What You Need to Do to Become a Better Leader This Year

As I recently wrote, researchers estimate that only 3 percent of a leader’s time is spent envisioning the future.

Adding insult to injury, this alarming research concludes that global organizations just don’t have the people in the pipeline to lead well in the future, reports Inc. 

We’re talking about leaders from every level not having the capacity to display even the most basic soft skills for effective interaction with others in a manner that translates to better business outcomes.

Worried yet? Well, if you’re a leader looking to grow, or the top HR dog spearheading strategy to grow leaders, it would behoove you to include in your plans an initiative to hire and develop the right people for leadership roles.

I will boil it down to six behaviors every leader needs. In other words, here’s how to build an effective leadership culture that will engage your employees at the highest level and have bottom-line impact.

1. Leaders must display authenticity.

  • By being lifelong learners and never stop growing.
  • By showing that they can be both interpersonally and organizationally transparent.
  • By demonstrating self-awareness — the ability to understand not only themselves at their core, but also how others feel and what makes them tick.
  • By being open to input and insight from other people, including those who under their leadership.
  • By always operating with “moral authority” — integrity, honesty, consistency, and ethical behavior.

2. Leaders must value those who work for them.

  • By believing in their people, and giving trust as a gift before it is earned.
  • By showing respect and dignity and treating others as they want to be treated.
  • By putting the needs of others before self.
  • By listening with a receptive and nonjudgmental mind.

3. Leaders must grow their people.

  • By providing opportunities for learning.
  • By developing potential.
  • By knowing their strengths, and utilizing those strengths on work that matters to them.
  • By constantly encouraging, praising, and recognizing them.

4. Leaders must be out in front of the pack to provide leadership.

  • By envisioning the future and enrolling their followers to help co-create the future.
  • By using foresight and intuition to guide and direct.
  • By being initiators–taking the lead and courageously moving out ahead.
  • By being prolific communicators, clarifying goals and expectations along the journey toward capturing the vision. People always know where they stand.

5. Leaders must be willing to share leadership and decision-making.

By sharing power and even status in relation to position, honor, and self-promotion.

  • By using persuasion instead of coercion to influence and motivate others.
  • By pushing authority down so others will learn to lead confidently.
  • By welcoming feedback, ideas, experimentation, and healthy conflict toward a solution.

6. Leaders must build community.

  • By developing personal relationships and treating others with compassion and kindness.
  • By promoting a sense of belonging and connection for all team members.
  • By leading through collaboration and emphasizing teamwork that allows all voices are heard.
  • By valuing and honoring diversity and differing opinions.

This is not some utopian vision of a distant future dreamt up by gullible thought-leadership. It is what composes the best of work cultures in some of the most profitable companies on the planet, including Southwest Airlines, Google, Nordstrom, and Home Depot, to name a few.

In fact, the six best behaviors listed above have been identified by research that has looked at more than 1,200 organizations, and points to servant leadership as the catalyst for optimum organizational health.

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