If you bumped into the chief executive in the lift and were asked to tell him/her what you thought the five core principles of effective leadership were, what would you say?
Wendy Brooks, director at leadership training provider, Hemsley Fraser, shares her ideas on the subject: 1. Be an active learner and foster learning in others It is worth bearing in mind that core leadership principles and practices can be learned. In other words, leaders would be advised to commit not only to their own development, but to support similar development in others, while also acting as role models for learning throughout the organisation. Former General Electric chief executive, Jack Welch, reportedly spent 40% of his time developing the next generation of leaders - and regarded it as his most interesting task. 2. Share a clear and compelling vision The key to effective leadership is setting a strategic direction that is clear and compelling. But ensure that this strategy is practical at every level so that people understand where what they do fits into the bigger picture. Also ensure that the organisation has the capability - and capacity - to achieve the goals set out and ensure that all of its systems and processes support the way that people need to work. But remember that it is also important to measure whatever success means and be sure to balance the requirements of financial backers and shareholders with the need to invest in people and infrastructure as well as innovation. If any of these core activities are missed out, the organisation will perform at a sub-optimal level. 3. Prioritise activity based on the business context Leaders must prioritise their actions to suit the context of the organisation and the environment in which it operates. Different leadership skills will need to come to the fore at different times, which means that it is essential to understand the context of the situation and to be able to adapt one’s leadership style accordingly. 4. Lead with integrity, honesty and consistency Integrity, honesty and consistency are the bedrock of good leadership because people follow leaders that they trust. Conversely, even the most compelling vision, communicated with clarity and conviction, will fall on deaf ears if a leader lacks credibility and integrity. 5. Develop leadership capacity at all levels of the organisation This principle can be contentious as it challenges a number of assumptions about authority and the guardianship of knowledge and expertise. However, the distinction between leadership and management has become less important than it used to be. Today’s organisations require leaders at every level that can execute strategy and ensure that employees feel motivated enough to contribute to the full. By way of contrast, if leadership is considered to be the purview of the few, the organisation’s ability to respond quickly and effectively will be limited.