The effective leader
An effective leader is the delight of every one; superiors, contemporaries and subordinates. His superiors speak highly of him because he never lets them down; he always comes up with delightful results. His contemporaries are pleased with him because they know that having him around will galvanize positive energies that will help in the actualization of the task at hand. For the subordinates, he is fun to work with because he fires up his people to bring out the best in them.
An effective leader is focused and never allows anything to take him off course. He does not condone anything short of the best from his team mates just as he never gives anything less than his best. Consequently, he always gets a result that thrills everyone.
Effectiveness is achieving the best result possible with minimal resources. Therefore, an effective leader never wastes time, energy or any other resource. He maximizes them for the utmost result. That is where effectiveness parts ways with its alter ego, efficiency. According to Peter Drucker, who is generally regarded as the father of modern management, effectiveness is doing the right thing, while efficiency is doing things right. Effectiveness is finding out the right
thing to do first and foremost before going ahead to do it, making the most of available resources. While efficiency is about ‘how’, effectiveness is about ‘what’. The ‘how’ is of little significance until the ‘what’ is sorted out. Travelling at a high speed in the wrong direction does not guarantee arrival at the right destination. So, effectiveness trumps efficiency.
How leaders achieve effectiveness
To be effective as a leader, pay attention to the following:
Mind your time
According to Richard Whately, anyone who loses an hour in the morning will spend the rest of the day looking for it. The import of this is to mind one’s time. This is critical because whatever a leader has to do can only be done within time. Time is finite, it is irreplaceable, once it is lost, it is gone; it can never be recovered. Time is nature’s gift to man to trade with. Time is a resource. It is a seed. It is a capital. A resource that is not put to productive utilization does not benefit the owner. A seed that is not sowed dies. A capital that is kept idle will depreciate in value. Great leaders understand this, so they pay serious attention to where their time goes.
Great leaders know that they cannot be effective without the proper utilization of their time. So, they don’t waste time, neither do they spend it, they invest it. They deploy their time in a manner that will guarantee desired returns. They are quite deliberate about what they do; they never allow any idle time. Even when an effective leader seems to be unengaged, it is done deliberately to allow the mind to fallow for better productivity.
To get the best returns on their time, leaders usually have a list of what they hope to accomplish in a year, drawn from their vision. This is called a yearly list. Items on the list are divided into months; from the monthly list, the weekly list is generated, while daily list is generated from the weekly list.
By generating a list of all the major tasks he has to undertake on a daily basis, a leader is forced to channel his energy to what is important. He does not waste his time and other resources chasing shadows and getting bogged down by activities of little or no relevance to his overall goal. With that, he stays effective and productive, getting the highest possible value from the utilization of his time.
Effectiveness is a consequence of appropriate utilization of time. An effective leader is conscious of this and does not give anyone the privilege of wasting his time just as he does not grant himself the indulgence of wasting others’.
Distraction is the greatest hindrance to leadership effectiveness. Distraction is not primarily about extraneous activities, it is essentially about giving attention to issues which may be important but are not critical to the task. Paying attention to issues that are not critical to the goal slows down progress and affects leadership effectiveness. Critical to getting things done is knowing what not to do at all. Usually leaders have so many things calling for their attention but not everything that beckons to a leader deserves his attention.
Focusing on important tasks is critical to a leader’s effectiveness. Focus is essential because it does not give room to distractions. When a leader focuses the totality of his energy on what is important, success is almost assured. Contrary is the case when he is unable to put all his energy in one direction. It is likened to diffused light. Diffused light has no effect. But concentrated light, when passed through a magnifying glass, can burn a paper or even a fresh leaf. When light is more focused, it becomes a laser and laser can burn steel and destroy cancer.
So, when a leader learns to focus on what is important, he gains effectiveness, then his journey to greatness commences.
Warren Buffet’s counsel
A young employee once approached Warren Buffet, one of the wealthiest men in the world, seeking his counsel on how to be effective. In response, Buffet asked him to write out his top 25 goals. The employee wrote out the 25. After writing out the list, Buffet asked him to review the list and identify his top five goals. The employee went through the list and after a while circled five items on the list. Then, Buffet asked him what he was going to do with the two list. The employee said, “I will start working on my top five goals right away.”
When Buffet asked him about the second list his response was that, “Well, the top 5 are my primary focus, but the other 20 come in a close second. They are still important so I’ll work on those intermittently as I see fit. They are not as urgent, but I still plan to give them a dedicated effort.”
Buffet then responded and said, “Everything you didn’t circle just became your Avoid-At-All-Cost list. No matter what, these things get no attention from you until you’ve succeeded with your top five.”
Distractions are not those things that do not matter at all, they are those things that matter a little and thus compete with those things that matter a lot. Such things must be avoided by all means.
Sometimes it feels good to just sit on the fence. This is borne out of the thinking that by showing no commitment to any side, nothing can be pinned on one. But the downside of this mindset is that those who take that ship always arrive at the harbour of mediocrity and failure; they hardly ever get anything substantial accomplished. Being effective is hinged on being decisive. Those who vacillate always oscillate; they go round in circles instead of advancing to the next stage; they end up where they started out and fritter away the opportunity to be great. As put by George Canning, former Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, indecision and delays are the parents of failure.
Those who are undecided do so because of their fear of consequences of taking a decision. But indecision is not without its own consequences too. As a matter of fact, the consequences of indecision outweigh that of being decisive. Those who are indecisive will have to live with the unpleasant consequences of the decision of others and that is the worst consequence ever. No wonder Theodore Roosevelt, the 26th United States of America President, said, ‘In any moment of decision, the best thing you can do is the right thing, the next best thing is the wrong thing and the worst thing you can do is nothing.’
Being decisive enables a leader to take his destiny in his hands and allows him to be the architect of his fortune. That is very critical to effectiveness.
Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo are celebrated as the greatest footballers of their generation because of their proclivity for scoring goals. Though the two have other skills, their uniqueness is their ability to score goals, which is the most important thing in soccer. Consequent on their dexterity at scoring goals, they have overshadowed other great football players and have dominated the scene over the last 11 years with the two of them winning the highest football honour, the Ballon D’Or five times apiece.
Just as scoring goals is the essence of a football game, getting results is the essence of leadership. Leadership is about deploying resources to get results that will improve the state of the nation or organization and enhance the status of the people. The way to get result is to get the right things done. If a leader fails to get the right things done, he will fall short of getting the right results. If a leader fails to get desired results on a consistent basis, he will shipwreck his leadership because it is the results that count and will be counted at the end of the day. Leaders are appointed, empowered and provided resources to get results. Therefore, a leader who fails to get results will be regarded as a waster of resources and a squanderer of opportunities. So, no matter what else a leader does, if he fails to get the desired results, he will have missed the mark by a mile. So, getting the desired result is critical in leadership. But at the base of this is getting the right things done, the synonym for leadership effectiveness.
Lifetime commitment to learning
Every performance is a reflection of one’s knowledge level. No one can outperform his level of understanding. The more a person knows, the more he does. In the same vein, the less he knows the less he does. Going above one’s level of competence requires acquiring new knowledge or skills. Hence, the effective leader is unrepentantly committed to continuous self development. At this age, knowledge and skills become obsolete at the speed of light. Every day new discoveries are made, new inventions are unveiled and new skills are required to drive all of these. Therefore, remaining effective and competitive requires a regular updating of one’s knowledge and skills. Effective leaders are cognizant of this and they do all to improve themselves daily. They read good books, listen to audio programmes and attend conferences and seminars which expose them to new skills.
Effectiveness is the first step in the journey to greatness.