which requires practice in areas such as creativity, risk-taking, and experimentation.
One example of a leader who has fostered innovation is Elon Musk, CEO of Tesla and SpaceX. Musk has created a culture that encourages experimentation and risk-taking. He has also invested heavily in research and development, which has led to breakthroughs in electric cars and space exploration.
6. Leading Themselves
Finally, leaders must be able to lead themselves before they can lead others. This requires practice in areas such as self-awareness, emotional intelligence, and personal development. Leaders must be able to understand their strengths and weaknesses, manage their emotions, and continuously develop their skills.
One example of a leader who has excelled in this area is Satya Nadella, CEO of Microsoft. Nadella has a strong sense of self-awareness and emotional intelligence. He has also been committed to personal development, which has helped him become a more effective leader.
The path to proficiency in leadership is not an easy one. It requires dedication, persistence, and a willingness to learn and grow. But with practice in the six key areas of building a unifying vision, developing strategy, getting the right people hired and motivated, focusing on results, innovation, and leading ourselves, we can become the leaders we strive to be. Remember, leadership is not a destination, but a journey. And with every step we take, every decision we make, and every interaction we have, we are shaping the future of our organizations and the lives of those we lead. So let us embrace this journey with passion and purpose, and strive to become the best leaders we can be.
Jonathan H. Westover, PhD is Chief Academic & Learning Officer (HCI Academy); Chair/Professor, Organizational Leadership (UVU); OD Consultant (Human Capital Innovations). Read Jonathan Westover's executive profile here.