Effective leadership has always been a key ingredient in successful organisational transformation. While this statement is common knowledge, effective leadership often evades many change programmes. So why is effective leadership important, and how can you become a better leader who can successfully deliver positive organisational transformation?

What does effective leadership look like, and why does it matter?

The greatest leader is not necessarily the one who does the greatest things. He is the one that sets the vision and allows the people to do the greatest things.

Ronald Reagan, former U.S. President

Today, effective leadership is needed more than ever before. There is a growing expectation for leaders to help their organisations evolve and adapt to rapidly changing technology, market trends, and economic forces, thus ensuring long-term, sustainable growth and stability.

Regardless of their talent or capability, leaders cannot weather this storm of uncertainty alone. Warren Buffet, one of the most successful businessmen of all time, consistently states that organisational success often comes down to your ability as a leader to engage and connect with talent that exists within your company. And we at BJSS couldn't agree more.

Except, there are countless examples of leaders who have failed to achieve this and, in doing so, caused significant reputational and financial damage to their organisations.

To help avoid this all-too-common scenario, below, we share our tips and advice on how you can become an effective leader and deliver successful change programmes. Our insights come from our leading team of programme consultants who have helped some of the world's largest organisations to transform and ensure long-term sustainable growth.

How to become an effective leader

Tip 1: Become adaptable

We need a different type of leadership style - a less hierarchical one, less commanding and controlling, and more collaborative and effective.

Understanding how to be adaptable is the first step to becoming an effective leader in these uncertain times. By this, we mean you should develop a growth mindset with a strong commitment to reflection and learning. You'll also need to be receptive to the positive aspects of change, where new ideas are quickly adapted if appropriate or discontinued if not.

Such a mindset is required to move away from a position where the leadership qualities are set in concrete and immutable toward new behaviours that allow leaders to adapt and evolve through focused effort and application. Being able to change and grow is a prerequisite to being an effective leader in business transformation.

Tip 2: Encourage creativity and innovation

A mindset for creativity and innovation, including disruptive thinking, is essential to any effective leader. Leaders with this mindset generate more value and operate at a higher performance level.

The ever-increasing importance of data, information, and knowledge, and the need to maximise the value of critical assets and resources mean that effective leaders need to drive performance and transformation in a way that is both innovative and technologically savvy.

Tip 3: Set clear visions and goals

Effective leaders always provide clear visions and goals, ensuring the 'WHY' of any activity is evident to everyone.

They act as sponsors by asking, "WHAT do you need to succeed?" and proactively remove blockers to success – they should not be behaving as a steering group and only following up on results or making decisions on others' behalf.

Effective leaders act in a selfless and supportive way, providing the appropriate level of autonomy for teams to carry out work, creating intrinsic motivation and personal accountability for transformation activities.

Tip 4: Empower your team

Problems and their associated consequences are more stratified and harder to analyse in complex transformations. The different layers are not distinct, making it difficult to get an overview of how things are connected. Critical decisions are often reactive and quickly lose their adhesion without data-driven rationale, and choosing the correct solution becomes almost impossible.

Effective leaders must empower their teams and nurture a culture of psychological safety. You should encourage initiative, experimentation, and problem-solving amongst your team. Try not to intervene to solve day-to-day, low-risk problems so your team can become increasingly capable and self-reliant.

Tip 5: Apply emotional intelligence

Daniel Goleman, in his book Emotional Intelligence, outlines some key characteristics of emotional intelligence in leaders: self-awareness, self-regulation, motivation, empathy, and social skills. By applying emotional intelligence (often referenced as EQ: Emotional Quotient) to everyday thinking and habits, effective leaders will support the growth and nurturing of future leaders in their organisations.

Effective leaders can use emotional intelligence to create a positive emotional impact by imprinting positive and energetic emotions. Successful implementation of this type of leadership in a team results in higher psychological safety, cooperation, idea sharing, and strong emotional bonds that help teams through difficult times and develop emerging leadership talent.

Let's recap some of the general characteristics of an effective leader, which include:

  • Understanding the whole is greater than the sum of its parts – they appreciate the value in the interconnectedness of things and break down silos
  • Encouraging cooperation between colleagues to promote an environment of trust, respect, and support
  • Focusing on Agile, simplifying complexity and managing ambiguity, they understand the real need as opposed to the 'want', and put governance in place for good decision making
  • Contributing to their teams' success and finding new ways for how they and their clients improve performance in the delivery of transformation
  • Inspiring inclusion and diversity in decision making - effective leaders understand that they don't have the answer to everything
  • Achieving objectives through their self-awareness, promoting productive, motivated, and equal workplaces.

Develop your effective leadership skills with a career in Programme Consulting at BJSS.

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