Out of the countless skills that a leader must have, one of the most important is the ability to inspire those around them. Inspiring others is not about ordering people around or delivering great speeches. Inspiration is about motivating others to be the best version of themselves. Somewhere along the way, leaders forget this important distinction.
The goal of this post is to provide an idea of what makes a leader inspiring and the benefits of this in the workplace.
Tips to Inspire Leadership
True inspiration starts with the people: the individuals responsible for making business possible. Build a culture of trust and ownership to train the next generation of leaders. As your team grows, you will find that newer team members will adopt those practices of serving others and taking accountability when necessary. A team of leaders can be more powerful than a single leader telling everyone what to do.
Acknowledge the efforts of your team. Employee recognition is crucial to a team’s morale and success. For small tasks, such as a quick turnaround on a task or help on a minor issue, a genuine compliment can go a long way. For bigger projects and wins, take the time to share that person’s success with the whole team. It will not only instill a sense of pride in the team member but encourage others around them to give their best.
Beyond recognition, make sure to let your team know that you value and respect their work. In return, your team members will view you in high regard. Show respect by actively listening to their ideas. Provide them with quality tools and resources as well to enhance their work life. Lastly, be supportive of your employees during their shortcomings and be constructive with criticism.
Benefits of Inspiring Others / Employees
Inspiring employees allows them to find a purpose at work, beyond the need for money. A group of researchers conducted a study and found that employee engagement is among the most important factors in the overall success of a company. As you continue to inspire and motivate employees, you will naturally find their engagement improves, resulting in greater productivity and morale. Organizations with high employee engagement have also been found to reduce employee turnover rates.
Inspiring others is a uniquely creative pursuit. When you inspire someone, you are subconsciously asking them to think about work and life outside of their usual perspective. This pushes them to take greater risks and try new ideas. It’s not uncommon for big companies to bring in motivational speakers or thought leaders to hold seminars— their words of wisdom could eventually lead to an employee of the company changing their way of thinking completely.
Ultimately, inspiring others can be a great source of happiness. In a report by the American Psychological Association, it is estimated that more than $500 billion is lost every year due to workplace stress. By inspiring team members to perform exceptionally or think unconventionally, they are able to break free from the usual limits and confines of work. In the long run, this can feel liberating and contribute to significantly reduced stress and pressure.
Characteristics of Inspirational Leadership
Trust is the foundation for any inspirational leader. Without trust, employees will lack the commitment to even the most simple tasks and will hesitate to step up when it matters most. Leaders build trust through their actions and words— showing respect for humanity and dignity in every employee, following through on his promises, and taking ownership for any team failures.
Leaders must also master the art of active listening. Listening to your employees allows you to create more personal connections and identify more pressing issues. You’ll be able to learn any struggles they are experiencing and potentially even solutions to help address them. Engaging in conversation with your employees, especially new hires, will help them feel included and valued within the team.
Inspirational leaders would place importance on each employee’s personal development. A positive leader will create opportunities for employees to shine. Trust your employees to do an exemplary job and be grateful for their work. By creating opportunities, employees are given a chance to prove their skills. They’ll be able to gauge their ability in a practical setting.
There are a lot of misconceptions out there on what makes a great leader. It’s easy to be influenced by what we see portrayed in the media as to what makes a great leader. Leaders are often viewed as hyper-intelligent, charismatic individuals who always make the right decision. That’s not always the case. Here are some myths about leadership:
– Leaders are born, not made – The qualities of what makes a great leader are not always inherent. Leadership is a skill, and like any other skill, can be learned over time. Oftentimes, exceptional leaders are a result of an existing problem. They take it upon themselves to find a solution.
– Knows Everything – You don’t have to know everything to become a great leader. In fact, leaders rely on trusted experts to provide information to help them make sound decisions.
– In it for the money – Ironically, a leader who is in it for the money tends to have a skewed mindset when it comes to decision making. Someone who prioritizes money above all else will stumble when the going gets tough. Greedy leaders end up failing to create something meaningful.
– “Always On” – Being a leader doesn’t mean you have to be “On” at all times. Despite what others may think, great leaders are still human. Trying to be always on top of things will easily lead to burning out. Leaders recognize the value of taking a break every once in a while to unwind and reset.
Inspiring leaders can be found in the newest startups or in established enterprises. They can be found at the top, heading strategies and developing new initiatives, or they may be just another team member on the floor. The one thing these leaders have in common is their ability to see past their teams’ limits and rally everyone around a common vision. This means that anybody, even those from the most humble beginnings, has the opportunity to inspire those around them.
Creativity is more than just artistry— it means taking unique approaches to problem-solving, developing bold and original ideas, and looking at the world from a different perspective. In a working environment, a creative team is priceless. Yet in so many organizations, creativity can be stigmatized, perceived as irrelevant, unproductive, or reserved for “creatives”. Such a mindset can hinder a company’s true potential.
