The more I write and teach about leadership in Nigeria and on this continent as a whole, the more I get to comprehend that the major problem that many people who are in varied leadership positions have is that they do not know how to lead. There are too many leadership experts in Nigeria, but true leaders are scarce as an Eagle. I make bold to say that what Nigeria and Africa as a whole need aren’t leadership experts, what we need are spot on leaders. Nigeria is the way she is because true leaders are in short supply. Remember, you can be a leadership expert without being a leader!
Leadership is learned behavior that becomes unconscious and automatic over time. For instance, leaders can make several important decisions about an issue in the time it takes others to understand the question. Many people wonder how leaders know how to make the best decisions, often under immense pressure. The process of making these decisions comes from an accumulation of experiences and encounters with a multitude of difference circumstances, personality types and unforeseen failures.
More so, the decision making process is an acute understanding of being familiar with the cause and effect of behavioral and circumstantial patterns; knowing the intelligence and interconnection points of the variables involved in these patterns allows a leader to confidently make decisions and project the probability of their desired outcomes.
The most successful leaders are instinctual decision makers. Having done it so many times throughout their careers, they become invulnerable to the pressure associated with decision making and extremely intuitive about the process of making the most strategic and best decisions. This is why most senior executives will tell you they depend strongly upon their “gut-feel” when making difficult decisions at a moment’s notice.
Beyond decision making, successful leadership across all areas becomes learned and instinctual over a period of time. Successful leaders have learned the mastery of anticipating business patterns, finding opportunities in pressure situations, serving the people they lead and overcoming hardships. No wonder the best CEOs are paid so much money. If you are looking to advance your career into a leadership capacity or you have already assumed leadership responsibilities, I am here today to unveil a few things you must do automatically, every day, to be a successful leader in either the workplace or wherever you find yourself a leader:
Many times, leaders intimidate and coerce their colleagues with their title and power when they walk into a room, but successful leaders do deflect attention away from themselves and encourage others to voice their opinions. They are experts at making others feel safe to speak-up and confidently share their perspectives and points of view. They use their presence as a leader to create an approachable environment. True leaders do not make people become voiceless. Over the years, does your presence take people’s voice away or does it help them to find their voice? It is failure in leadership when people lose their voice just because you are leading them.
Winning leaders are expert decision makers. They either facilitate the dialogue to empower their colleagues to reach a strategic conclusion or they do it themselves. They focus on “making things happen” at all times – decision making activities that sustain progress. Successful leaders have mastered the art of politicking and thus do not waste their time on issues that disrupt momentum. They know how to make 30 decisions in 30 minutes!
Successful leaders are great communicators, and this is especially true when it comes to “performance expectations.” In doing so, they remind their colleagues of the organization’s core values and mission statement – ensuring that their vision is properly translated and actionable objectives are properly executed. I have met with many leaders—who are very poor—when it comes to communicating the company’s core values, vision and mission statements to those under their leadership. On the condition that you want to become a successful leader, you shall need to keep honing your capacity to communicate crystal clearly. This is non-negotiable.
I had a leader who managed the team by reminding us of the expectations that she had of the group. She made it easy for the team to stay focused and on track. The protocol she implemented – by clearly communicating expectations – increased performance and helped to identify those on the team that could not keep up with the standards she expected from us. Many leaders do not know how to communicate their expectations clearly to their followers, and they are wondering why their groups, teams, companies, institutions and nations are doing very well.
The most successful leaders understand their colleagues’ mindsets, capabilities and areas for improvement. They use this knowledge to challenge their teams to think and stretch them to reach for more. These types of leaders excel in keeping their people on their toes, never allowing them to get comfortable and enabling them with the tools to grow. If you are not thinking, you are not learning new things and if you are not learning, you are not growing – and over time you shall become irrelevant in your work.
Successful leaders allow their colleagues to manage them. This does not mean they are allowing others to control them – but rather becoming accountable to assure they are being proactive to their colleagues needs. Beyond just mentoring and sponsoring selected employees, being accountable to others is a sign that your leader is focused more on your success than just his own success.
Leading by example sounds easy, but few leaders are consistent with this one. Successful leaders practice what they preach and are mindful of their actions. They know everyone is watching them and therefore are incredibly intuitive about detecting those who are observing their every move, waiting to detect a performance shortfall.
Last but not least, successful leaders always have a strong “pulse” on business performance and those people who are the performance champions. Not only do they review the numbers and measure performance ROI, they are active in acknowledging hard work and efforts (no matter the result). Successful leaders never take consistent performers for granted and are mindful of rewarding them.
See you where unbeaten leaders are found!