Great leaders are worth their weight in gold. They are not as common as many leaders would like to think. Great leaders are workplace catalysts, they release the potential and the energy in each of their followers and so enhance the power of teams. They select the right person for a role, set clear expectations and boundaries then motivate and develop every one of their team to reach their optimum potential. During this process great leaders often ignore conventional wisdom. They understand that the tenets of conventional wisdom are close, but not quite close enough to achieve the excellent outstanding performance they are keen to achieve, because conventional wisdom produces pure conformity and brilliance and exceptional results are not about conformity. Conforming is about commonality and commonality is about average results embedded in the middle of mediocrity.
When a great leader looks for convention and conformity they become yet another average leader. Good leaders need to be prepared to be brave and defy convention if they want to be great. Great leaders have to be noticed and if you want to be noticed you have to be different in the way you do things and the way you behave. That differentiation must hold some relevance to the situation, if it is to be considered and noticed. Convention decrees that a leader should select a person based for a role or task on their skills and experience, intelligence and determination i.e. their past record. Great leaders on the other hand, select people on potential, resilience, attitude and talent not just skills, experience, intelligence or determination. Straight away you can see that selecting people without considering their real potential is the first step on the conventional road to mediocrity. Just because someone is qualified for something does not mean they are any good at it!
Most leaders set out their instructions to their followers by defining and explaining the right steps to take on the right path for their chosen candidate to succeed. They motivate that person by helping them to identify and then conquer their weaknesses. Then they develop that person in the form of themselves by helping them to learn their ways; people get promoted through mimicking their boss. Great leaders don’t follow this convention instead they do something slightly different. They set expectations, they define the correct outcomes and leave the steps to the individual. They do this on the basis that provided the person keeps within the boundaries set and abide by the culture of the organisation, so it doesn’t matter how they reached the desired outcome. They know that if they set this environment, then each person will learn and grow and also use their creativity because, as they recognise there is never one correct way of completing any task. If things should go awry they don’t blame but encourage learning from failure.
The next thing the great leader will do is instead of trying to identify and fix weaknesses, the great leader will focus on the person’s strengths and build on those so developing confidence and a feeling of invincibility and courage that enables greater self-development through liberating the individual from their own limiting beliefs. Positive things happen in positive blameless environments. This means that each team member is working within their positive environment of strength and not their negative environment of weakness. The quality of their work will be much higher as will their levels of motivation. This point is exceedingly important because it sets the right working environment to promote excellence and success in an organisation. This is why a great leader has such loyal followers because they allow people to flourish and develop around them and when people are doing just that they remain focused, loyal and engaged.
The conventional approach is to develop the person by helping them to learn and get promoted. The great leader does something else. They help the person to find the right fit for their strengths and not just conformity to reach the next rung on the ladder. Great leaders recognise that some people will not succeed on the next rung but they will succeed if they go to a position where their strengths fit well. Recognising weaknesses and strengths is vital in allowing someone to excel in the right environment rather than being mediocre in the wrong one.
A powerful leaders behaviour can have a psychological effect upon team effectiveness. The power-devaluation theory enlightens us as to why a leader’s experience of total power can have a negative influence. It produces verbal dominance as leaders believe in their omnipotence, so reducing their followers ability to be heard. This effects followers perceptions of a leader’s openness and hence a team’s open communication. Great leaders are not seduced by their own omnipotence and keep clear lines of communication up and down open if they are to make use of the full potential of their team and not restrict it through their own personal limitations. This openness enables ideas and initiatives to bubble to the surface!
The differences between a great leader’s approach and conventional wisdom does not appear to be large at first glance. However, if you start to think about it, the differences are considerable and worth striving for because the outcomes for individuals, teams and organisations are so much better when they have a great leader.