In this post, we want to provide some guiding lessons for bringing the creativity out of each of your team members, ultimately leading to a bolder, more innovative business.
Developing a Creative Culture
Any company has the ability to build a creative culture, but it will require widespread buy-in and coordination. It starts with thehiring process— ask yourself: who represents the spirit of your company? Skills and qualifications are traditionally reliable metrics to judge candidates, but consider hiring instead based on character and passion. While you can always train people to build industry skills, it’s a lot harder to teach core values like curiosity or tenacity.
As for building on the existing team, leaders should promote and celebrate moments of individuality. Encouraging creativity and encouraging people to be their authentic selves go hand in hand. From allowing people to dress how they want to allowing people to express their minds however they want, encouragement in the workplace can take shape in many ways.
Ultimately, leaders that seek creativity must embrace risk-taking. Creativity is about thinking unconventionally, and that requires going past the limits or even bending certain rules. For instance, consider the invention of the Apple iPhone or the Netflix streaming service. For these products to truly innovate, both Apple and Netflix had to break the mold, and risk alienating their intended market completely. The impact, however, was well worth the struggle.
Strategies for Creativity at Work
Assuming your team is already creative or is in the process of becoming more creative, how can they better implement that mindset within the workplace? Here are a few strategies that may assist you.
The beauty of brainstorming is in its lack of structure— everyone on the team is given an equal opportunity to voice their idea or opinions, leading to a kaleidoscope of potential solutions. Its greatest strength can also be its greatest weakness, however, since brainstorming can go long without any direction or overarching strategy.
One solution around this is the brainwriting method, which is an evolution of the standard brainstorming process. The practice has several variants but generally involves taking ideas brainstormed by others and iterating on them. Consider brainwriting in your meetings for more structured brainstorming.
Learn from setbacks
The business world has a particular aversion to failure: often it is seen as inexcusable and unforgivable. But reflect on how you have grown in your own life— did you get to where you are by always winning? On the contrary, when you allow for failure, new opportunities and lessons emerge. Although it may seem like a low point, these setbacks can teach us the most.
Before streaming became the preferred means of watching movies and television, Sony and JVC battled over videotape dominance. Sony had the Betamax, which was in many regards the superior format (at least technically), while JVC had the VHS, a more popular and affordable option. Sony eventually lost that format war, with VHS capturing 90% of the total US VCR market. But Sony learned a lot about the ordeal, eventually winning the newer format wars with their Blu-Ray technology, now a video standard around the world.
Opposite to brainstorming, splitting off, and thinking about problems alone can lead to a different kind of problem-solving. Although many find it useful to talk through their problems and collaborate with others, there are a few people who would rather reflect on a solution themselves. Allow individuals to schedule a time to be on their own, trusting them with the goodwill of being independent and autonomous.
Last but not least, recognize and celebrate success where you see it! Creativity can take courage since not everyone is comfortable with breaking the norm. Whenever you see creativity help others or move the company forward, make sure you congratulate the individual and encourage others to learn by their example.
Resources for Creativity
Looking to research tools that will cultivate a more creative culture? Below you will find a compilation of collaboration tools, apps, and websites that will help you in communication and idea generation.
There are a lot of instant messaging apps out there, but few as widely accepted and easy to use like Slack. Used by even large companies such as Target, Uber, TD Ameritrade, and more, Slack has a clean interface for messaging but is more efficient and more secure than traditional email. Create channels that encourage creativity or celebrate success, and you’ll find a new way of collaborating with the team.
These days you’ll find a project management app almost everywhere, but Trello remains the most visually intuitive option. The genius lies in its boards and cards system, which can be modified to suit all sorts of needs: from brainstorming product ideas to tracking progress in a pipeline. It’s almost like having several online whiteboards. Similar to Slack, Trello offers support for dozens of different integrations.
The beauty of the cloud is that teams today can work together in realtime, without having to download applications or files to get started. Start a presentation on your laptop and finish it on your desktop, or review a document on your tablet or phone. Google and Apple offer two highly-competitive options, but they will accomplish the same goals. Google is more ubiquitous, offering support for Windows and Apple devices, while Apple iWork has a more visually appealing design.
Creative Work Environments
So far we have covered the various elements of creative teams— from the culture to the tools required. But there is another element we haven’t discussed: the actual environment for breeding creativity.
It sounds so obvious, but if you want creative teams, you need to have creative office spaces. Hang up art or decorations. Bring more plants into the room. Move office equipment around. You would be surprised how much the mood of a room can change just by organizing, cleaning, and furnishing it a certain way. Don’t forget about the importance of color in an environment too— consider painting the walls a different shade or letting more light into a room.
