What makes a really great leader? In our view the most important criterion is that they genuinely care about the success of all their key stakeholders. Obviously, they also have an interest in their own success and ambitions – they have to get something out of the endeavour for themselves – but they are also working for something bigger.
Great leaders take responsibility for the organisation – their job can be the toughest of all. It’s not a reward for what they’ve done in the past, or something they have a right to, it’s something they really want to contribute to, and develop as a legacy for the future.
Many people are in leadership positions, but a surprising few are really great at the role. This creates a miserable environment for their colleagues, and squanders many chances to maximise success. Why is this the case? What makes a great leader?
All great leaders need to have, and be able to communicate, a clear vision of where the organisation is heading, and why. They need to be brave and show integrity, honesty, and humility. They must not be afraid to roll up their sleeves and get involved at any level of the organisation. A great leader understands their own strengths and isn’t afraid to hire and learn from people who are more skilled than them. Great leaders are genuinely proud of their team’s accomplishments and genuinely care about helping them succeed.
So, can we learn how to become great leaders? How can NLP leadership help?
(I’d like to acknowledge ideas from Marshall Goldsmith and Patrick Lencioni, which I’ve built on for this article and my leadership practice. You can see links to their books at the end of this article.)
It’s worth taking time to stand back and clarify the elements that we consider will lead to success as a leader. We may then decide that we’re already well on track, or that to reach success in the longer term we need to review our approach.
As a starting point, it’s worth asking:
- Where we are against the elements below?
- What would be the benefit of clarifying which are important to us?
- What is the likely benefit of adhering to them more closely?
- What are the implications and costs of not having a strong leadership framework?
If we want to improve our leadership framework, a good start is to answer the questions in the ‘Creating rules and clarity’ section, and then develop a plan based on what we discover.
What’s important in leadership?
These five elements are vital for great leadership:
- Developing an agreed purpose and vision and knowing what leads to success.
- Building a cohesive leadership team.
- Creating rules and clarity.
- Creating a clear meeting structure.
- Continually developing leadership competencies.
Each division should have its own vision and purpose that links to the overall vision and purpose, and likewise each area of the company.
What leads to success?
We believe these are the keys to success:
- The leader’s purpose is to be responsible for helping all stakeholders succeed.
- Success in any project needs discovery, leadership, management (planning and effective use of resources), a safe space to develop action, action, and review.
- Creating and achieving buy-in for the vision.
- Developing an appropriate culture. Hiring, promoting, and firing as needed.
- Creating, implementing, and reviewing strategy.
- Setting priorities and measurement.
- Building, communicating, and reinforcing clarity almost daily.
Building a cohesive leadership team
The leader’s behaviour sets the tone for the behaviour of the leadership team and, through them, the organisation. It’s based on creating an environment of vulnerability-based trust and creative conflict. Achieving results is dependent on achieving the first four capabilities.
- Vulnerability-based trust.
- Mastering conflict.
- Achieving commitment.
- Embrace accountability.
- Focus on results (e.g. balance 60% tea, 40% individual.)
Creating rules and clarity
Create a few simple, but not too simple, rules, and be consistent. Continually clarify and communicate:
- Why do we exist?
- What is our vision?
- How we behave? Encourage aspiration and give permission to play.
- What do we do?
- How we will succeed? Setting a strategy + 3 strategic anchors.
- What is important right now? One key thing + its elements + standard objectives = revenue, customer retention etc.
- Who must do what? Agreed the shared and individual goals.
- What do we measure 1) as an individual 2) as a team 3) as a business?
- How do we communicate and reinforce this clearly and consistently?
Team meeting structure
Meetings are frequently cited as the biggest waste of work time. They shouldn’t be, and they aren’t if they are planned and structured properly. Each format will have its own rules and guidelines, these are some that work:
(This is an example, please use what works for you.)
- Operational meetings, every day for 5-10 minutes.
- Tactical meetings, weekly for 45-90 minutes.
- Tactical/strategic meeting, monthly, 45-90 minutes.
- Strategic meetings, ad hoc when required, taking 2-4 hours.
- Developmental meetings, taking place quarterly and off site.
- One-to-one meetings with all key stakeholders, the frequency may range between 1 – 6 months.
Be firm and develop ground rules for each format, for example, these are Alan Mulally’s rules for the Ford business review process:
- Attendance is mandatory with no exceptions.
- No side discussions.
- No interruptions and no joking at the expense of others.
- Each leader must articulate his plans, status (are key responsibilities red, amber of green), forecast, and areas that need attention.
- Each leader has the responsibility to help, not judge, everyone in the room to achieve forecast.
Possible Agenda for 1:1 meeting
- Confirmation of progress against key objectives (red, amber, green)
- What I think you’re doing well.
- What do you think you’re doing well?
- How can I help? (You’re still responsible for meeting your objectives, however I’ll always help if I can)
- What else is important?
A great leader needs to determine, in conjunction with stakeholders, which are the key competencies for him/her to help the organisation, the team, and themselves. They continually seek ideas and take action to improve their performance in each. These competencies are from the book: Global Leadership, the next generation by Marshall Goldsmith and Accenture.
Leadership competency examples, these will vary depending on the context:
- Demonstrating integrity.
- Encouraging constructive dialogue.
- Creating a shared vision.
- Developing people.
- Building partnerships.
- Sharing leaderships.
- Empowering people.
- Thinking globally.
- Appreciating diversity.
- Developing technological savvy.
- Ensuring customer satisfaction.
- Maintaining a competitive advantage.
- Achieving personal mastery.
- Anticipating opportunities.
- Leading change.
We offer an NLP leadership competency assessment. Get in touch if you would like to try this.
We offer prospective coaching and training clients 3 ‘no charge’ Skype/Zoom/Google Meet discovery sessions. If you are interested in NLP Leadership, you can take advantage of this offer and make your own decision as to how well it will work, before you go ahead with a programme.
NLP Leadership – Recommended Resources
Do you want to to know more about NLP leadership? See our homepage: What is NLP?