Impactful leadership has always been the topic of discussion. Managers, leaders, consultants, workers, journalists talk so much of what this means. Organizations invest money in developing leadership every year. In-house, industry, and association rewards are structured to differentiate extraordinary from the average leaders. KPI’s are set to measure leadership and its impact on the business and the people.
In my professional life, I invest time in helping organizations define impactful leadership and use it to generate profit, increase engagement, lower attrition, and deliver sustainable and growing results within time. With 20+ years of experience, I have seen many leaders act differently, achieving results through impactful leadership sustainably. Analyzing the experience, I share five of the characteristics I have observed in the most successful, impactful leaders I have met, talked to, or worked with.
To make an impact, you will need to learn to control the situation while allowing others to feel free to do the job in their way, not feeling stressed or under constant pressure. That comes to make the leader think about how to master his thoughts, actions, and behaviors and build a sustainable and empowering environment for everyone. The best leaders are excellent at getting their emotions and use them to built positivity in the background. Self-mastery is not just a skill but a mindset built based on emotional intelligence. It helps the leader achieve results through others by limiting the negative impact of emotions and turning them into positive.
The cliché we often hear is that “Great leaders have great vision.” Why is this a cliché? According to an HBR article from 2019, eighty-two percent of leadership roles fail to formulate a compelling and empowering vision for the company. This often results in higher stress levels, exhaustion, and inability in teams to achieve results. Excellent vision is the basis for future success, but a vision can be named “great” only if this vision is aligned with the organization’s capabilities and future paths for growth. Impactful leaders create a vision that can involve the most capable people in the organization and do not limit the employees to contribute to achieving that vision by translating it into realistic goals. The other secret to great visioning is to set it up in time by looking at what you want to see and analyzing the resources you have, and the time you will need to build, attract or buy and implement capabilities from the market. That is what separates impactful leadership from the mediocre and average vision.
“The main difference between a manager and a leader is that the manager is task-first oriented and the leader is people-first oriented.” – That mantra has been with us for so many years. And no matter the times we experience it is true. Mastering the art of communication is crucial to make an impact and create real change. Impactful leaders are not those who have the most excellent set of skills, but those who can inspire others that the change is needed and involve them in being active participants in this change. The leaders who make a real impact communicate with people in organizations in their language and translate the grand vision and the end goal to the single person’s daily work and responsibilities. This type of communication creates meaning, makes people feel important and valued, and significantly increases personal contribution.
“Great leaders have great teams” – This phrase of Simon Sinek evolved from one of his speeches. In 2020 more than 330 000 articles on teamwork were published(at least Bing says so). The topic of collaboration is always actual. People talk about it so much because everyone has their understanding of how teamwork looks like. The hardest part about the partnership is in the hands of the leader. He must always be in a rhythm with the people’s pulse and balance between what can be acceptable for everyone as good teamwork and what can be easily called a toxic environment. The period between 2010 and 2020 was named the emotional trap. Workplaces have become more emotionally than logic-driven. People have evolved as personalities. At the top of all this, the leader’s figure has been put on the scene as the one responsible for ensuring what people in the managed group understand as teamwork finds its way in the workplace.
“Managers control their teams to succeed, while leaders help others grow to ensure sustainable results in the future” (McKinsey article about leadership 2021)
What a mantra to be spread around. The role of the leader has evolved over the years. From the person somewhere on the top with the incredible vision to the person present for each member of the team when and where they need it. The leader has evolved as someone always ready to be in service of others. The new reality demands from the leader not to know everything, but to hire excellent professionals and ensure these professionals will have the freedom and wi
Nothing more and nothing less. The role of the leader is to be the steward you do not see but is always there and shows every time you need something—the invisible power in the team, the glue that makes the team succeed.
There is no good or bad leadership. The concept of leadership evolves within the environment that leadership is expected to happen. What looks like a great example in one setting, company or community can be seen as a toxic and destructive behavior in another. But the five principles remain the same, no matter the environment. They just slightly change, depending on the expectations in the background. And before you think about if you are a good or bad leader, examine the environment and then ask yourself – Am I an impactful leader in this environment, company, or community? If your answer is NO, you can continue digging in to find the root cause. If the answer is YES, you better focus on building on the solid foundations you have already stepped on.