Complement your workstation with quiet areas or spaces for deep focus. Whether it’s a dining area or a private nook within the same floor, these spaces can help provide a much-needed respite from long periods of work.
Cultivating creative workplaces is not something that happens overnight— it requires planning, coordination, and teamwork. But the impact will reverberate throughout the entire company, from the top leadership all the way to the newest hire. Creativity has the potential to transform lives and create a brighter future for everyone.
Over the past few years, many businesses in different sectors have begun allocating significant amounts of time and resources to incorporate technology into their business. This strategy to transform businesses in the digital age has been going on for a while now, but the pandemic simply accelerated (some would even say “forced”) this evolution. For example, several companies are only now learning the various communication challenges involved when face-to-face interactions are limited.
In this post, we’ll cover some of the best practices involved in updating your organization to modern-day technological standards.
Roadmaps to Digital Transformation
To remain competitive in this new age of consumer behavior, businesses must update their business model with a clear digital strategy. Each business has its own quirks and will require different degrees of digital transformation in order to remain successful. Creating a roadmap provides a structured approach to digital transformation. It’s best to start by simply looking at your business in its current state. Here are a few things to keep in mind:
Perhaps the most important aspect of any business is the people running it. As you transform your business, it is imperative to identify key persons that directly impact success. It might also be a wise decision to bring in new talent to help transform your business and gain a competitive edge in the digital space. It’s not uncommon for large enterprises to recruit digital transformation agents from other successful companies.
This aspect of the business is all about maintaining or improving efficiency. A company’s process should include a future-proof plan for scaling the business and updating the business model to compete in the digital age. How will you maintain growth and earnings? What bottlenecks can be improved? Which innovations can take place? Take a deep dive into your internal processes to understand how to better serve both your own team and your customers.
Tools and infrastructure are needed to empower people and enhance processes. Prior to the pandemic, businesses have already been utilizing different platforms to facilitate communication between team members. A few examples of these platforms include Slack, Microsoft Teams, and Zoom. These company group chats help integrate members of the business together, and helps facilitate communication and collaboration over the internet, without the need for face to face meetings. But technology can also influence sales, marketing, customer support, finance, and various other functions of the business.
Reassessing Road Maps Due to Covid-19
Now, and for the foreseeable future, the majority of consumers are limiting their time spent outside of the home. This has brought about a surge of online traffic, with companies ramping up infrastructure to accommodate the load.
With this change in consumer behavior, companies must reassess their strategies in order to maintain growth. For example, as people now stay online longer on average due to being stuck at home, social media, and entertainment platforms (Facebook, YouTube, Instagram, etc.) are now viable investments to incorporate into your marketing campaigns. Understand where your target market is spending their time online. Analyzing new consumer groups is important in answering this question.
As a general rule, newer platforms tend to attract the younger generation. The rise of TikTok is no doubt thanks to Gen Z or “Zoomers”. It’s been a powerful tool to introduce products to Gen Z consumers due to the easily digestible content. Youtube, Twitter, and Facebook tend to be frequented by Millenials (Gen X) as well as Baby Boomers as these are the platforms they grew up with. Facebook and Twitter in particular boast the highest user count among all platforms.
Keep in mind this is only one aspect of digital transformation: online marketing. Digital transformation can also have a profound impact on one’s business by automating repetitive processes, offering more robust technical or customer support, or creating a more vivid and insightful report for your efforts. All of these changes will become even more essential in this post-pandemic world.
Advantages of Digital Transformation
As the need for digital transformation grows for each sector of the market, the benefits are also becoming clearer. The first, most obvious advantage is the opportunity to improve processes and innovate within the business. Using online tools and technology, each process or task can be made easier to improve efficiency across the board. Consider how tools like Asana or Basecamp have simplified project management to the point that people from different countries can continue to work and track their progress with increased agility.
Adopting certain technology will also serve to enhance customer experiences. Platforms such as Salesforce or HubSpot have become highly effective at analyzing customer journeys, which in turn can lead marketers to create more valuable experiences from the moment they are hooked, to the moment they return for a purchase. For example, receiving an email notification about an abandoned cart, or an upcoming booking can help increase engagement while providing customers with the information they may have ordinarily forgotten about.
Other tools can also help yield new consumer insights. Collecting information on how users navigate a website, interact with social media, or engage with email campaigns can open a treasure trove of information that you can then use to deliver better products or services. Location data is one such example. On many platforms, you can now learn where the bulk of your audiences come from, which in turn can help inform your advertising strategy both online and offline. More advanced enterprises even use machine learning and artificial intelligence to seek out patterns that the human eye cannot detect.
