As businesses gear up for the future landscape of work, cracking the code of the leadership puzzle becomes critical. No two leaders are the same. Just like no two employees are the same. In the race to create a sustainable and scalable business, it has become even more important now than ever for people leaders to understand what leadership means for them.
Leadership is the art of motivating a group of people to act towards achieving a common goal. Leadership and performance go hand-in-hand in the business environment.
While the definitions of leadership might change depending on the era that you live in. But a few defining characteristics of leading a group of people remain the same. Here are a few defining leadership qualities that a future-ready people leader must have:
Possessing a clarity of vision
Being true to your own interests and your company’s interests is the bottom line. As a people leader, it is your job to have clarity on what the vision for your team is. Individual contributors and employees look up to their managers for clarity. Having a clear idea of what is expected from them can enable employees to understand the company’s vision and also grasp the role that they play in realizing that vision.
Being able to inspire others and being prepared to do so are essential aspects of leadership, especially in the workplace. Having ideas is important. But, at the same time, the art of communicating these ideas to the rest of the team is also essential.
For example, as a leader, Steve Jobs always had a clear vision for his company. Even though Apple created numerous products, his aim was to create perfectly designed computers that would raise the level of user experience and change the game of product design. From the large Macs to the iNano to the iPhones--throughout the ups and downs of the company and Steve Jobs’ lifetime--the vision has remained the same. Every software engineer working at Apple knows this vision and understands her/his roles and responsibilities.
Inspiring or motivating team members
Inspiring a person to do something is a powerful quality. A leader’s primary characteristic is that she is able to instil a sense of purpose or propel a person or group of people towards achieving that sense of accomplishment. Nudging people to work towards a common goal is the purpose of leadership.
"Leadership is the art of getting someone else to do something you want done because he wants to do it. "
Most often, leadership is defined as the ability to motivate and inspire people. That inspiration could be through setting a model behavior or even enabling team members to unlock their potential. Empowering others to become better at their jobs or even to turn into a better version of themselves is the job of a good leader.
Managing people is not akin to managing processes. Many a times HR and business leaders commit the error of promoting a stellar performer into the role of a manager without assessing her people skills. Leadership is also defined as the ability to empathize with the other individual and understand how that person might feel and react in a particular situation.
Once the leader is able to empathize with her team members, she would be able to delegate and assign work in a fruitful manner. One leader might develop a certain leadership style, however, that style might not work for every team member. That’s why, an understanding of human nature and feeling the pulse of the team’s morale can go a long way in becoming a successful people manager/leader.
"Leadership is unlocking people's potential to become better." --Bill Bradley
Doctors use this technique when interacting with patients all the time. A person who thrives under encouragement and praise words would be benefited with the type of treatment wherein the doctor guides the patient through every step of the way and there’s a lot of hand-holding involved. However, if a person prefers working alone and having all the information in hand to conduct their own research, the same doctor can treat that patient in a different way.
In the world of business, leaders most often make use of rewards and fear in order to get work done. However, rewards and fear can only go so far in motivating a person to work--at the end of the day it all boils down to intrinsic motivation, the employee’s self-confidence and the zeal to learn something new from her or his daily work.
Building cohesive teams
It is not enough to only motivate individual performers to achieve a shared goal. In this era of constant job hopping, the onus is on the leaders to ensure that their teams are cohesive--that the members are engaged and committed towards the shared goal. Most often, organizations define leadership in terms of the ability of the leader to bring together a diverse group of people and engage them in a productive manner in order to achieve a business goal.
"Leadership: The capacity and will to rally people to a common purpose together with the character that inspires confidence and trust." --Bernard Montgomery
The key is to ensure that your team has diversity. And this diversity does not only apply to gender or generation. It applies to diversity of thought, experience, perspective towards work and ways of approaching a task. A diverse team enables the leader to tap into individual strengths of the team members and leverage the skills and expertise of every unique member. It is precisely why technology companies and research firms that have a diverse pool of employees tend to be more innovative and also see less attrition as compared to their non-diverse counterparts.
Adapting to constant change
The digital age brings with it new demands on today’s business and people leaders. Anticipating the technology trends and equipping your team to face these changes has also become a defining quality of a person in a leadership role. As the future of work continues to evolve, staying updated on new changes and being ready to unlearn, relearn, and upskill oneself as a leader is the essence of truly future-ready leadership.
In order to ensure that the employees are future-ready, the leaders themselves have to be agile enough to embrace innovative ideas and implement them. Being able to reinvent the learning wheel for the demands of tomorrow will determine the future employability of the employees. And, this responsibility lies with the leaders of today.
"The task of the leader is to get his people from where they are to where they have not been." --Henry Kissinger