Building Effective Leadership

The real test of the effectiveness of leadership is this: Are your people better off when they leave than when they arrived?

As a leader, you should have a multi-generational approach that equips younger leaders/followers to be more effective than the previous generation. These include intentionally integrating young leaders into your decision-making processes, as well as major organisational initiatives. These also involve creating opportunities for them to express creativity, to make mistakes and become better leaders.

In the light of the tremendous pressures placed upon leadership and its role in both the secular and religious worlds, it is a general principle that we can influence and lead others only so far as we ourselves have experienced the rites of passage. The person most likely to be successful is the one who leads, not by merely pointing the way but by having trodden the path herself. We are leaders to the extent that we inspire others to follow us.

Almost everyone is called to lead in some capacity or the other. A father leads his family, parents lead their children, a teacher leads students, a pastor leads the church, everyone leads someone. The person you follow determines your inspiration and aspirations.

The difference between management and leadership is chiefly in the way those being managed or led are motivated.

As such, for those of us in leadership positions, here are some timeless models for today’s leaders:

Integrity: Leaders should be people of integrity. They have every dimension of their lives centered on consistent obedience to God. There have needed to be no “closets,” and no hidden areas that can’t bear public scrutiny. They should live above board in their financial dealings, sexual behaviour, and family life. No area of their lives can be out of control. Physical, emotional, and spiritual discipline is essential.

Their motives for doing things need to be pure. People can easily detect dishonest measures of questionable ethics. Following the path of least resistance usually filters down from the top and begins to permeate an entire organisation. A Leader should “walk the talk.” Also, like the one who leads others, the leader must have a set of values that guides his or her actions and show the consistency of motives in her character and conduct.

The power of example – a life lived out loud – speaks volumes, beyond any leadership book or seminar, conference, and moulds young leaders around us who are forming opinions, receiving impressions and drawing conclusions about life and all its possibilities. Whether you’re a Christian leader or secular leader, your character will impact how far goals are reached in your organisation when you adhere to a robust set of principles and take responsibility for your actions; you will be exhibiting integrity.

Authenticity: This encompasses trustworthiness, openness, empathy and being real. People are becoming very wary of leaders who are fake, narcissistic, secretive or self-serving. Teams are getting bolder at calling out destructive character traits that impact their livelihoods and the corporate world. The best leaders today are authentic; it’s how we connect and build trust in our teams and organisations.

Vision: As a leader, you should have both foresight and insight. When you do, you are able to envision the results of the policies, strategies or methods you advocate. You need to always look ahead to see how the systems proposed will affect not only the present but succeeding generations.

One of the most significant traits global leaders have is that they are exceptionally adaptable, which implies that they will change course and adjust to additional active measures, as soon as their operational paradigm becomes limiting. They are also open to criticism, readily accessible to run ideas by and available to communication with.

Although leaders are typically good at vision casting, your followers need to know and buy into your vision. A leader needs to have the ability to inspire and influence the thinking, attitudes, and behaviour of people under the scope of her influence. You have to know how to set ideas, people, organizations, and societies in motion, as someone who takes followers on a journey to the fulfilment of a vision. The foundation for improvement, change, and progress in society is the vision.

Communication and ‘Soft Skills’: “Soft skills” like communication, listening and public speaking have become crucial in the day-to-day leadership and corporate environment. Without effective communication, as leaders, you’re just figureheads. Focusing on interpersonal interactions, you can reach individuals where they are and connect with them better.

Open-Mindedness: One of the most significant traits global leaders have is that they are exceptionally adaptable, which implies that they will change course and adjust to additional active measures, as soon as their operational paradigm becomes limiting. They are also open to criticism, readily accessible to run ideas by, and available to communicate with. They gather ideas and information from a variety of political, economic and cultural sources, which gives them well-rounded views, protects them from group-think and fortifies what is true in their hearts and minds.

Diplomacy: Leadership requires skills in dealing with persons or sensitive situations. As a leader, you need to have the ability to reconcile viewpoints without giving offence or compromising on principles. In the leader and follower relationship, a leader must be able to conduct delicate negotiations and mediate in matters concerning personnel in a way that recognises mutual rights and yet leads to harmonious solutions.

Self-Control: Leaders cannot control their external worlds until they can control the internal ones. The most potent form of government is self-government. The wise King Solomon once said; “He who is easing back to outrage is superior to the relentless, and he who governs his soul than he who takes a city.” Self-discipline is one of the significant characteristics of a leader. Indiscipline causes a leader to lose his or her influence.

The appetite for food, drink, sleep, and sex is legitimate, but when we violate God’s laws to satisfy ourselves or become addicted to these appetites, we lose our moral authority.

Love: This helps a leader to appreciate each person’s worth, recognise their potentials, and creates the desire to add value to them. When love is absent, greed, envy, selfishness, malice, rejection, hatred and such vices manifest in abundance. When you do not love the people you lead, it causes the spread of the cancer of self-centeredness in the system. The way leaders treat people is the way the people also treat one another.

As a leader, you should be open to diverse perspectives in the decision-making process. Although you can have strong opinions, your leadership proclivities allow for interaction with others who may have alternative views and solutions. These protects you from blind spots and makes you less likely to make avoidable mistakes.

One word that describes the act of love is ‘respect’. Everyone deserves a measure of respect. We should use the words “Sir” and “Madam’ generously, not minding the status of the person being addressed. Love empowers you as a leader and increases your influence.

Team Building: Leaders need to build strong relationships with team members. Relationships matter and there is a place for good people skills. Connections are the magic that binds followers, and relationships should be built on trust, mutual respect, and loyalty. Certainly, there is a tendency for teams to be factionalized due to cultural, technological, and ideological differences. As a leader, you need to develop effective skills to manage team conflict.

Steadiness While Remaining Adaptable: Technological advancements are happening at a rapid pace, which affects the way leaders do business often. Inflexible leadership causes organizations to lag behind competitors, which could ultimately lead to losing market share – or worse, becoming obsolete. Staying on the cutting edge of any industry requires flexibility and the ability to adapt quickly to the changes in the marketplace for you as a leader and the team you lead.

Global Mindset: As a leader, you should be open to diverse perspectives in the decision-making process. Although you can have strong opinions, your leadership proclivities allow for interaction with others who may have alternative views and solutions. These protect you from blind spots and make you less likely to make avoidable mistakes. It is important you look out for best practices and systems to achieve your goals and objectives. Don’t be threatened by other gifted followers or leaders, but be energized by them, their passion, and their ideas. You need to appreciate elements of different cultures and open your heart wide to recognize and deal with your own internally held prejudices and those of the ones you are leading.

Share the Power: As a leader, you should have a multi-generational approach that equips younger leaders/followers to be more effective than the previous generation. These include intentionally integrating young leaders into your decision-making processes, as well as major organizational initiatives. These also involve creating opportunities for them to express creativity, make mistakes, and become better leaders. There are things you will never be able to do, and potentials in you that you will never realize until you share your power and influence with others. They understand that good leaders empower others.

Regardless of who it is you’re leading, leadership is never easy.

But when you’re a leader, some basic principles will make a difference. The key to being a great follower is to be an imitator. A copycat. As Kyle Idleman says, it’s about being a follower, not a fan. Fans stand off in the distance and admire; followers get up close and stay in step with a person’s every move.

The truth is, this principle isn’t just for leaders; it’s the key to being a great human being generally.

The real test of the effectiveness of the leader is this: Are your people better off when they leave than when they arrived?

Are your employees more employable, better people, and have they grown more as a result of your leadership and influence?

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