Jobs to be Done
So what are the jobs to be done in theory? What are some unmet customer needs that can be addressed? When creating your roadmap for digital transformation, you’ll notice that new tasks and processes will develop. This could mean expanding your team or training an existing team member. Use the data gathered from consumer behavior to determine what jobs are needed.
One example is finding out how your customers engage with your brand. Do customers head directly to your social media account? Then you need a Social Media Manager to handle your brand’s social media presence. Do they go directly to your website instead? Perhaps expanding your web development team to optimize your website would be better instead. Does creating a phone application make more sense for your business? Then you’d want to hire an Android or iOS software developer. Figuring what works best will greatly improve the customer experience.
Keeping up with the competition allows for some accurate competitive analysis. As brands become more public, one can determine the more popular brand based on user engagement online or follower count. Figuring out what works and what to improve is made easier with information on competitors being publicly available.
Examples of Digital Transformation
Back in 2017, Home Depot decided to update its brand strategy by creating a more seamless online experience, across all channels. Over three years, the company invested $11 billion into hiring over 1,000 professionals, updating their back-end and distribution channels, and completely revamping their IT department. The result: more actionable customer insights, better local trend tracking, and more accurate inventory levels. Their revenue has since grown over $17 billion.
With governments urging social distancing, countless companies with physical stores that usually rely on foot traffic need to come up with a way to get their goods to consumers without heading into a large group of people. Grocery stores have begun promoting curbside pickups to get goods to customers to help avoid large gatherings. Companies such as DSW and Michael’s are also adopting curbside pickups for customers. This new practice relies on an effective online scheduling and notification system, as well as a robust back-end that can handle all these requests.
Fitness companies such as 24 Hour Fitness have begun offering online workout classes in response to gyms closing due to the pandemic. Other fitness brands such as Orange Theory and Planet Fitness are now also promoting At-Home workouts by creating both free and premium content for their customers to use at home. These apps must be carefully developed and designed, as they are effectively acting as the online equivalents for their facilities.
The year of the pandemic has been a wake-up call for companies to accelerate their digital transformation efforts. Companies need not reinvent the wheel: while these examples have involved larger companies with significant budgets, smaller-scale organizations can begin (or continue) their digital transformation with modest yet impactful initiatives, such as updating a CRM platform or migrating to the cloud. As we look forward to future advancements in tech, these organizations that have already begun their transformation will have a unique advantage over competitors that fall behind.
Organizational change can manifest in countless ways: restructuring of leadership, adoption of new technologies, or the introduction of new products and markets. The entire process can be positively transformative for a business, but only when conducted properly. It’s no small wonder that the biggest brands spend millions hiring change agents and leaders to effectively implement their vision across the company.
In this article, we will cover the change management process as well as the best practice for implementing change in one’s own organization.
The change management process
Leaders and agents of change must concern themselves with managing various teams and initiatives during periods of change. For example, when adopting a new CRM for a sales division, who will train the teams on how to use the software? What benchmarks or guardrails will be implemented to guide the process? Leaders must be able to answer how, what, why, and when to develop a change management process.
Building a change management process
In the early phases of formulating change management, it is important to lay down the strategic foundations to guide the radical thinking necessary in implementing the change. Before acting on any new initiative, leadership should come to an understanding of the goals of the change management process. It may be to address major bottlenecks within the organization’s processes or to create an environment for innovation. What matters is that there is a widespread buy-in, particularly at the top level.
After setting goals, you must set the key players on the team— in other words, who are the leaders that will hold everyone accountable. Since implementing change can be an overwhelming feat, accountability is vital in ensuring sustained progress. The key players should have significant experience in completing major projects and guiding numerous different team members.
Once the proper leaders are appointed, the next task is to ensure those leaders implement relevant training programs. Team members should understand the goals of the overall change, and the adjustments in various processes to accomplish overall change. Such training will require significant time, resources, and planning beforehand.
What to consider during change management
In the chaos of putting together a new process, leadership may become blindsided by other problems that arise as a result of the change. For example, training team members to do their job in a new way may be a major inconvenience and lead to a drop in productivity. Be cognizant of the effects of rapid, widespread change on employees and team members.
Similarly, leaders may fail to consider their specific communication style and how it is received by the teams. Change can be a daunting task to accomplish, and an abstract concept to grasp. Communication makes all the difference between a carefully executed vision, and a disaster on all levels.
Change management frameworks
To simplify the notion of a change management process, countless people have developed their own framework for breaking change down. These include:
Kotter 8-Step Process for Leading Change – Developed by synthesizing four decades of observing leaders and organizations executing their strategies, and first mentioned by Dr. John Kotter in his book, Leading Change. The eight steps include: 1) Create a sense of urgency, 2) Build a guiding coalition, 3) Form a strategic vision, 4) Enlist a volunteer army, 5) Enable action by removing barriers, 6) Generate short-term wins, 7) Sustain acceleration and 8) Institute change.
