Someone once said to me that to be an effective leader you had to have at least seven distinct abilities. Interesting. How could you pin down the number to seven, but after listening to their thoughts and reading some recommended articles, I found that there were indeed seven basic elements of being a good leader.
One leadership skill, in addition to being charismatic and smart was the ability to get and give (transfer) information. I find that if I could not communicate effectively then no other skill would make up for this lack. As a leader, you must be able to communication the parameters of the project to your team.
Not so long ago I was sitting in a conference room with my team. We were outlining where we were with this project. To my dismay, one team member raised his hand and asked, “Now what was I supposed to do?” I was floored. Why had my team member completely missed the assignment? It made me think about my leadership and communication abilities. I went back to the drawing board to rethink my leadership skills.
As a leader, you need to understand the needs and characteristics of your group. People evaluating can be a bit scary. You need to discover what makes others tick. I pulled out my notes and really thought about each of my team members to determine why they were on the team. Learnings styles, background, and culture played a great part in my team-building goals, or so I felt.
Leaders must know the resources at hand. This doesn’t mean the whitepapers and pamphlets involved in a project, but the skills, attitudes and background of your team members. Learning about individuals’ backgrounds and experiences gives you a pool of knowledge to draw on and communicate to the group. You can lead by assigning parts of a project. Your role as a leader is to bring all these parts together in one finished venture.
Leaders must control the group by setting the pace, observing the group. A leader is not the dominant ruler but the facilitator. Instruct your group so they know precisely what their role on the team is. Counsel if needed and keep up the “cheer-leading.” React when necessary. Remember you are the fall-guy, the one who bears the responsibility if the team fails.
As the leader, you represent the group. Their ideas should be your ideas. A leader needs to know the problems, communicate with non-team members to and from the team, and realize that all other groups receive the overall impressions of your group from you.
Although you are the leader, you need to share leadership. Shared problem-solving and decision-making is a mark of a good leader. Competitive and authoritarian styles of leadership do not work. If you are a dictator to your team, they will come to resent you, and just like every revolution in the world, they will protest and shut down.
To get back to my original point, why did this one team member not understand “what to do?” To put it mildly, as their leader, it was my problem they weren’t prepared. I neglected to educate them fully on what was expected. Who was actually to blame? My eyes were opened. I sat down with my team to strategize how we all could contribute our skills and what specifically needed to be done. Needless to say, the project was a complete success.