The word ‘leader’ does not bring up good associations with me. This is probably due to the fact that I am a baby-boomer (year of construction 1954). My generation grew up with images of authoritarian leaders and dictators like Adolf Hitler, Joseph Stalin and Benito Mussolini. We learned at our mother’s knee that the combination of leaders and followers can lead to millions of innocent dead.
Of course, this is only one (limited) aspect of leadership. Effective leadership is necessary and even an absolute condition for effective entrepreneurship. That is why ‘leadership’ is a prominent subject when it comes to corporate governance. The good news is that effective leadership can be learned. Numerous studies were conducted on effective leadership. Some important common denominators from these studies are as follows.
Effective leaders are autonomous thinkers and doers. They accept responsibility for their own actions. They do not depend on the initiatives and instructions of others. They are not sentinels, but runners. They do not take a nap under a tree, but do something with the tree: build a hut, pick the fruit, fell it down.
Effective leaders do not act, like most people, like a headless chicken. They impose a further objective on themselves and on the organization. This objective is the light of the lighthouse that they focus their ideas and acts on. In short, they have vision.
Effective leaders set priorities. Nowadays, this is also referred to with the modern term ‘focus’. It is very easy to be influenced by a passing fad. Micromanagement is also very tempting. An effective leader completes his priorities systematically and effectively.
Effective leaders give more than they take. Most of the people work consciously or unconsciously on securing their certainty by picking and taking. An effective leader does not do this. He or she knows that a win-win situation is not only desirable but also almost always possible.
Effective leaders listen more than they speak. They only say how they feel about something or what needs to happen in their opinion after they have listened well and understand how their colleagues feel about it.
Effective leaders put their own permanent development and that of their employees above everything. They know that a standstill and status quo do, by definition, lead to a backlog and downfall.
Effective leaders are inspiring and always set the right example. This final point is actually a summary of the previous points.
Are you a manager? Perfect, but can you also be a leader. How? It is simple. Then henceforth you start doing the right things, instead of doing things well. You look ahead rather than back. Instead of only being wise, you also listen to your heart, your ‘gut feeling’, the combination of what lawyers refer to as reasonableness and fairness. You also consider risks as opportunities, instead of always avoiding them. You aim for change rather than structure. You will be amazed by the results.
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Effective leaders are inspiring and always set the right example.