Essential leadership components

Leadership is a broad topic and covers many aspects. However, when you break leadership down to its basic parts, the concept of leadership becomes a lot simpler.

Whilst there are literally millions of different leadership roles that people play, I believe the essential leadership components remain the same. They are to Set Direction and Strategy, Oversee Activity to Resolve Issues and to Provide Support.

Essential leadership components

All four of these leadership components are important and leaders need to keep them in balance to see the best results and create the best conditions for team members. The balancing of these four components is difficult, and it’s easy to focus on a few aspects and lose sight of another.

Let’s get started by taking a look at the four essential leadership components.

Leadership Component #1: Set Direction & Strategy

Essential leadership components - StrategyMany people believe that strategic thinking is reserved for a Board of Directors or Executives. Whilst these roles do have a part to play in strategy, being strategic is not only for these roles alone.

A leader at any level needs to be setting the direction and strategy for the team, regardless of the nature of the role. This is important because the direction of the team sets the foundation for how the team operates.

Here are several strategic aspects that leaders need to consider for their team.

  • The overall purpose or vision of the team – “Where are we going?”
  • Setting goals to achieve the desired direction – “What path will we take to get there?”
  • Implementing a framework for how you deliver work – “What tools and processes will we use to achieve our goals?”; and
  • The culture of the team – “While we’re working towards our vision, who do we want to be?”

These key questions will set the foundation for the team, and a leader at any level will benefit from finding out the answers.

To learn more about strategic skills for leadership, read this post: 6 Critical Strategic Skills All Leaders Need.

Leadership Component #2: Oversee Activity

Essential leadership components - OversightAnother of the key leadership components is to oversee the activity occurring in the team. One aspect is quality control, which ensures that what the team is delivering is good enough for the customer, whoever that may be.

Remember that whether your team serves internal or external customers, it’s still important for the quality of the team’s work meets expectations.

In order provide effective oversight, a leader needs to create a framework to provide visibility of the work being done. Leaders may achieve this by using systems or reports that are produced on a consistent schedule to provide an update on progress.

Oversight also includes coordinating the workload within a team, and making decisions about the work the team is doing. These decisions are typically at a lower level of detail than what is normally covered in strategic thinking.

This tactical decision making can be considered “course-correction”, making small changes to direction which still aligns with the general direction of the team.

Leadership Component #3: Resolve Issues

Essential leadership components - Resolve IssuesOne of the most important leadership components is resolving issues in the team. Unresolved team problems can reduce motivation in team members and damage the performance of your team.

A leader’s role is also to create working conditions that get the best out of their team members, and frequent issues can have the opposite effect.

Resolving issues often involves having difficult conversations that may include discussions about performance. This is where a leader needs to have the courage and manner that allows her to have these conversations constructively.

Ultimately, a failure to resolve issues will damage morale and team members will begin to see the leadership as ineffective. This usually leads to team members losing respect for their manager.

To learn more about building respect, check out this post: Important Ways That Leaders Can Earn Respect at Work.

Leadership Component #4: Provide Support

Essential leadership components - SupportThe final important component of leadership is to provide support for team members. This includes day to day conversations, being available for questions and to provide coaching and mentoring.

The time when team members will feel the most vulnerable is when they have a lack of support from their leader.

Providing support also means ensuring that team members don’t become overwhelmed with work and that they understand what you expect of them.

To learn more about supporting your team, read this post: 6 Great Ways to Support Your Team.

Often, this may mean a leader needs to “push back” on unreasonable demands from customers or their own senior leadership to protect the wellbeing of their team members. In order to push back effectively, you need to have both credibility and respect.

Effective leaders understand that sustainability of the team is important. There is no sense in pushing a team to work harder and for longer, only to see them walk out the door after they burn out!

Tip: If you struggle to manage up and push back on unreasonable demands, Thoughtful Leader can help. Check out the Managing Upwards eBook, for tools and techniques to build confidence and help you say “No”. You and your team deserve better… try the eBook today.

Balancing the Components of Leadership

It’s critical that leaders are able to balance the leadership components against each other. Let’s take a look at some common imbalances that can reduce the effectiveness of leaders and impact team performance.

Leadership Imbalance #1: Too Much Strategy, Not Enough Oversight

Leaders who focus too much on strategy and direction, without maintaining proper oversight of the actual work being undertaken will run the risk of poor quality work, or the wrong work being done.

This is common with “visionary” leaders who don’t take an interest in the details and like the “big picture”. This is fine, as long as the visionary leader is able to delegate the responsibility for overseeing the detail work, to somebody else.

Leadership Imbalance #2: Not Enough Strategy, Too Much Oversight

Too little strategic thinking will have a team stagnating in the status quo, without improving. When you focus on the work, but not the direction you’re going or how the team is operating, you’re likely to miss opportunities to improve your team.

This is typical of leaders who become consumed in the “day to day” and like to get their hands dirty with the work. If this sounds like you, you might need to take a step back and provide more autonomy to your team to handle the “business as usual” work.

To learn more about how to stop micromanaging your team, read this post: Are you a micromanaging boss? Here are 3 ways to stop it.

Leadership Imbalance #3: Failure to Resolve Issues

Essential leadership components - AvoidanceSometimes, solving issues in your team can be challenging. Often this requires having difficult conversations with team members. Some managers tend to avoid tackling these issues because it makes them uncomfortable.

Instead, they hope that the situation “sorts itself out”, but this rarely happens. Instead, you breed conditions that damage motivation and ultimately people lose respect for their leader.

Tip: If you feel like you aren’t confident or comfortable having the difficult conversations you need to have in your team, Thoughtful Leader is here to help. Check out the Difficult Conversations eBook, to help you tackle the hard conversations sensitively and with confidence. Don’t avoid the difficult discussions… try the eBook today.

Leadership Imbalance #4: Not Providing Enough Support

Many busy leaders cause issues in their teams by failing to provide enough support, which can cause their teams to feel vulnerable and alone.

Depending on the capability of your team, this can cause real problems from lack of confidence to anxiety or poor quality work being completed. Being available to support your team is a key part of leadership.

Some people find themselves captured in the “cult of busy”, where they feel the need to be busy all day. When they aren’t busy they feel like useless, but having time to think and support your team shouldn’t be underestimated!

To learn how to stop the cult of busy, read this post: Are You Too Busy to Lead Effectively?

Do you agree with these four leadership components? How are you able to balance them in your role and what challenges do you face? Leave a comment below!

Alternatively, if you would like to ask a question or need some help, you can send me a private message through my contact page.