Must leaders be liked by everyone in order for them to be successful?

Good leaders are invariably respected by those they lead, and those with whom they interact. Leadership often, though, requires tough decisions and not everyone will agree with every outcome. The role of a leader in these circumstances is to ensure that her/his people have been heard (and know that they have been heard) and to explain the logic behind the chosen course of action. Doing so will ultimately increase the respect they hold, even if they think they might not be particularly well liked at the time.

With the amount of technology managing day-to-day tasks, assignments and management, can it impact effective leadership?

Quality Leadership is about making the best possible decisions, based on the information available at the time. It is about staying informed. In the technological age, there is so much more information/data out there to draw upon but, arguably, this just creates greater distraction and reasons for not making a decision or, worse still, an ill-informed decision. Good leaders stay informed. Good leaders know who they can trust and where to obtain credible data. The technological age is not, and should not ever be, an excuse for poor leadership.

Does a leader need to be the very best, technically, in his/her field?

The environment in which we operate affects our lives in dramatic ways, and leadership is no different. A good leader will be agile and adaptable to his/her environment, including to the technology available at the time. While it is not necessary for a leader to be the world’s best expert on every facet of the field in which they operate, an intricate understanding is essential to exercise good leadership. One may not need to be a guru in all things technical to operate proficiently in a highly technical area but, equally, a technophobe will likely fail dismally.

The pace of technological change has never been greater than today and an astute understanding of the threats and opportunities possible from innovation is a critical element in creating the vision that good leaders are known for.

Is leadership all about having the best techniques and tactics or is experience and exposure more important?

Leadership is about achieving the very best outcomes with the resources available at the time. In an ideal world, the leader will have at her/his disposal the very best staff in the industry, with leading edge techniques and procedures. Few of us live in this world, but that is not to say that we just make do with what we have. Leaders achieve great things, in less than ideal circumstances. This entails inspiring, training, coaching and mentoring, directing and correcting, all in careful measure.

Better leaders are not self-serving but, rather, they are focused on the outcomes. They are good listeners; they are considered. They know when the time for listening and learning is up and when decisions need to be made. They understand that their decisions will impact many people in many ways and will have thought through the consequences of their decisions before they are made. They will have thought out the necessary mitigation strategies for such occasions and the various effected audiences, even if they are unable to influence an entirely satisfactory outcome for all. They are measured, they are visionary, they are creative, they are decisive and they are resilient.

For most people, these skills are hard learnt, with education and training, experience at the coal face, both personal and by observing others, and hard work.

Is there a difference between management and leadership? And, can a manager be a leader?

To some there are real differences between management and leadership; management is said to be concerned with organising things (including people) and leadership about providing vision and inspiration. In the extreme, some may even suggest that you can teach someone management, but that leaders are born, not made. Defining Leaders believe this argument is largely semantic, and we certainly don’t believe that leadership skills can’t be learnt. Strong leadership is generally evident in a good manager and even the very best of leaders won’t succeed if they can’t manage. Both skills are necessary and, ideally, complement each other.

It is certainly true that a genuinely inspirational and resilient leader will achieve more than those without such qualities. It is these aspects, in particular, that Defining Leaders focuses on in its training programs, coaching and consulting services.

How can a previously effective leader maintain their success after moving into a new company?

The same qualities of the effective leader in an old company are the skills that are transferrable to the new company. A good leader will be a good listener and a good learner. She/he will also know when to act. Great leadership is NOT self-serving but, rather, focussed on achieving the best possible outcomes from a situation. A good leader, like a good strategist, will always understand what they are trading-off in their decision making. Therefore, the type of company/industry is not so important, other than for understanding that the learning period on some decisions may take a little longer.

What is the core set of leadership skills that separate a good leader from a great leader?

There are numerous qualities displayed by good leaders. At Defining Leaders, we believe that two of the most important qualities are:

  • The ability to inspire. The most brilliant strategist, the most articulate writer, the best financier, the most astute engineer or the most knowledgeable human resource manager will only be a mediocre leader if she/he isn’t genuinely inspirational when the need arises.
  • Resilience. Operating in a leadership role in today’s complex and frenetic world is challenging. It is not for the fragile. The ability to cope with stress and seemingly ridiculous time pressures, to continue to lead one’s people with a level head when things are really tough and to take the flack when things go wrong are all marks of an exceptional leader.

Defining Leaders training programs, our coaching and our consulting services aim to improve individuals and leadership teams in a swathe of leadership competencies, particularly their ability to inspire and their resilience.

What are the most important questions that leaders ask themselves?

Defining Leaders would like to see people ask themselves two things:

  • Am I the best leader that I could be? Self-assessment is a difficult thing. Knowing how to pose this question, to yourself and to others, and how to determine and interpret an honest answer is genuinely challenging.
  • How can I improve my leadership performance? Few of us are perfect, or even near to it. For most of us, life is a continual journey of discovery and improvement. Good leaders embark on a life-long quest for knowledge, experience and practical improvement.

Defining Leaders training programs, coaching and consulting services can assist leaders answer both of these questions.

What are the most important questions that leaders ask others?

A key task of every leader is to understand their teams’ strengths and weaknesses and to work hard to compensate for the latter. Understanding the development needs of those in their charge, and working to provide such, is critical in well performing teams. Good leaders ask their people about their aspirations, their challenges and their development needs.

Perhaps a more challenging question for many leaders is “How am I going?”. Posed in the right way, in an environment of mutual trust and respect, this question can reap great insight and terrific reward.

What are the most important aspects a leader needs to consider when making a decision?

Great question!

Leaving aside the specifics of the situation or matter at hand, we at Defining Leaders suggest that leaders should always be conscious of the following factors in decision making:

  • It is ethical. In making decisions we can sometimes find ourselves in ethical dilemmas. At Defining Leaders, we argue that a decision which is unethical, or that leads to an unethical outcome, is never justified. If you are unsure of how a decision might be perceived, imagine explaining it to your mother or how it might read in the newspaper.
  • Is it just. We are often faced with decisions which adversely affect people. You should be confident that you can explain the logic of decisions, openly and honestly, and (with empathy and compassion) justify your decisions.
  • What are the long(er) term ramifications? We have all suffered the consequences of a decision made without due consideration of the downstream effects. Before jumping in to solve a problem of the here and now, we should always consider how that decision will play out in the future. Sometimes we need to take a hit now, for long-term benefit.
What is the biggest challenge that every leader will face and how should they approach it?

Leaders will face many challenges in their careers. Perhaps the most significant will be in reaching an honest assessment of whether they are ready to take the next large step in a genuine leadership role. Many leaders approach this decision focussed on the benefits that might result; money or other personal gain. At Defining Leaders, we suggest the decision to seek increased leadership responsibilities is one that should be approached with great care. Are you ready for the role? Are there steps that you can take to ensure you are best prepared for it? Are there measures you can make to assist you succeed in the role, particularly in the early stages?

Defining Leaders can assist you answer these questions.

If someone was wanting to start their leadership journey, what is the first step they should take?

The first step in any important activity in life is preparation. We’ve all heard of the five Ps; ‘Proper planning prevents poor performance’, and embarking on a career in leadership is no exception. There is much that one can do to ensure they are as best prepared as possible. Forming an understanding of one’s development needs, and making a genuine effort to complete such, is likely to go a long way to preventing their performance to be assessed as poor.

The Defining Leaders free assessment session is a valuable tool in assisting a prospective leader understand their readiness and developmental needs for leadership roles.