What is executive leadership all about?
Building a foundation for consistent and credible leadership: Part One
Many people talk about the Three C’s in business. It may sound like buzz terminology but ultimately, there are certain pillars to live by when it comes to leadership in business and life. Some will refer to clarity, culture and confidence. Others will refer to competency, character and communication. When it comes to my Executive Three C’s, I prefer consistency, credibility and connection. In business, executive leadership is about serving others and investing in your people, which is why my Three C’s represent trust, building it and maintaining it.
Consistency, credibility and connection
As a leader, it’s critical that your employees trust you. They should trust your judgement, your decision-making ability and skills, and they should trust your ability to maintain and nurture relationships. They should trust that you have their best interests at heart, as well as the interests of the business. Otherwise, why would they work for you?
The Dalai Lama said it perfectly: “to earn trust, money and power aren’t enough; you have to show some concern for others. You can’t buy trust in the supermarket.”
Trust is the backbone to people feeling safe and secure, and trust in a leader helps organisations flourish and grow. On the flip side, the absence of trust can cause fragmentation and conflict.
So what do I mean by consistency, credibility and connection?
Consistency refers to ensuring people know what they can expect from you, not only in the quality of your work but also when it comes to your personality and how you interact with others. There’s nothing worse than a leader who’s inconsistent. You want your people to be able to approach you comfortably and confidently.
Credibility is about making sure the way you communicate, both written and verbally, are well thought out, especially when it comes to responding to a situation rather than reacting to it. It’s important that if you are ever unsure about something, that you research it before you pass comment.
And when it comes to connection, it’s about building robust relationships with everyone - whether they are exactly like you or your polar opposite. Invest time in these relationships and nurture them. You’ll be amazed at what you can learn from all relationships, regardless of personality and title. The opportunity for personal growth that can come from developing them is amazing.
The foundation of executive leadership
For me, there are four key elements to effective executive leadership - setting direction, motivating commitment of employees, driving the results and self-development.
Let’s talk about the first two.
Heading in the right direction
Setting direction is vital when it comes to leading a team. After all, your people are looking to you to set an example, to lead. And how can you lead without knowing what direction to go? They’re in control of the car, but you’re the one reading the map. Be strategic, always think ahead and clearly communicate the road ahead with confidence. However, while committing to the end goal, always remain flexible on the route, taking into account the road conditions to adjust your course as necessary. Just because you want to go over the hill doesn’t mean driving through the tunnel won’t get you to your destination as well.
When it comes to direction, it’s also important to think outside the box and push for continuous improvement. What is so remarkable about your product or service? What is so unique about the way your team operates? Encourage innovation and use the answers to these questions to drive improvements. A good tip here is to do some ‘what if’ scenarios with your team. What would they do if they were the competition? What would they change about the company? How would they make your product or service better? Thinking strategically also means embracing failure. It’s an opportunity to grow bigger and better than you were before.
Finally, try to instil a sense of belonging in your team. To do this, connect the past to the present. Make sure your team understands where the company has come from and how it has grown, instilling a sense of pride in employees. This also provides your team members with the opportunity to comment on challenges the company is currently facing and how to overcome them, as well as an inspiring ambition for the future. Discuss the company purpose and vision, and what this means for each team member. Ask them: why do they show up for work each day? What inspires them and what makes them proud to work for the company?
Motivating your employees
A good leader will work to motivate and inspire employees. But this doesn’t just refer to the job itself, it also means developing their confidence. Helping them to see the ‘remarkable’ inside of them, and showing them what their true potential is. At times, this may mean shuffling people between departments. But if that’s what it takes to set them up for success, making these decisions is the sign of a true leader.
Motivating employees is also about energising and empowering them to come to work each and every day by showing them that you’re all in, that you have full faith in the company and in their work. Give your team the space to perform to their full potential. Sometimes, this may mean stepping back to let them solve the problem themselves, even when you can already see the answer.
In motivating your employees, it’s crucial that you let go of doing tasks yourself. By handing over tasks, you’re empowering others. Of course, you can still mentor your team by educating them on the most effective way to complete tasks, but you need to give them room to make decisions and to fail, as failure is a key component of learning and long-term success. Remember, it’s better that you try and fail, then learn from the error, rather than simply sticking to the status quo.
Importantly though, ensure your team knows that you support their decisions, and make sure they know that you are there to help and guide them. There is no punishment for failure. Rather, it’s an opportunity to reflect on what happened, as a team, and for you to help them learn from the situation and improve.
When it comes to communication with your team, the best way to motivate is by being thoughtful and intentional when you speak. Talk with positive purpose, with passion and energy. Say what matters most in a way that can be universally understood, rather than in complex and technical terms. Emphasise the key takeaway and always check back in on them. Ask them what you can do to assist them, rather than what they have done recently.
Remember, as a leader, it’s your responsibility to inspire your team to be better and to do better. It’s your job to encourage your team to dream.
Stay tuned for Part Two of our Executive Leadership and Trust series coming soon! We’ll be discussing how to drive the best results and why self-development is so important.