Problem Solving

What Makes a Great Leader?

diane walker asked:

Today’s workforce is arguably more diverse, informed and sophisticated than ever before. Even in fledgling companies, employees are looking for development and greater opportunities to progress their career. Research by the Chartered Management Institute and DTI shows the majority of the UK’s workforce also expects to follow the examples set by their organisation’s leaders. The most important characteristic they want to see in these individuals is the power to inspire.

In the research, those who inspire exceptional performance were found to have three core qualities: genuine shared vision, real confidence and trust in teams, respect for employees, colleagues and customers. Interestingly, the belief that leaders are born rather than made was exposed as something of a myth with most effective leaders combining innate ability with job experience, in-house management and leadership development (MLD) and qualifications. It is good to see that, the perception of leadership has moved away from the old image of the unknown individual locked in an ivory tower and out of touch with their staff.

Employees are looking for something different and better in organisational leadership; visionary leaders who not only get results but also win the trust and respect of their teams. Keeping followers motivated in an era of unrelenting change means that business leaders must be able to create organisational cultures that foster performance, pride and a sense of fun.

Delivering inspiration

Great leaders need to demonstrate a strong strategic focus by concentrating on key goals and clear expected outcomes. If people are looking for guidance they are, after all, more likely to respond to leaders who let them know what is business critical. Giving the team a clear sense of direction and letting them know how the whole team will play a role in achieving business goals will create a genuine shared vision – something which everybody can understand and work towards.

The ability to appreciate, have confidence in and listen to staff is also an important quality. Too many leaders lack this ability, thinking people only want to hear their views and experiences. Taking time out to listen to others’ ideas, discuss problems and showing thanks on a regular basis will make people more inclined to listen and respect a leader’s decisions.

Being prepared to change is another important quality. Rather than working in exactly the same way on every occasion, great leaders will try to find new methods and encourage their teams to think ‘outside the box’. After all, if the staff are motivated to react positively to unexpected problems or issues and be more creative in their problem-solving, it is likely to have a positive effect on overall productivity and motivation in general.

The inspirational leader should be at the forefront of the organisation’s creativity. Employees need to see motivation and innovation and feel that this is a valued and important skill that they will be recognised for.

Jo Causon, Director, marketing and corporate affairs, Chartered Management Institute

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