8 Keys to Effective Executive Leadership

There is a lot written about “effective leadership” and it’s become a hot buzzword in management circles. There are articles galore in business publications, LinkedIn is filled with “how to” pieces on becoming or being a more effective leader, and inflight magazines devote whole issues to the topic.

Some of the ideas floating around about leadership are good, but much of that information is just noise and clutter. At its core, there are eight characteristics of an effective leader, whether you’re the CEO, a vice president responsible for a division, or a department director or manager with only a few people reporting to you.

1. Set realistic goals.

People in your organization want to know what’s expected of them, and goals ensure that everyone is pulling in the same direction. Not only should the goals be realistic but they need to be measured; the old adage you get what you measure is especially important here. Then track progress and let everyone know how they’re doing.

2. Delegate as much as you can.

A wise CEO once told me that if he has more than three or four files on his desk at any given time, he’s not delegating enough. But be sure to pass along the authority to do the job as well as the responsibility for getting it done. Not only does delegating give you more time to work on the high-level things you must deal with, it gives your staff confidence as well as builds their own effective leadership skills.

3. Make time to communicate with the people who work for you

I’m always amazed at how few business don’t take the time to communicate with their employees. Make sure you communicate with everyone – not just the vice presidents or department heads who report to you, but the entire institution. Being an effective leader means being an effective people person, which means, you need to make sure your employees – at all leves of the business – feel heard and valued. The best way to do this? Talk with them. Remember, even low-level employees want to hear from the top on how things are going. Your people want to know what they must do to help you meet business goals.

4. Create a growth map for people.

Be able to identify people in the organization who meet the criteria for effective leadership. And, no, they won’t be after your job if they are on the list. But the map will help you do your own job better as you help them to become more effective at not just leading and their future role in the company but doing the job they have today more effectively.

5. Recognize and reward performance.

Everyone wants to perform well and do their job effectively. They also want to be recognized for what they’ve done. No one left an employer because they felt valued and important, and even small rewards can go a long way depending on a person’s level in the company. Each individual in your business deserves recognition – from administrative professionals to high-level managers. Employees often tell us and researchers that personal recognition from top executives in the form of a handwritten note or a short personal visit means more than the obligatory 2 -3% raise!

6. Deal with conflict.

Often, this is the Achilles heel of otherwise very successful executives. Alas, it’s one of those things that is much easier to coach someone on than it is to do. While avoiding conflict and saying no to people feels good right now, it can cause serious issues tomorrow. Adults will deal with “no,” especially if they undertand the business rationale. Too often, we work with executives who don’t want to hurt someone’s feelings, give constructive if direct feedback or simply say no. Almost always, this ends up causing a serious lack of alignment, an unhealthy political environment and more unhappiness.

7. Avoid quick fixes.

Effective Leadership Training and Executive Coaching leaders avoid the temptation to apply quick fixes to a problem. Doing so means not seeing a longer-term, lasting solution that might mean the issue won’t be resolved tomorrow but will have a positive impact on the business for years to come. Deal with the cause of the problem rather than treating the symptom so you can move on.

8. Fail fast.

When you realize you’ve made any sort of mistake – whether in hiring or a strategic direction – name it, acknowledge it and fix it. Fast. There is no shame in mistakes – we all make them. The problem comes when we don’t address them quickly because we don’t want to admit it.

Running any business is serious business. Despite the importance of the responsibilities you bear, effective leadership means ensuring that your company is a fun place to work. That’s how you can keep people from checking the time as the day goes on waiting for the moment they can head for the door. It also cuts down on sick days because someone dreads the thought of showing up again.

Organizations that play as hard as they work have energized and loyal employees. And you’ll enjoy what you do a lot more, as well.

Kristina’s decades of experience in finance, marketing and business administration means she knows how to align people and policies to meet the needs of an organization. She’s an expert business coach, consultant, facilitator and speaker. Reach her by phone at 646.912.9311 in New York or 206.284.4800 in Seattle.