Leadership is an invaluable skill in today’s business world.
The ability to navigate the needs of various people and organizations while keeping up with the rapid pace of technological innovation is no walk in the park.
But with the right strategies, you can be a more effective leader and enjoy the benefits that come with it.
Here are 11 ways to be a more effective business leader:
1. Understand What Needs to Be Done
Peter Drucker, the infamous management guru, is known for saying that being more effective is really all about “getting the right things done.”
Never has this mantra been more relevant than today.
You simply can’t get everything done on your to-do list.
And who said you should? Being busy does not mean you’re being effective.
Just because you do something well, doesn’t mean it’s important.
And just because you want to do something doesn’t mean it’s important, either, in the context of leadership or business.
The real question is “what needs to be done right now?”
To find the answer, make a list of priority tasks for the day and only focus on the top one or two (at most).
Again, never have more than two priorities per day.
Furthermore, the priority tasks that you choose should be the ones that you are most effective at.
If you can delegate something to someone else, do it.
This frees up your time to focus on what you are most effective at.
If you do this, it’s not going to guarantee that you’ll have success but if you don’t…you can expect failure.
2. Ask “Is This Right for the Company?”
This is a tricky line to walk.
On one hand, it’s tempting to say ‘yes’ to every customer, employee, and member of your team to keep them happy.
On the other hand, you have to balance this with what’s best for the business in the long run.
Sometimes, actions or decisions that seem like a loss are only such in the short term and will actually pay off in the long term.
Have the discipline to ask yourself what is actually the best path for the business, and not just what is emotionally convenient.
4. Don’t Focus on Obstacles, Focus on Opportunities
Effective business leaders see the bigger picture.
They focus themselves and their teams on the opportunities in any given situation, not the obstacles.
Problems, obstacles, challenges…they will never go away.
This holds true no matter what stage of development your business is in.
But when you pursue big opportunities, you will win enough that your problems are smaller in comparison.
Opportunities can take many forms, such as:
- A surprise failure or success in your business
- A small market that could become larger
- An innovation on an existing business process
- Changes in the industry structure
- Changes in the demographics of your target market
- New technology
- New or emerging values in the public sphere
- New information
5. Be 100% Responsible for Your Actions
As a leader, you have to make decisions quickly.
When you’re taking action on these decisions, you will face your fair share of adversity, change, and uncertainty.
Welcome to your new normal.
If you want to lead other effectively in the full-time sport of business, get used to taking 100% responsibility for your actions and the decisions that preceded them.
But responsibility goes further than simply acknowledging mistakes when they occur.
A responsible decision involves letting your team members know about it.
People cannot read your mind.
In addition to communicating your decisions and actions in advance, you should assign specific people on your team to specific actions that they need to carry out.
And if it’s important — and by the way you shouldn’t bother assigning anyone on your team to an action or decision if it’s not important — then it should have a deadline.
You should also communicate who your actions and your team’s actions are going to affect…whether this be your customers, investors, or anyone else.
Adding this context to your decision and actions will ensure that people have a better understanding of the consequences of their efforts — positive and negative.
It also lets them know who should be notified when key results are achieved or not.
6. Be Clear About What Information You Do (and Don’t) Need
Let everyone in your business know what information should be communicated to you.
Define, in clear terms, what decisions need to be run by you first.
Otherwise, don’t get frustrated if your team leaves you out of the loop on something — that would be your fault, not theirs.
Don’t let yourself become a bottleneck though.
If every decision has to pass through you, it’s going to slow down your company’s progress.
6. Create a Plan of Action
Knowledge is not power.
Applied knowledge is.
Plan your course of action in advance so you can take what you have learned and apply it strategically.
At a minimum, know the outcome — or results — you’re aiming for.
Without defining this from the start you can’t possibly know when you’ve succeeded or failed.
Also, anticipate likely obstacles that could pop up in pursuit of this outcome.
Create contingency plans for them.
And schedule regular review dates and team check-ins on key milestones, all in advance.
All of these things help you stay on course and adjust as necessary.
It’s not only important to have the ability to adjust, but also the willingness.
So make your plan of action flexible.
Your plan is meant as a guide for your actions and priorities, and it needs to be able to evolve over time.
7. Run Better Meetings
Most meetings are an utter waste of time.
They’re an excuse to pretend you’re doing something important or getting something done.
The good news is you can get a lot more out of meetings than you are now.
The key is to have a clearly defined outcome for the meeting.
And define roles for the meeting: who will take notes, who will be speaking, who will be attending in the first place (and for what reason).
Don’t set up meetings or agree to meetings without a pre-designated end time.
This goes for your company, your clients, your vendors, everything.
8. Think About the Team, Not Just Yourself
Even if you are a solo entrepreneur, you still need a team.
Whether it’s keeping your business software updated, cooperating with your customers toward a mutually beneficial project, or anything else, your success requires other people.
So when speaking with your team, whoever they may be, get in the habit of speaking in terms of “we” and “us” and not so much “I” or “me.”
9. Listen More, Talk Less
Successful leaders know the value of listening.
They understand that everyone has something to teach them.
Don’t be in such a rush to fill silence — let others talk.
You’ll be amazed by what you discover about your clients, your colleagues, and your competitors.
10. Don’t Ask Others to Do What You Aren’t Willing to Do
If you ask others to do something that you yourself aren’t willing to do, what does that say about you?
That you care about your own well-being, or comfort, or time, but not about others?
That you’re to be less respected?
That you don’t know what’s going on in the trenches because you never come down from your ivory tower?
Lose the ego.
Jump in and show the rest of your team that you can, and will, sacrifice just the same as they do.
Don’t make this an everyday habit, though. Remember that you should be spending the vast majority of your time on the things that you are most effective at.
But do it just enough to show solidarity with the people you are leading.
11. Be Authentic
No one likes being patronized.
Cheesy, canned speeches and empty platitudes don’t work anymore.
And it builds trust between you and others.
You’ll need that trust if you want to lead effectively.
Being a leader — whether you call yourself a CEO, entrepreneur, manager, or anything inbetween — has its challenges.
But with the right approach, you can effectively lead others in the world business.
You can bring out the best in yourself and others to achieve your most prized goals.
And you can feel confident while doing it.
So what are you waiting for? — Make it happen.