Leadership skills can inspire success

Leaders usually have a balancing act to perform. Especially around how much they facilitate their team to contribute to organisational success. Or how much they take upon their own shoulders.   How well they harness the commitment, effort, skills and effectiveness of their team. How well they are able to let go and allow their team to take up the challenge and deliver, depends on how well they use their leadership skills and how well they are able to set healthy parameters.

Leaders need to let go

One of the most difficult dilemmas for a leader can be determining when they should let go. Allowing employees to either float their boat or sink.

In order to do this well, leaders need to have three specific leadership skills

1. Taking responsibility

A reciprocal and healthy balance of giving and taking responsibility

I heard from a team who had big problems because their leader overdid delegation.   He was so focused on what others should or must be responsible for, he left himself out of the equation. He didn’t gain the respect of his team. They often felt overburdened and were wary of asking for help because the signals he was giving indicated he didn’t really want to be involved, although that wasn’t the case at all.  As a leader quite often you have to demonstrate you are willing to take on the responsibility you vest in your employees.   That’s not to say you take the responsibility off them.  But when the chips are down and your team is challenged, you need to lead by example.

2. Forge healthy boundaries

An ability to communicate their own boundaries and have a healthy respect for the boundaries of team members.

Being able to apply boundaries in working relationships is essential for good decision making, although for many reasons some find difficult to do so.   A mismatch of boundaries can, and does, create disharmony, distrust and demotivation inside and outside the team.

I remember a story about a CEO who was committed to a life-changing cause and was respected by peers and stakeholders.  He achieved good results mostly and where he didn’t, had a great handle on problems.  What he didn’t realise of course was 75% of his team were slowly sliding off the deck, while the remainder was standing at his back cheering him on, watching him steer the boat.

This great man had such an extended sense of responsibility, he couldn’t see that by trying to control the whole ship, he was systematically dis-empowering his team one by one.   He was wary of taking risks, giving over control or allowing his team to take some of the responsibility from him. His people skills, as well as his leadership skills, left a lot to be desired.

One of the most difficult issues is respecting role boundaries.  Of course, roles are meant to be fluid and let’s face it, we all must cross over role boundaries in order to get the job done.  But there are times when crossing over such boundaries either masks poor performance or muddies the water so much that accountabilities are confused. Good role boundaries are essential, with a suitable degree of flexibility, to fit different situations.

3. Take calculated risks

The courage to take and manage calculated risk.

Sometimes a leader has to take a calculated risk.  This might mean equally encouraging your team to take calculated risks.  This can mean letting people fall and suffer the consequences of that fall, in order to learn and grow.  Those situations can be a tough call for a leader. However, one of the most empowering skills a leader can display is to approach a suggestion made by a team member, feel sceptical about its success and let it run.   If it doesn’t work out then both the leader and team member will learn something.  If it does, it demonstrates a real willingness to try new ideas and keep an open mind.

When to let go and when to keep steering can seem daunting. Much depends on a leader’s inner confidence and maturity.   I have rarely worked with or for a leader who gets the risk, responsibility and boundaries completely right.  Being aware, checking to understand and exploring where boundaries lie is essential.

I help leaders develop self- mastery, helping them to become confident in their own inner guidance.

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