Effective leadership is all about getting your important work done, while still being able to support and improve your team at the same time. Over my career, I’ve noticed several leadership principles that I believe the most effective leaders keep in mind.
You can use these leadership principles to test yourself. If you’re strong in all three, that’s ideal. Perhaps there are some points you’re great at, and others that need work. Whatever the case, use these as a guide and a sense-check to improve your leadership effectiveness.
I like to keep things simple … most often in threes. Below are three leadership principles that lead to effective leadership. Let’s step through them one by one.
Effective Leadership Principle #1: Focus
Focus is powerful. Focus narrows your vision, so you remain aware of the things that matter, for you and your team, and it happens on several levels.
Firstly, effective leaders practice focus on a personal level. For you, this means understanding what your top three priorities are for the day, the week, month, quarter or year.
Second, focus happens at the team level. Often this means working with your team to nail down the important work that needs to be done.
Focus is an important leadership principle because it cuts down the noise. Workplaces are noisy, full of competing priorities and distractions. You probably work with lots of people and different teams, so it’s inevitable that there will be a conflict of priorities eventually.
The trick is to work out what matters for you and your team. Once you’ve done that, you are less likely to jump from one task to another because you’ve taken the time to work out what’s important. You’re also likely to reduce feelings of overwhelm.
“Oh no, I’ve got 100 things to do!” starts to become “I’ve got 3 important things to do”.
Effective Leadership Principle #2: Efficiency
Efficiency means doing the work with a minimum of fuss, in the least time-consuming manner to achieve the desired result.
However, efficiency is useless without focus (#1).
Being efficient is pointless if you’re working on the wrong things. Completing unimportant tasks at lightning speed is not helpful, it’s a pointless distraction.
But when you have given yourself and your team the gift of focus, everything becomes clearer. Then, you want to be efficient to get work done faster, with less stress.
This means eliminating distractions, automating manual work and cutting out steps that aren’t adding value to the process you’re following or the product or service you’re delivering.
Once you know where you’re going, being productive and efficient will help you to get to the finish line faster. When your team is efficient, you’re going to see the added bonus of improved job satisfaction and motivation, because people aren’t wasting their time on pointless tasks.
Effective Leadership Principle #3: Capacity
This is where the magic happens.
Having capacity means maintaining sufficient time to work on being more strategic as well as supporting your team. Leaders who are “maxxed out” with no time to spare run the risk of falling into the “I’m too busy” trap.
“I’m too busy” means not having time for your team, leading to a lack of ability to support them. You won’t be able to respond to urgent requests without dropping your priority work, because you have no spare capacity.
Leaders and teams without capacity have no time to think strategically, support and improve their team or be able to respond to unexpected requests.
Even if we focus (#1) and work efficiently (#2), it’s not realistic to suggest that unexpected events don’t happen from time to time. You also can’t assume that because your team has a clear focus and are working efficiently that you don’t need to spend time to support them.
Therefore, capacity is one of the critical leadership principles. Making an effort to focus and be efficient will help you to keep some spare capacity, because you shed some of the low-value or unproductive work.
However, keeping spare capacity requires the ability to stand firm and push back on unreasonable demands. It also requires you to resource your team properly to ensure you can properly deliver what you need to.
Putting All the Leadership Principles Together
All three of these leadership principles work together to give us the end result: more effective leadership.
Without focus, you and your team will work on the wrong things, or tasks that are low priority. You’ll run the risk of burnout because you’ll be spread too thin.
Without efficiency, you will take too long to deliver on your important work, taking precious time away from other activities.
Without capacity, you won’t have time to think strategically. You won’t be able to work on improving your team or respond to unexpected events, without having to let other work suffer.
Effective leaders focus on these three key leadership principles to get their important work done on time without burning their teams out. They do this while maintaining the ability to support, develop and improve their teams.
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How do you go with these three leadership principles? Are you on top of all three? Or is there room for improvement? Leave your story in the comments below!