Fast Five #1: Practical Leadership Strategies

by Dan McPherson | December 9, 2016

Fast Five #1: Practical Leadership Strategies

“Leadership is not about titles, positions, or flowcharts. It is about one life influencing another.” – John C. Maxwell

Leadership is about teaching, training, and inspiring others to achieve greater success. It is, first and foremost, about the people.

In today’s installment of the Fast Five series, which provides quick, actionable advice for growing leaders, we discuss key strategies designed to help anyone in a position of leadership more effectively support their teams. Enjoy!

1. Share your vision.

“Leadership is the capacity to translate vision into reality.” – Warren G. Bennis

Effective leaders hold a clear vision in mind and reinforce it daily with their teams. Leaders who either keep their plans for the future “close to the vest” or share it only rarely will find themselves in the position of the farmer who goes to harvest a crop only to find they forgot to plant the field.

Sharing a consistent, bold vision will breed confidence in your team. Confidence supports results.

Help your team envision where you will be in one, three, and even twelve months. Their excitement will build as they witness this vision becoming reality. Patiently paint the picture well and frequently, and your team will work wonders.

2. Explain to the point of understanding.

“A matter that becomes clear ceases to concern us.” –Friedrich Nietzsche

People like to understand why they are being asked to do something. Often they are trying to figure out how their role fits into or impacts the big picture. They want to know “the why behind the what”.

As with water running over pavement, gaps left by a lack of understanding must eventually be filled with something. In many cases, these spaces become filled with anxiety and speculation. Fill those same gaps with knowledge, however, and teams instead gain a sense of purpose and value. They are also far more likely to buy into the overall vision and direction of their leader.

Too many in positions of authority provide directives without explanation. Sometimes this is necessary, but often it is not.

Incorporate the idea of explanation to the point of understanding when providing direction. Morale will improve and your team will thank you with increased productivity.

3. Delegate more effectively.

“As we look ahead into the next century, leaders will be those who empower others.” – Bill Gates

Leaders can’t do it all. More importantly, they shouldn’t do it all. This doesn’t mean a leader shouldn’t be willing to do what is necessary, but it does mean they should empower others to act whenever possible.

Many leaders, especially those who have risen to their current position because they were great at doing, struggle with this transition. They say, “I can do it better or faster than anyone else,” or “I’ll have to tell them ten times before they figure it out.” Others believe their team may judge them for not “doing the real work.”

In both cases this creates a problem. Either the leader is not empowering their team in a manner that allows them to learn and grow, or they are attempting to do double the work out of guilt. Eventually something has to give.

One healthy perspective to keep in mind is that leaders have no more or less value as people than anyone else on their teams, but they almost certainly have different responsibilities. If their time is spent completing tasks that can be done by others, it is likely the leader’s own work will suffer.

Delegate tasks and responsibilities to the lowest organizational level at which they can be completed and provide the training necessary for it to be done effectively. Your team will be stronger for it.

4. Test your assumptions.

“Don’t trust a mirror that only tells you how wonderful you look.” –Matshona Dhliwayo

Criticism hurts. It takes strength to listen when feedback is given, and even more to proactively look for it. Many leaders become so enamored with an idea or plan that they neglect to validate its likelihood of success.

The best leaders look beyond the mirror. They set aside or ignore the emotional connection most have for their own creations to instead seek objectivity and truth. They move without ego, seeking the best result rather than credit.

These leaders ask others to point out issues with a proposed plan or idea, using the power of teamwork to uncover weaknesses and convert them to strengths. They understand that a team is stronger than any one individual and they would rather uncover issues internally than be off guard later and at much greater cost.

Measure twice, cut once. Create an environment that promotes and even rewards candid feedback. If you work together as a team to resolve issues before they become problems, efficiency will improve and profits will increase.

5. Keep learning.

“Leadership and learning are indispensable to each other.” – John F. Kennedy

Every day we get better or we get worse. Unfortunately, many are fooled into thinking they are sitting still.

Erosion is a powerful, yet subtle force that affects skills as much as it does mountains. It quietly eats away at us bit by bit. To defend against this relentless degradation, we must continue to grow.

Even a small amount of learning every day will create forward momentum. Momentum becomes an incredibly powerful force as it builds, eventually allowing us to achieve goals previously thought unreachable.

Commit to spending at least a few minutes each day getting better. Whether through reading an educational book or article, studying a new skill, listening to value-added content, or spending time with some other positive input, simply make an unwavering commitment to continually move forward, and results will follow.

Thanks for reading. If you enjoyed this article, please let us know and be sure to like and share it with your friends.

Fast Five is a series of posts intended to provide quick, easily understandable recommendations and strategies designed to help you more effectively build teams, overcome challenges, and increase productivity.

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Question of the day: What do you believe is the most important piece of advice leaders who are looking to grow need to hear? Share your thoughts in the comments.

Photo by Maryland GovPics, licensed under CC BY 2.0.