What Does Effective Leadership Look Like?

August 23, 2023
# min read
Janice Giannini

Looking around at our fractured world, I opine that leadership contributes to this unfortunate reality.

 

But then I ponder: what does effective leadership look like in a highly connected world where fact and fiction blur, when everyday business challenges and risks are steeply escalating, and the two newest entrants, namely cyber-security and AI, are shifting paradigms globally?

 

I apply the lessons learned in mathematics, business, engineering, dance, fitness, music, and life when in doubt. Go back to basics!

 

We all know many of the basics. As I coached my children, “it’s not the knowing” that’s the issue; it’s doing that’s the issue!

 

So let’s talk about a few critical basics, recasting their descriptors.

 

Values

What values drive leaders’ thoughts and behaviors? Clearly and understandably, stating them is the starting point, and many or most businesses do that. However, if the stated values do not align with the processes and actions, the actual values are much different. The adage applies: actions speak louder than words.

 

If this is not the result you need for your business, consider for a moment: if a deviation from the stated values is required (?) addressing the departure might lead to a better outcome. The question mark in parentheses after the word ‘required’ invites one to consider whether it is needed or just easier.  

 

How do the actual values align with the stated values? Look and listen. Ask for specific examples of alignment or non-alignment, making it clear that whatever the response, it is okay. What you do when it is inconvenient telegraphs to the business your values. The ultimate goal is for actual values to be the same as the stated values. If they are not, what needs to change

 

Responsibility as a Role Model

Leaders in any organization are role models for good or ill. How frequently does the leadership team think through what that responsibility needs to be, affirming each individual’s willingness to behave that way? 

 

For instance:

  • If honor, integrity, and ethics are stated values, list specific examples of when you acted this way and didn’t.
  • If respect for all people is a declared value, go through the same exercise.
  • Repeat for each of your stated values.

After recognizing the shortfall, what do you do to “fix it”? Acknowledging that everyone falls short sometimes, what you do next matters! And people judge it as consistent or not with your responsibility, values, and reputation.

 

Focus

Most agree that organizational leaders are frequently pulled in many potentially conflicting directions simultaneously. Maintaining focus is challenging for leaders and all personnel in the ecosystem. A place to start might be:

  • Question the current modes of thinking and processes. Are they helping, or does success depend on constant workarounds?
  • Do they help differentiate the crucial topics from the social subject of the day?
  • Do they enable people to knowledgeably balance among risks, whether traditional risks or newcomers to the table?

 

What needs to change to address any disconnects?

 

Communication

One can spend a lifetime researching communications, how to improve, what works and doesn’t, and the ultimate impacts of incomplete communications.

 

The fundamental question for all of us is, do I understand what effective communication entails and whether I am guilty of it?

 

Effective communication verifies that the message I heard is the same as what you intended. Communication is about 55% based on what is seen, around 38% on how it is said, and 7% for the actual words uttered. 

 

In many businesses, we “word-smith” to death, but that’s only 7% of the job. What about the other 93% of the job?

 

That 93% of the job comes from your heart and values. Many humans may be unable to articulate why they don’t believe in the message, but humans feel and understand when there are disconnects.

 

We started down this path, understanding that we would discuss a few of the obvious basics that set the foundation for effective leadership.

 

In closing, are you satisfied with your foundation? Building on an unstable foundation invites constant trauma.  What do you need to do to strengthen it? What additional knowledge do you and your team require to address the internal and external escalating risks in a highly connected world where fact and fiction blur?

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