One of the key elements in effective leadership is to never become complacent with the business model, no matter how sound and well crafted. Even if the department seems to be running well enough on autopilot, the fact is nothing is ever truly fixed, finished, or completed because every aspect of business is a work in progress. The most successful leaders continually look to improve their department’s performance. They continue to learn and find self-improvement, do things better, keep spreading information throughout their organization, and improving the skills and abilities of their employees.
One of the most dangerous traps a new manager faces is once they made an immediate improvement; they think they’ve basically fixed the problem. They are satisfied with their immediate contribution. The short-term fix looks good in everyone’s eyes, however, without continuous nurturing, the cracks will start to appear. Minor flaws in the processes and procedures start appearing, and employees start to become negatively anxious. The clear vision you shared with your team in the beginning starts to become hazy.
A common misperception at this point is to think that in order to make sure the cracks do not appear, you need to seek personal perfection. This usually leads to having more of a dictatorship approach to leadership, which will inevitably fail. You need to collaborate, not dictate. Abandon the idea that you have to know it all right now, as there will always be more to learn. Shift your focus from individual perfection to organizational excellence.
The good news is that as long as you plan, coach, and facilitate team contribution and performance, you will build an excellent organization. By encouraging ideas, suggestions, criticisms, and feedback, you and your employees will have a much better chance at fixing the cracks. Better yet, if you start your management approach with this mindset, the cracks will never appear in the first place.
You need to balance the skills and capabilities of your employees. Give people the freedom to make mistakes, but make sure they learn, regroup, and try again. Don’t ignore the mistakes; just don’t bring out the sword.
Effective leadership demands a delicate balance between sensitivity and authority. Most managers fail to establish a sufficient balance to make the equation work. When they give too much free rein towards employee empowerment, the plane tilts too far. The manager will sooner or later end up having to counter balance with exceeded authority, which then tilts too far in the opposite direction. People need to operate within a framework of boundaries and ground rules. These boundaries and ground rules need to be made aware of right from the beginning. Leaders do have to lead and be authority figures, but have the wisdom of relating to people less as a boss, and more as a mentor and collaborator. Finding that happy medium is the true sign of an inspired and effective leader.
Great leaders embrace the process of discovery by never giving up the quest for information.