We’ve all heard the adage ‘great leaders are born not made’ but is there truth in this? Could great leadership be within the grasp of all of us? Researchers at UCL seem to think so – their findings were that leadership was only partly hereditary and the rest can be learnt. Leadership potential in anyone can be maximised and developed to ignite and expand an organisation’s performance.

Learning HOW to be an effective leader is achievable, but where do you start? How do you put into daily practice the skills and attributes of exceptional leadership?

Carole Gaskell, CEO of Full Potential Group and bestselling author, shares her insight and tips on how your leadership can make the difference to become an inspirational and powerful force.

Inspiring and engaging your team

To be an inspiring leader starts with you feeling inspired and passionate about your organisations product or service.  What it can offer that is so unique? What makes it special? What does it mean to your customers?

Steve Jobs wasn’t just passionate about computers – he was passionate about building something that helped people to unleash their creativity.  It was about how his products could change lives for the better. Jobs was open to inspiration, which in turn led him to be so inspirational to those around him.

The ability to inspire helps to foster high levels of employee engagement and commitment – the more inspirational the leader, the more successful the team.

You don’t have to be the next Steve Jobs to be an inspirational leader.  Employees just need to see you being genuinely passionate and enthusiastic about ideas, people and projects.  It’s about helping those in your team.  Offering recognition and rewards to keep people feeling appreciated and engaged.

Adaptability

Flexibility and readiness to adapt are the watchwords in today’s unpredictable business environment. The rapid pace of change affects every business and to keep up they need leaders who are open to change and can successfully work through challenging issues.

Adaptability is about compromise, for example, when a preferred ‘perfect’ solution won’t it’s about acknowledging that an alternative options can be just as viable.  Leadership isn’t about control, its about co-operation for a common goal.

People who aren’t adaptable tend to get stressed and uncomfortable when faced with new, unexpected and urgent projects.  This approach can have a negative effect on your team so it’s vital to be calm, confident, take a few deep breaths and be ready to make a quick decision when faced with an unexpected challenge.

Transparency and Integrity 

After the economic crash, integrity and transparency became two of the most sought after qualities in employees, leaders and organisations. They enabled organisations to rebuild a culture based on honesty, integrity and truth.

Our digital, connected world means there is no hiding place for secrets. They can be unravelled in minutes by the click of a mouse. Social media makes news viral in minutes.

An individual’s transparency is just as important as corporate transparency. People have grown tired and weary of surprises and leaders hiding behind shut doors. Your employees want to be part of a culture where leaders are proactive in sharing where the company is headed and what the future holds – no matter what that future may be.

So, as a transparent leader you need to communicate less over email and become more personally engaged with your employees via face-to-face communication and potentially with much greater frequency than you’re used to. If you’re transparent and open, especially during the worst of times, people begin to trust you, not only as a person, but as a leader too.

Being a change catalyst

Gandhi taught that people need to ‘be the change they wish to see in the world’, this is especially so for leaders. Displaying a positive attitude towards change shows you’re open to the opportunity it can bring and this in turn will influence members of your team.

Keeping your organisation current and ahead of the curve is vital to its success, so as a leader you have to use the resources at your fingertips and explore trends and practices – this will help you anticipate future change. If you plan for as many eventualities as possible then change shouldn’t catch you off guard. Anticipate it and be ready to embrace it.

Being a change catalyst enables your organisation to stay ahead of the game. The current business climate is too fast paced to stand still for too long, those organisations that stop growing and learning will fall behind.

Involve team members in the change process from the very beginning. This will ensure you gain buy in from early on, without which any major change initiatives will fail before you’ve even begun.

By involving your team and having these conversations you are creating a foundation for change that should percolate top to bottom.

Understanding your current reality and foreseeing and preparing for the future

As a leader you can’t just focus on meeting short term targets, budgets and goals. It’s just as important to understand your organisation’s current reality as it is to prepare for the future.

Are you and your business prepared and ready to be successful in five years’ time? If the answer is no, what’s getting in your way? What’s stopping you? what do you need to do to change?

The key to balancing now and the future is to utilise your managers and teams to focus on budgets and short term targets and projects – by having an open and trusting relationship with your employees you can rely on them to provide you with the top line necessary information which in turn will allow you to focus on the bigger picture.

Carole Gaskell, CEO of Full Potential Group and bestselling author