When developing leadership skills, the first area that we look at is that of personal attributes. This is a blend of knowledge, expertise, and competencies encapsulated in the approach and the behavior of the leader. In organizations of all sizes and in all sectors, public and private, these characteristics are key to effective leadership. The essential personal attributes are as follows.
- Thinking Strategically – by learning and understanding how the different functions, physical divisions, and layers, of the organization should work together. It’s important to understand the complexities of and the changes happening in the external environment, and to consider how the organization can best respond to these. Know the strengths and weaknesses of the organization, and the opportunities and threats facing it. By understanding how the strategic objectives are influenced by all the current influences and forecasts, you can predict the impact to the organization. It is critical that the operational objectives and targets are in line with and support the strategic objectives of the organization; being aware of and responding to the behavior of current and potential competitors.
- Supporting Corporate Goals – by helping to create and communicate a vision, which can be understood and supported by people at all levels in the organization. It is critical your people understand and contribute to the strategic goals. In order to do this, you will need to provide visible personal support to the strategic direction and specific goals set by the organization.
- Communicating Effectively – by being responsive to messages and signals from the internal and external environments, making effective use of communication channels from and to all levels within the organization, and pro-actively encouraging the exchange of information within the organization, and amongst suppliers, customers and partners. It is critical to listen to others including those with opposing views. Select personal communication styles that are appropriate to the different situations and audiences.
- Developing Effective Teams – by appreciating the contribution of others, at all levels in the organization ensuring that individuals and teams are kept informed of plans, developments and issues that will affect them. Equally important is ensuring that individual and team development schemes are given appropriate priority providing personal support for the implementation and maintenance of development activities for individuals and teams at all levels.
- Concentrating On Results – by contributing to the establishment of an organizational culture that demands high standards and high levels of performance through objectives and planned outcomes. Deal with issues and problems when they arise; plan and schedule personal work and the work of others in ways, which make best use of available resources. Delegate when appropriate and give personal attention to the critical issues and events.
- Managing Yourself – by reflecting regularly on personal performance and progress, proactively asking for feedback on personal performance, changing personal behavior in the light of feedback received and being responsible for your own personal development needs.
- Presenting a Positive Image – by adopting a leading role in initiating action and decision making, behaving in a professional manner at all times, and being open-minded and responsive to the needs of others. Lead by example by visibly working towards personal and career development goals with an ethical approach to all personal and organizational activity, be supportive to others demonstrating fairness and integrity at all times.
In Summary, these essential attributes are difficult to maintain consistently, but they are the attributes needed by, and expected of, our business leaders. The size of the organization, the business sector, whether public or private, is of no consequence. The leaders of all organizations should be role models for others, be visible champions of high standards of professional and ethical behavior, be leaders who others in their organizations can be proud of, and be leaders of which competitors are envious. Not many of these characteristics are imbued in leaders by default. They have to be learned, can be learned, and should then be continuously developed and enhanced. With these personal attributes in place and being demonstrated in behavior and actions, business leaders will be more effective and more successful.