How does a leader make the most of every day? With so many interruptions, a bunch of mini-crises, and a major catastrophe or two all before lunch, who has time to lead effectively, right?
Like it or not, interruptions make up a normal, not an abnormal, day. Most of life is done in an interruption of an interruption, wrapped between two other interruptions. Good leaders get used to it and live with it. However, just because a leader is used to it, doesn’t automatically mean that he/she is leading effectively.
I have found that looking carefully at some of the things that leadership experts have suggested is very helpful. There’s a reason that their writings stand out over time, and it’s always good to let their lessons inform your approach.
No one in the leadership world is more respected than Peter Drucker, and when it comes to articulating exactly what a great leader does, it’s pretty hard to improve upon his analysis.
Drucker identified eight things that make a leader effective. I’ve found that checking myself against some of these criteria helps keep me moving forward as a leader—rather than just moving from putting out one fire to another.
- Ask yourself, “What needs to be done here?”
Whether that question applies to the overall organization or the immediate moment, it’s a clarifying question that every leader needs to ask intentionally.
- Ask yourself, “What’s best for the organization?”
At SGR, we talk a lot about servant leadership versus political leadership. Political leadership asks, “What’s best for me?” Servant leadership looks at what’s best for the organization—even if it’s less optimal for the leader.
- Develop action plans.
Leaders are doers. Leaders take action. Leaders mobilize others to act. Yes, you have to be careful to analyze things properly, but the difference between a leader and an analyst is that leaders impact the situation by creating avenues to move people beyond analyzing.
- Take responsibility for decisions.
One of the frustrations that I hear often is, “We have meetings, but at the end of the meeting, we don’t make any decisions.” This is not good leadership. Your decision may be to postpone action, but that’s a decision, too; and it needs to be clearly communicated. Good leaders make decisions, and then take responsibility for those decisions, whether they are applauded, criticized, or both.
- Take responsibility for communicating.
Everywhere I go, I hear the same thing, “We have problems with communication.” Of course, some of that is merely the perception. It’s subjective. However, I believe that a leader must accept responsibility for the communication within his/her team and the communication from his/her team. Once the leader accepts that he/she is responsible for it—and that it’s not someone else’s job, problem, or fault—I’ve noticed that mechanisms tend to be put in place that improve communication. Until then, the answer remains shrouded in mystery.
- Focus on opportunities, not problems.
This is really about maintaining a positive attitude versus a negative attitude. Sure, we all have problems. However, great leaders re-frame those problems into opportunities to improve, to change, to innovate, and to grow. Merely seeing it as a problem magnifies the problem and demoralizes the people.
- Run productive meetings.
This relates back to numbers 4 and 5. Decisions may or may not be made in the meeting, but they are most certainly communicated during the meetings. However, productive meetings are not just about making decisions. Running a productive meeting relates to the kind of culture that is instilled, the effectiveness of processes and communication, and the stewardship of time. A leader who can run a productive meeting balances the right display of self-confidence and humility to make team members feel motivated and happy to be a part of the team.
- Focus on “we” not “me”.
Don’t just say it. Mean it. Walk the talk. Put the team, not yourself, out front. Always. If you haven’t figured out yet, it takes the whole team—not just you. And let me tell you a secret: your team already knows this. And if they’ve figured out that you haven’t figured it out yet, that may be the single biggest obstacle to your success as a leader.