Effective leadership starts with a strong foundation, but many leaders are unsure what the fundamental competencies of great leadership are. While there are numerous skills that leaders need to have (and develop) to maximize their success, our experience shows that communication, visionary and strategic thinking, empowerment, adaptability and self-awareness are the core fundamentals of leadership.
Without the fundamentals, it’s much more difficult for leaders to craft inspirational visions and encourage their teams to exceed their potential. It also means they’re less able to weather storms and embrace change as an opportunity.
Continue reading to learn more about the fundamentals of leadership and how your leaders can further develop them.
Think of leadership fundamentals as the foundation of a building. A strong, solid base gives builders the freedom and security to construct something big, tall and extravagant. Perhaps more importantly, a good foundation also ensures the building can withstand violent storms and winds.
Leadership works in the same way. Without a solid grasp of the fundamentals, leaders can’t motivate their teams effectively and aren’t able to point them toward a big vision (or any vision at all). A leader of this caliber might look the part, but at the end of the day they’re just going through the motions, and the success of the organization will suffer.
Worse than that, leaders have to be able to withstand and resolve crises, steer their teams and departments through difficult times and inspire employees when the going gets tough. Without a solid fundamental base, leaders will wilt in the face of a big challenge.
Leaders would be hard-pressed to accomplish anything worthwhile without an effective way to communicate across the entire organization. According to the Harvard Business School, communication helps leaders build trust within their teams and align responsibilities around the same organizational goals. But leaders also need to communicate a fair system of rewards and punishments to instill a sense of accountability.
Without effective communication, frustration with leadership can begin to develop, causing disputes to arise, apathy to settle in and employee engagement to drop. A lack of communication can ultimately lead to a culture of secrecy and mistrust, and that can have serious consequences for the organization at large.
Effective leaders are able to outline a vision for their organizations that inspires employees and directs their energies toward the same set of goals. Not only does that motivate and unite current employees around a shared set of principles and objectives, it also helps attract and retain new talent with sufficient buy-in.
But it’s not enough to just outline big, disruptive ideas. Effective leaders also need to be able to get down into the weeds and craft an effective strategy that will guide the organization. A good plan should integrate the organization’s broader goals with each team member’s individual goals. That way, employees will feel like they have a direct share in the organization’s wider success.
Effective leaders don’t micromanage and they don’t direct orders from the top. Instead, they equip team members with the tools, skills and knowledge they need to succeed on their own. Ultimately, a great leader understands that their success is tied to that of each individual team member. They know it’s critical to ensure the team can accomplish its day-to-day tasks without constant oversight.
Beyond simply ensuring the team’s success, employee empowerment helps leaders cultivate the unique talents of each team member, spurring innovation and making the team better able to devise creative solutions to problems.
They say change is the only constant in life, and that’s especially the case in the business world. Competition, technology and customer expectations are always changing, and that means leaders need to be adaptable to pivot on short notice and stay ahead of changing trends.
Whether it’s embracing technology, identifying revenue streams or entering an entirely new vertical, leaders cannot be wedded to any one way of doing things. It’s adaptability that enables them to embrace change as an opportunity and make their organization nimbler, more efficient and better able to serve customers.
Leadership teams don’t make it very far without a healthy dose of self-awareness. Periodic reflection and feedback sessions help leaders identify where their shortcomings are to help them acquire the skills needed to become better leaders. Self-awareness also enables them to assess past mistakes and failures openly and honestly, helping them see clearly what went wrong and putting contingencies in place to ensure similar mistakes don’t happen again.
Of course, there is a balance to strike. Too much self-awareness can create excessive self-doubt, which can derail even the most efficient organizations if leaders are constantly questioning their own decisions.
Grasping the fundamentals of leadership is critical to success. It ensures organizations rest on a solid foundation that can propel them to achieve their wider business objectives.
But those skills don’t come naturally to a lot of people. Leaders can practice the fundamentals of leadership on their own, but truly mastering them requires investing in a comprehensive fundamentals of leadership development program with professional coaches.
With the right course, leaders can develop their critical leadership skills by:
- Engaging in one-on-one sessions with leadership coaches to share and receive guidance about specific challenges.
- Taking constructive criticism from an external observer who can offer a more unbiased look at the challenges the individual faces.
- Receiving appropriate resources and materials that give leaders the tools they need to identify and develop their skill sets.
- Tracking their progress using data-driven key performance indicators, encouraging further development and identifying areas of improvement.
The right leadership development program is critical to your organization’s short- and long-term success. That’s why it’s important to partner with the right team of leadership coaches. At The Bailey Group, our team knows that each organization is different. We work to craft coaching plans that match our clients’ specific needs and goals to help them develop into effective, impactful leaders that embrace change and drive success.