Three Keys to Effective Leadership

Woman leading a team of businesspeople

Best-selling leadership author John Maxwell points out, leadership is largely based on influence.1 When people believe you will commit to their growth and have their best interests in mind, they begin to trust you. As trust builds, so does commitment. Through commitment, people allow you to become influential in their lives.

Now, let’s answer a key question: Are you an effective leader?

As you reflect, be honest with yourself. It can be easy to take factors of leadership for granted, especially if you believe you are a leader. Take note, however, that influence and control are not different sides of the same coin. Influence serves as the basis for leadership, while control creates dependency.

Let's look at the three fundamental keys of effective leadership:

1. Are Your Employees Willing Followers?

Anyone that has spent time studying leadership knows that a leader must have willing followers. Having positional authority — serving as manager or being in a leadership position — does not automatically make you a leader. While positional authority gives you a legitimate right to provide direction to your employees, it does not necessarily make you influential.

A manager can direct and control employees, but it is often without influence. In the case of poor leadership, employees will do just enough to keep management off their back. They will engage in malicious compliance and simply check the boxes that need to be checked, providing the manager, team and organization with minimal energy, effort and time. In short, they are not willing followers driven by commitment; rather, they are compliant automatons who complete their work because they “have to” instead of “want to.”

To properly evaluate yourself in this area, you need to determine whether the people that you lead follow you willingly.

  • Do your employees feel empowered to perform their job to the best of their ability?
  • Do they maximize their performance by giving you their full energy, effort and time?
  • Do they go above and beyond the demands of their role without being asked?

If so, you have done a terrific job building trust and commitment, and you’ve successfully become an influential part of your follower’s lives.

2. Do You Make Your Employees Better?

Leadership should never be simplified to sound bites or quotations because making your employees better and improving their lives is much more involved. Accordingly, the first step in becoming a great leader involves helping your employees become better at their job. After all, you hired them to perform a specific role. Newly hired employees expect you to be more directive until they have become proficient enough to complete their work on their own.

As an employee matures into their role, they expect you to become more supportive while helping them grow and develop. Leaders often do not place enough emphasis on the growth and development of their employees because there is a perception that these activities detract from overall performance. This belief is misguided. Helping employees grow and develop creates more commitment because they believe you have their best interest in mind.

To address this second area of self-reflection, you need to evaluate your role in the area of employee growth.

  • Have you trained your employees to become highly proficient in their current role?
  • Has employee performance improved or declined?
  • Have you worked with your employees to create unique, Individual Development Plans (IDPs) to help them acquire new skills?
  • Have you created a path for exceptional employees to pursue promotional opportunities?

If you have executed on these tasks, you have shown a tremendous commitment to making your followers better and improving their lives.

3. Do You Adapt to Employee Needs?

We all have a worldview, which means we all see the world through our own unique filter. From a leadership perspective, if you apply your filter to every employee, your effectiveness will suffer. Conversely, if you can alter your style and customize your leadership to meet the needs of each employee uniquely, you have a chance to create productive relationships and remarkable results. Accomplishing this depends on your commitment to becoming acquainted with each employee’s preferences, motivating factors, receptivity to feedback and goals. Without knowing what makes your employees tick, your ability to modify your leadership style is compromised.

To evaluate your ability to adapt, you need to assess how well you know each of your employees on an individual level. Here are a few key questions to consider:

  • Do you treat new employees different than longer tenured employees?
  • Do you apply a varied incentive structure to all employees the same way?
  • Do you provide feedback to your employees that uniquely meet their developmental needs?

Shaping Your Leadership Style

In conclusion, your answers to these questions serve as the foundation from which you can begin to lead differently moving forward. As with anything, you must apply what you learn through reflection to create true change; it isn't enough to know what great leadership entails. Honestly evaluating your leadership style and taking action to improve your weak spots is the first step to becoming a better leader.

Leading others is incredibly challenging, but the rewards are incredibly palpable.

Want to further grow your leadership skills in your field or work environment? You can earn your degree in leadership at Grand Canyon University. The Colangelo College of Business offers a Master of Science in Leadership and a Master of Business Administration in Leadership degree program to develop your leadership qualities. Click on Request More Information at the top of your screen to learn more and begin your academic journey today.

1Retrieved from Leadership Podcast, Your Influence Inventory in September 2021.

The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author’s and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of Grand Canyon University. Any sources cited were accurate as of the publish date.

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