ADKAR Model – (Also known as the Prosci ADKAR® Model) Developed by entrepreneur and author Jeff Hiat, ADKAR represents five “tangible and concrete” building blocks for lasting change: Awareness, Desire, Knowledge, Ability, and Reinforcement.
Satir Change Model – Originally designed for self-improvement, the Satir System was created by family therapist Virginia Satir. The model features five stages, each with its own effect on one’s feelings, thinking, and performance. The stages are: 1) Late Status Quo, 2) Resistance, 3) Chaos, 4) Integration, 5) New Status Quo.
McKinsey 7-S Framework – First mentioned by Tom Peters and Robert H. Waterman in their book, In Search of Excellence, this model helps to illustrate the various parts of an organization and how they fit together as a cohesive whole. Everything is divided into two categories: “Hard elements”, which are easy to describe and can be quickly changed, and “Soft elements”, which are less tangible and more affected by company culture. Strategy, Structure, Systems all fall under Hard elements, while Shared Values, Skills, Style, and Staff are under Soft elements. The model is like a web, as each element directly impacts another element.
Kurt Lewin Change Model – First presented by German-American Psychologist Kurt Lewin in 1947, The Lewin Change Management Model is the most succinct and easy-to-understand model on our list, and is still used today. It boils down execution into three stages: 1. Unfreeze (ensuring the company is ready for change), 2. Change (moving towards the state of change), and 3. Freeze (reinforcing the desired changes).
Kübler-Ross Model – Also known as the five stages of grief model, this model was created by Elisabeth Kübler-Ross in her book, On Death and Dying. It explains five stages of emotions that people experience as part of accepting loss: denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance. Coincidentally, these are the emotions experienced by teams after implementing or announcing a major change to an organization.
Bridges Transition Model – Created by change consultant William Bridges, this model highlights the stages of transitions, starting with Endings (teams realizing they are losing something but keeping other things), followed by the Neutral Zone (an in-between period where the old isn’t gone but the new isn’t operational), and concluded with New Beginnings (new values or attitudes implemented).
Before devising a new strategy, there must be a thorough review of the existing strategy. Leaders should know what to assess, including culture, values, leadership styles. In addition, the team must develop an organizational readiness assessment— an evaluation of the company’s ability and readiness to change.
Assessment must also be carried out afterward. After the organization changes, teams must measure their new behaviors and their effect on the business. They must ensure that all the changes adhere to the envisioned goals. Track metrics that can inform the efficiency and efficacy of the new change, from revenue to qualitative, cultural enhancement.
The roles of a leader during change
In periods of transition, the leader holds all responsibility. Especially if the change does not take hold, the leader must hold himself accountable. They are the ultimate decision-makers, responsible for everything from talent management to effective communication to teams. If something goes wrong, it’s because the leadership did not set the right expectations, provide the proper guidance, or track progress as necessary. Leaders are ultimately considered as sponsors for major projects and initiatives.
The leader is also viewed as the role model. Leaders set forth (intentionally or unintentionally) the attitude and mentality that will be eventually adopted by their team members. If they take an enthusiastic approach, their team members will also carry that energy. If they are selfish and accusatory, their team will suffer as a result. Leaders must exemplify the absolute best that a team can be.
Then there is the managerial role that leaders must play. They must evaluate ongoing processes, review records and data, and ultimately devise a strong, fact-based decision. When problems arise, they must find ways to mitigate risks while brainstorming creative solutions.
As change is implemented throughout an organization, the leader will be faced with countless challenges, each varying in difficulty and required skills. Leaders that are determined to bring about true change will not sit idly by handing off tasks to others: they must play multiple roles, from strategist to manager, from leader to team player. It’s no easy feat for a single person, but the rewards can be incomparable.
True, lasting change for a company requires solid leadership to see it through. Team members will be attached to their old routines and habits, that they may be reluctant to change, even when it may seem positive. The only real antidote is to nominate leaders who will garner widespread buy-in, and hold the right people accountable.
In 2020, every company is being affected by change in one way or another. Whether it’s stalled supply chains or closed shops, leaders will need to hone their skills and empower their teams if they hope to make it out— and continue to flourish. In this post, we’ll cover the different styles of leadership, as well as their effectiveness during periods of great change.
Types of Leadership
No two leaders are the same— while that may not come as a surprise, it is useful to learn precisely how leaders can differ in their strategy and approach. Below are just a few examples of the most common leadership styles.
As the name suggests, democratic leadership is rooted in the concept of democracy, the idea that the power of authority is derived from the consent of the people being governed. When applied to a company, democratic leadership usually results in a more equal and collaborative team, one that approaches solutions using a utilitarian approach (doing things for the greater good).
