Effective leadership: The 5 drivers of success

We define leadership as creating environments that influence others to achieve group goals. Management, on the other hand, is the creation, implementation, and monitoring of processes.

People support a world they help create and the processes that help them succeed. The point of overlap of these two definitions is the five drivers of success for today’s effective leader/manager:

Self-direction: Effective leaders are self-directed. They have vision and a sound sense of true north. They set goals and achieve them. They know the results that they are responsible for and, being empowered, they move forward toward those outcomes. They live by and follow their values to create an environment through their leadership style, systems, and processes for others in their organization to also be self-directed and empowered. Self-direction has both a people and a process focus.

People skills: One of the greatest causes of failure in newly promoted executives and leaders is their inability to form effective teams and partnerships at all levels inside and outside their organization. Consistent application of proven principles in dealing with people is the key — it starts with building relationships. Once that foundation is in place — and only when that foundation is in place — can they gain the willing cooperation of their people, even when tough decisions have to be made. It is all about trust and respect that goes both ways.

Process skills: Effective leaders demonstrate the ability to plan, innovate, delegate, utilize time efficiently, analyze problems, and make decisions. The greatest people skills in the world can easily fail if sound processes and systems are not in place to support them. Leaders have a deep understanding that there is a delicate balance between people and process. Too much emphasis on one at the expense of the other can potentially lead to failure.

Communication: Solid questioning and listening skills are at the top of the list. The effective leader understands that even the new employee on day one of his/her job can offer insights that add value. There are ample opportunities to listen and learn in the organization. Communication is the glue that holds that organization together. Whether their style is bold and out there, or one of quiet confidence, they inspire their team.

Accountability: Holding others accountable, if done correctly, can help create a motivated team. If done incorrectly, the opposite will more likely happen. Leaders know how to close the gap between expected performance and actual results. They coach, guide, support, and train others to achieve mutually agreed on goals. They provide direction and manage change. They know that delegation is not abdication. They also know the flipside in that micromanagement drives people crazy.

If you take any one of the five success drivers above away and leave the other four, you will be looking at an incomplete leader/manager. All five are mission critical to long-term success and results. By way of simple summary, I will leave you with the words of Max De Pree, former CEO of Herman Miller, and author of Leadership is an Art: “Manage the system, lead the people.”

Click here to sign up for the free IB ezine — your twice-weekly resource for local business news, analysis, voices, and the names you need to know. If you are not already a subscriber to In Business magazine, be sure to sign up for our monthly print edition here.