Leadership…Simplified

With so many books written on leadership, and limitless blogs, tweets, articles, research and seminars on the subject, why do most of us ultimately struggle with being good leaders? Why is it that there is such a gap between the importance of, and the ability to deliver on leadership? In this monthly mini-series, “Leadership Simplified,” I’ll be exploring some of these questions, and will try to offer relevant answers to help guide your journey of becoming a more intuitive, effective leader. And guess what? It’s not quite as complicated as you think!

To begin, here are some important statistics to consider:

  • The Human Resource Institute found leadership to be the number one issue in relation to successful people management.
  • A Conference Board study found that only eight percent of companies surveyed rated overall leadership as excellent.
  • Research from The Blanchard Company shows that at least nine percent, and as much as thirty-two percent of an organization’s voluntary turnover could be avoided through better leadership skills.
  • A 2015 Global Leadership Forecast by The Conference Board and DDI found that only twenty-five percent of HR professionals view their organizations’ leaders as high quality, and only fifteen percent of companies have a strong “bench” of future leaders in the making.

These stats support how critical leadership is, but how difficult it sometimes is to achieve.

You don’t need to be the smartest person in the room:

Why can’t we attain more leadership greatness? It’s simple:  It involves making a conscious choice to be a good leader.  It doesn’t involve being the most intelligent person (Steve Jobs, for example, was brilliant, but he was given a very poor grade as a leader).  Intelligence is not a primary or leading indicator of leadership success, and many books and studies support this conclusion.  For example, Good to Great (Jim Collins) pegs the most influential contributors to leadership as passion and humility.  In Talent is Overrated (Geoff Colvin) it describes how “deliberate practice” is how one achieves superior leadership performance.  In Confidence (Rosabeth Moss Kanter) it describes the attributes of leadership to be honesty, ability to inspire, fair-mindedness and supportiveness.

I’m certainly not downplaying the need to have a company of smart people. Without that, companies cannot succeed.  But what I am saying, is that leadership is very much about the simplicity of good, consistent, behavioral attributes, and applying them every day.

So, where and how does leadership start?

So many additional attributes are used to describe good leaders. Among those are curiosity, passion, humility, people skills, intellect, persistence, honesty, integrity and courage, and there are many more. But, before any attribute discussion, there must come one thing: Candor.  Being candid with others and being candid with yourself is the single best place to start.  In Winning (Jack Welch), it describes how a lack of candor is “the biggest, dirty little secret in business”, and “lack of candor permeates almost every aspect of business”.

Candor is defined as unreserved, honest and sincere expression. Nothing can be more important as a starting point to effective leadership.  It takes shape both in how you communicate with peers and associates, and how you reflect internally (and honestly) about your own strengths and weaknesses.

Though it may seem difficult to achieve, leadership success isn’t out of anyone’s reach. Arguably, it is reasonably simple.  You don’t need a Master’s degree, nor be the smartest person in the room.  You simply need to dedicate yourself to the exercise, and work at it every day.

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