On the other hand, democratic leadership can quickly devolve into a popularity contest when it comes to certain issues. Important problems, such as which products to focus on, may ultimately come down to a majority rule despite opposition from expert voices on the team.
On the opposite spectrum from a democratic leadership is autocratic leadership. Instead of putting things to a vote or asking for feedback from the team, autocratic leaders make decisions on their own and hand them out as orders. You can find this kind of leadership common in military or sports, where commanders expect their assignments to be followed exactly. In the business world, the autocratic approach generally leads to overworked teams, resentment towards leadership, and a toxic work environment.
Laissez-faire is French for “let it be”. In this style of leadership, leaders don’t play an active role in the governance or direction of teams. Instead, they sit back and let them do the work, only occasionally dropping in to see how things are going. In some cases, this may be a nightmare, and chaos can quickly erupt out of a disorganized team. But in other situations, the team’s freedom can potentially result in more creative outcomes and more profitable returns. One such example is Warren Buffet, one of the richest investors in the world. Buffet researches each one of his investments, but when it comes to the day-to-day operations of each company, he leaves that to the more-than-capable managers he has in charge. In turn, his managers feel more confident and empowered to make decisions without interference from up top.
You may have heard of the term “agent of change” used to describe certain executives in the past, and that is not a term you can throw around lightly. Changing an entire enterprise or organization requires visionary leadership, those who are willing to upend the natural order of things to implement true innovation. This is no simple feat— it requires bringing together disparate parts of a company, from engineers to marketing to finance. But these types of leaders can quickly rise up their ranks and become sought-after figures within their industry.
When you hop into an Uber or Lyft, you pay the driver, and the driver takes you somewhere. That is an example of a transaction: a service or product for a price. Unfortunately, some people have adopted that mentality into their own leadership style. Rather than look for the best solution, these leaders will do things by the book, ordering their team to do things “because they have to.” As one can imagine, this type of leadership will only build animosity between leadership and the team.
In team sports, a coach is a person who you learn most from, who can see the big picture of the play and provide direct, personal guidance on how to improve performance. In business, these “coach” leaders are invaluable. Not only do they see each person’s blind spots, the strategy as a whole, but they also take a hands-on approach to building your career, taking a genuine interest in your struggles and accomplishments. The results speak for themselves: in one survey, 51 percent of respondents from organizations with strong coaching cultures reported revenue above that of their industry peer group.
Effects of Leadership
Positive effects of leadership
– Increased well-being of employees – Great leaders motivate, inspire, and win. Team members can sense an effective leader from an ineffective leader, and when they are lead by the former type, there is a greater drive towards accomplishment.
– A greater sense of solidarity – Creating cohesive teams is one of the greatest strengths (and challenges) of a leader. They must bring together diverse people and unite them under a common mission.
– Empowers team members to become leaders – Leadership is often passed down and taught, subconsciously. Those that are fortunate to work under great leaders tend to develop leadership skills themselves and go on to empower others.
Negative effects of leadership
– A decrease in employee input – this tends to be most closely associated with autocratic and transactional leadership, but the wrong type of leaders can make some people feel as if their contributions are worthless. This eventually stifles overall creativity and productivity.
– A decrease in team morale – It’s not just the individual that feels burned out, but the team as a whole. When one domino collapses, it doesn’t take long for the others to fall. Overall this can impair creative collaboration, and some leaders will find only the minimum effort from teams that have burned out.
Ideal behaviors of leaders
Inspirational leaders understand the challenges ahead of them. But instead of panicking, like so many newer leaders, they stop to assess the situation, and develop a plan of action. They may not be stronger, faster, or smarter than others, but they are willing to take risks where it counts and can motivate others to join them in the cause.
Leaders are the voice of change. They see bottlenecks, inefficiencies, and problems that others may overlook or feel powerless to change. Instead of standing by, the best leaders are moved to action, inspired to spark the change they desire. It’s not uncommon to see world leaders, business executives, cultural figures and other leaders be the symbol for hope and change.
Leaders provide guidance, without micromanaging. With a single-minded vision, they point people in the right direction, whether it is a new process of doing business, or a new vertical product line worth exploring. They don’t focus on the small details: like how people finish their work or which process they use. They care about the overall direction.
Finally, and most importantly, leaders hold accountable those that are in charge. Without someone holding others accountable, nobody would feel any motivation to get anything done, and easily let slip a series of bad mistakes. This part is also the hardest for many leaders, as it involves tough conversations that no one wants to have. But in the end, holding people accountable is essential to completing the grand visions that leaders have.
