“Leadership” is a coveted quality in most workplaces – far more elusive and integrated than your average “good communication” or “team player” soft skill. A great leader will know how to make decisions, provide structure and vision, delegate and inspire, and help everyone produce their best work. But how do you go about it, exactly? These four leadership philosophies are a great place to start.
1. “The art of communication is the language of leadership.”
Good leadership starts with talking. Most leaders are “people people”, thriving on interaction to achieve something. And that’s because communication is crucial to leading an effective team.
James Humes, an American author and speech-writer for five different presidents, certainly thought so. He believed that leadership starts with being able to translate ideas, approaches and objectives to others, as well as giving and receiving feedback.
As a leader, you need to be skilled at both written and verbal communication, and make your ideas understandable to different audiences. Within the workplace, that means being able to handle and share lots of different types of information to the right people at the right time, including stakeholders, influencers and colleagues. Having a solid framework in place laying out what each communication channel is for is an essential place to start.
2. “The quality of a leader is reflected in the standards they set for themselves.”
What do great leaders all have in common? They set themselves high standards, which serve as the basis for achieving goals and getting great results from their teams.
Ray Krok, an American businessman known for purchasing and expanding McDonald’s, believed this too. His quote above essentially argues that high standards set apart strong leaders from inexperienced or inefficient ones.
Those who set high standards will feel good about themselves and the teams they drive, recognizing the “win” there is for everyone to have. Just make sure you set out ways to make those standards understood and keep your goals realistic.
3. “Where there is no vision, there is no hope.”
American scientist and inventor George Washington Carver stood by this philosophy when developing ground-breaking new agricultural opportunities for farmers. His belief in his own vision made him a great leader, as he was committed to achieving his goal from the start.
Having a mission, objective or vision is central to keeping a motivated, engaged team. Without one, people can struggle to see where they fit on or what they are actually working towards.
A company “mission statement” and set of team objectives makes it much easier to set goals and communicate them to your team so you’re all clear on what you want to achieve. They’re also invaluable in the hiring process – helping you focus on talent that actually believes in what you’re doing.
4. “Always focus on what's meaningful.”
Rallying your team around your objectives means nothing if you don’t actually give them the opportunity to do meaningful work. In our values-based society, we are increasingly looking for purpose and value from our work, and leadership plays a huge role in enablibng this.
It ultimately comes down to investing in your people. You need to protect space for learning, champion quality over quick fixes, and remove low-value, unproductive work that stops your employees from focusing on their more important tasks.
Practically, this means investing in smart tools, giving people autonomy to perfect their craft, tailoring professional development plans and creating a culture where people can share honest feedback. A good leader supports and enables at an individual level, so the team profits as a whole.
Are Leaders Born or Made?
A lot of people believe leadership is an innate trait – you either have it or you don’t. But, with persistence and practice, leadership is within everyone’s grasp. We need to remember that there are many different forms of leadership, and no single version is more “correct” than another. But also that leadership does not live in a vacuum.
Great leaders continue to improve themselves, seeking out new opportunities, asking for feedback on their performance and investing in learning. There’s always room to grow and acquire new knowledge – no leader, as such, will ever be “fully formed.” Take inspiration from these leadership philosophies as a starting point, but continue to inform and develop your own.