Common mistakes to avoid
Regardless of the leadership style, all leaders are susceptible to the same pitfalls and mistakes as everyone else. Below are just a few of the most common mistakes:
– Low leadership involvement – Think back to the concept of laissez-faire leadership. While it may work for established figures, it won’t always work at a startup or a growing business. Leaders need to be involved in the right departments: such as operations, marketing, and other functions that greatly affect the entire organization.
– Lack of resources – The best leaders in the world will struggle with limited resource pools. Some will say “do more with less”, but that adage simply doesn’t apply in leadership. A helpful supply, whether it is raw materials, land, or labor, will always help leaders with more options in their strategies.
– Inconsistent leadership style – Ever had a leader that was democratic one second and autocratic the next? Changing between various styles will only confuse the team, and ultimately remove any power or authority a leader may have.
– Changing focus and priorities too much – Once a priority has been set, it should remain set. The more it is changed, the more time and money is wasted. Hold discussions early on about what the team should focus on, and then develop tactics around that goal.
– No employee recognition – Leaders would be nowhere without their teams. Every once in a while it helps to show appreciation for the team members as well, giving them a platform to show off their accomplishments. Doing so will go a long way in building morale and pride within the group, and that can be infectious across the organization.
Leadership remains an indispensable part of an organization’s journey through change. Without solid leaders today, change can run a company’s resources dry, burnout a capable team, or lead the organization astray from its original purpose. Leaders are the shepherds by which a company can achieve its true goals. And leadership styles determine how effective a person can be in attaining that end.
2020 has been a catalyst for change in how businesses operate and interact with their audiences. Based on statistics from the Office of Advocacy of the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA), small business employment has declined by more than 17%. Companies need to be flexible and revisit their business model in light of new regulations. Changing consumer habits have created winners and losers in almost every industry. Clear and consistent communication with others has never been more important. No matter the line of work, leaders must be prepared for turbulent, unpredictable times.
Over the coming weeks, we will be providing valuable information, resources, and advice on how businesses can navigate the tides of change through effective leadership and planning. In this post, we will cover what it means to be a leader during a period of significant change.
Leadership styles during change
Careful planning and bold decision-making are just two of the ideal behaviors of leaders during tough times. There’s a lot more that goes into it— from empathetic listening to agile learning. But with so many different types of leadership, it can be difficult to know which traits to focus on. Here are eight of the most common leadership styles.
Transactional Leadership – Think of the last purchase you made, whether it was a cup of coffee or a new car. You paid someone a certain amount, and you got the expected product in return. That’s how some leaders choose to do their job, like a transaction. They tell people what to do and then reward or punish depending on the results. No surprise that this style of leadership doesn’t get very far, as people typically don’t like being told what to do or how to do things.
Transformational Leadership – While some leaders may accept the status quo, others want to find ways to continue innovating and transforming the business as a whole. Transformational leaders want to inspire and empower followers by creating radical improvements or streamlining existing processes. They may be doubted often because of their lofty visions, but their desire to change things for the better makes them effective in stagnant teams.
Democratic Leadership – As the name implies, democratic leaders run their teams like democracies, taking into account the input and contributions of each individual. They prefer creative collaborations and healthy dialogue to problem-solving to assigning people a directive. While this is often a more egalitarian approach, it can also lead to problems when there is a significant debate between people with no consensus in sight.
Autocratic Leadership – Conversely, autocratic leaders tend to run their teams like dictators. Rather than hear what feedback or opinions their team may have, the autocratic leader makes decisions beforehand and then assigns tasks to the team. While there are autocratic leaders in big companies, for the most part, it is an unsuccessful leadership style that only leads to resentment and a lack of creativity.
Servant Leadership – Servant leaders take an unconventional approach to leadership— they focus on helping others first. They understand that before one can lead a team, they must first learn to follow. They may give up time or money, but their efforts are paid in double when they call on the help of that team member.
Bureaucratic Leadership – Almost everyone has had a leader that relies too heavily on rules and process documents. It can feel like the simplest task requires cutting through a web of red tape. While bureaucratic leaders have organized systems for governance, they may also be trapped in their ways and fail to adequately innovate.
Laissez-Faire Leadership – Laissez-Faire, which you may recognize from an economics class, translates into “leave it be”. In other words, this form of leadership takes a hands-off approach to team management. These leaders merely provide the direction, but then let the teams have freedom in governing themselves. The only downside: without proper direction or guidance, these teams can quickly devolve into chaos.
Strategic Leadership – Not all leaders can work closely with their team, due to their executive or professional responsibilities. Instead, they do their best to clarify the directive from up top, while ensuring that the teams they support can remain operating at maximum efficiency. This is no easy feat, as strategic leaders may be responsible for multiple teams at a time. But with the right approach, strategic leadership can be extremely fulfilling as well as pivotal to a company’s success.
As one can imagine, the effects of leadership can vary from team to team, depending on the style. Creative teams, such as the ones found in the arts and entertainment industry, may thrive in environments with laissez-faire leadership, whereas high-growth startups may require transformational leadership.
These different styles also point to the common mistakes to avoid for leaders, such as failing to discuss important subjects with team members or lacking any sort of direction. Leaders must instill a balance between autonomy, direction, and teamwork in order to surpass the common pitfalls that come with such power.
How to manage others during change
Discussing the ideal qualities of a leader is one thing, but actually managing people in the day-to-day is another. Despite one’s best efforts to organize resources and inspire followers, the hard truth is that leaders need a plan. That’s where the change management process comes in.
What is a change management process?
A change management process refers to the strategic efforts of a company to support and empower its employees during a period of significant change to ensure organizational success. Although change can mean different things to different companies, businesses with a clear and consistent change management process are more likely to weather turbulent times.
Since the concept can be somewhat nebulous, it helps to use existing change management frameworks to organize a business’s efforts. One example is Dr. John Kotter’s 8-Step Process for Leading Change, which he first introduced in the book of the same name. Kotter observed several leaders and how they enacted their change strategy, before finally distilling it down to these eight steps:
Kotter’s 8-Step Process for Leading Change
– Create a sense of urgency – Followers must be united through an inspiring opportunity that must be acted on immediately.
– Build a guiding coalition – Create a team of effective leaders to steer the group’s efforts onto the right path.
– Form a strategic vision and initiatives – Illustrate how the future can be changed, and outline the initiatives that will make that future a reality.
– Enlist a volunteer army – Large scale buy-in is essential to large scale change. Discover like-minded people and recruit them to join the cause.
– Enable action by removing barriers – Inefficiencies and hierarchies will only hold your team back in the quest for true collaboration.
– Generate short-term wins – Small victories add up. Start by accomplishing the easier tasks to energize teams for larger challenges.
– Sustain acceleration – After the first large success, keep pushing harder. Be tenacious with change until the strategic vision is achieved.
– Institute change – Develop organizational assessments and continue to work in the new behaviors until they replace old habits.
The roles of a leader during change can vary depending on the stage, size of the team, and urgency of action. Most leaders will have to be experts in several areas while being careful not to insert themselves into every single problem or issue. Overall, leaders must act like shepherds, carefully guiding people while staying aware of their unique strengths and capabilities.
This framework is just one of many. McKinsey & Company have the 7-S Framework. Kurt Lewin’s Change Model only has three steps: unfreeze, change, and refreeze. Some companies may even opt to make their own change management framework. As is the case with change, there is no one-solution fits all, the best one can do is to understand the different frameworks available, and to adapt or modify them as relevant to their business.
Transforming to digital services
Digital transformation remains a top priority for businesses, especially now more than ever as people continue to work remotely. The farther teams operate from each other, the more they must rely on their toolsets and technology.
The advantages of digital transformation cannot be overstated. Efficiency, transparency, security are the most common advantages for adopting more technologies such as cloud computing, data analytics, and artificial intelligence. Why ask an employee to do something that can be automated, analyzed, and evaluated 24/7?
One of the best examples of digital transformation includes the concept of jobs to be done. The migration to digital can also provide valuable information into more complicated questions, like asking “why do customers buy our product, and how can we get them to buy more?”
Jobs to be done eschews the common notions of persona creation and instead seeks to understand the needs and situations customers find themselves in. Before, much of this was left to guesswork. But with the power of data, machine learning, and intuitive software, marketers can gain a better understanding of the most effective ways to reach customers at just the right time.
Rethinking the corporate culture
Over the past few decades, the process of rethinking corporate culture has coincided with major shifts in work habits. Particularly in 2020, how and where people work during change have become topics of heated debate.
One explanation points to the changes in how we work with each other. Companies once rented out expensive floors of space, only to section off their employees with cubicles. Today, startup culture has fundamentally changed that idea, instead of taking on a more “campus” approach to organizational structure. Almost everyone is on the same rank, few walls separate people from each other, and creativity and collaboration is becoming increasingly more important than efficiency and professionalism.
Yet another reason could be our relationship with technology. Zoom, Skype, FaceTime— these apps have only simplified and streamlined our ability to communicate despite great distances. Social media has managed to bring people closer than ever. Even the devices we use afford us greater access to information than previous generations could ever dream.
2020 has indeed introduced a number of changes that have upended entire companies. But while the nature of the change is unprecedented, businesses have been faced with daunting change before— from national recessions, war, shifts in technology. Companies have come out of these disasters stronger than before. The determining factor: leaders with a clear and cohesive plan to address these challenges. How can your business prepare for the changes ahead?