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13 Crucial Concepts Future Leaders Need to Know

13 Crucial Concepts Future Leaders Need to Know

by August 14, 2015

The concept of leadership has not changed in the last century. The WAY in which one now leads a team of employees has changed rapidly and dramatically. Don’t get left behind or get yourself in a bind by ignoring these crucial concepts for leaders of the present, past and future. Given there are 13 of them, let’s start with the concept of luck.

Leadership is Not About Luck

While there is much greater acceptance these days of teachings known as new age, it is unwise to assume that leadership skills will simply come to you. There is value in donning the positive thinking hat, but be certain there is more to leadership than that. More dangerous still, is the belief senior leaders hold in that if they promote you, employees will follow. Leadership is not about happenstance or high performing employees that magically fall in your lap, but about developing the people you lead. Instead of relying on a nebulous concept such as lucky or unlucky number 13, craft a clear focus on results and pay close attention to opportunities. When you see them take the actions that guide and develop those employees to know, do, and deliver results, because

Leadership Takes Action

In fact, it’s the action that usually produces satisfaction. More leaders than not possess personality traits that value action and results, desire a sense of control and a challenge. This means rolling up those proverbial sleeves, digging in to the midst of things and actively participating in what you and those who lead you are asking of your team. There is no room for entitlement in the leadership chair. Choosing to sit back instead of acting will get you accused of having been promoted, but not prepared and then leave you having to explain to your next employer, why you’re there. So, get up, get going, and get something done, in whatever style suits you and suits them.

Leadership is Not a Style

Whether you studied Maxwell, Drucker, Kouzes and Posner, or Wofford in school, the temptation to fit themselves neatly and cleanly into one style or another makes most new leaders drool. The simplicity of style typing is seductive and also renders many teams wholly unproductive. Avoid the temptation to marry yourself to a Servant, Situational, or Transformational style of leading and choose the behavior the team you’ve been asked to lead shows you is needed. That style will change based on who you lead. Your own style of leadership delivery will change as you gain experience. A leadership role is not defined by a style, but by the person, namely you, who occupies the role of leader.

Authenticity is Key

The primary key to your leadership success is your ability to remain authentically you. No matter what Mom or Dad said you should do or who you think you need to be once promoted, your first leadership role needs to include authenticity as the primary goal. Determine who you are. Find the company that values who you are and stop pretending to be leader you think they need. Learn how to stay true to you because others will be drawn to that more confident and authentic you. Employees will follow your lead and mutual authenticity will give all members of the team an endless flow of abundant energy.

Clear Communication Takes Energy

Part of the reason you’ll need that abundant source of energy is because there will be those you lead who see things differently than you mean. They may think you’re ‘bossy”, “too soft” or “too direct”, but you need to be able to get through to them and not give up or say “what the heck?”. Say what you mean, staying true to you, but review how it will sound before you open your mouth. Pay attention to non-verbal messages, as well, as they can get you in much more trouble than the softest of words will. Conveying a clear message to those just like you will take no effort at all. They’ll get you and make work seem like a ball. It’s the ones who are different with which you’ll need to pick and choose the words you use. Oh, and buzz words don’t always mean what you think.

Engagement is Not What You Think

This currently popular term makes most CEOs squirm with obvious discomfort. All the studies show employee engagement is the way to go, but most misinterpret what it actually means. Engagement is not about getting employees to do crazy things or bribing them to work longer hours so their output seems more valuable. Engagement is about getting employees to want to work there, show they care, and invest in their own well-being while helping the company, or team, achieve its vision. How this is done can be achieved through many different means, but all require that engagement be a two way street. You must engage with those you lead. You must show you care about each and every person working there. They then will choose how much to engage with you, including the level at which they do what you’ve asked them to do.

Motivation Does Not Require Money

The old school method of motivation was to pay employees more to get then to perform. Yet, even if there is an infinite budget, this method only works for so long and marginally at best. Money is easier to talk about than emotion, so it’s commonly requested, but other, emotion based efforts, will easily best it. What the employees you lead really need to feel more motivated is to feel valued, special, contributing, and heard. The degree of intensity and need for each of these needs varies with each person, but use your modern technology companies as some examples. What did Google use to motivate the team, even before working there became a status thing? What does Zappo’s use to motivate employees besides paying those who aren’t engaged to quit? How does Amazon pay less and produce more? Reach first for individualized displays of value and customized attention before you put in the request for more compensation. They want to be recognized for who they are more than paid what you think they’re worth.

Recognition is Desired by All

No matter what someone says, everyone enjoys a pat on the back every now and again. How many, how often, and in front of who else will differ, but praise for good job performance is something over which only a few employees will pretend to bicker. They may brush it off or pass the award to fellow colleague, but they heard you say thank you and that means more than you might believe. Also consider not waiting to appreciate, assuming it’s only needed when a job is well done, thanking them in advance for placing your request on their list. Every employee you will ever lead will respond far better with a little appreciation for giving you want you said you needed. Not all need a parade, and only a few want a party, and most will be glad to receive simply a note and a package of Smarties. It’s not the item that’s prized, but the appreciation they see when they look in their boss’s eyes and know they got it right.

Training Takes Time

The twenty years of experience your boss’s boss acquired didn’t happen overnight, so remember this when someone you lead fails at first, to get it right. Training is the transfer of knowledge and skill over time. It involves information dissemination and includes a period of practice. The truth is performance will dip slightly when an employee learns something new and is in practice mode, so give them the time to do so. The best practice is to provide a mix of training resources, some from your in house training team and some provided by external vendors, as well as mix of delivery methods that include online, live classroom, and one on one mentoring. No matter your delivery or training source, remember the process of learning must run a natural course. The more complex skill to be learned, the longer training and improved performance typically takes, but this effort and the next one does not have to be draining.

Understanding Personalities Doesn’t Have to be Draining

Few leaders are promoted without some exposure to the element of emotional intelligence. Yet, it too, is a skill that requires training and practice. However, no matter the profile tool used, it is important to learn personalities and how to work with those different than yours. Use of a profile tool is the most straightforward and starts you off by raising the awareness of your own natural traits. This knowledge can then be applied to those you lead. Practice your understanding of each group of behavior traits and then modify yours temporarily to prevent the effort from being draining. It’s a matter first of training and then of caring. Problems arise in the insistence that all you lead be just like you as this causes the most leadership problems for all leaders, old and new.

Leadership Expectations Need Clarity

With a clear understanding of personalities and how they each operate, including the stress that makes them appear difficult and show those behaviors you hate, your expectations can now be made more clear. What any employee fears is missing the mark on what their boss expects and yet, most of the time it’s the boss who’s unclear. What do you want them to do? How do you want them to do it? Who is doing what and in what way? Customize your expectations based on the capacity of those you lead, not just what the mission and vision statement say. Write answer to the expectation questions down. Then craft them into an acronym that is easy to remember and can be repeated by all from time to time.

Leadership Empathy is Key

Newly promoted leaders have often grown up in a generation that is filled with self-help and customized attention designed to build them up. Confidence is not usually lacking, as a result. What the new leader most often misses is the chance to empathize with those looking to them for leadership and without it, disengagement will be their reality. Different people and personalities are not difficult and those who won’t do as you ask aren’t stupid. Spend less time tossing labels around and more time on understanding those you work with and around. A leader who shares empathy with the team they lead, which is different than giving sympathy, is one who earns respect and whose request will be given priority placement.

Leadership is All About Me

Far from commentary on this author, um…me, this key phrase is all about what those employees will say about you, their fearless leader. They look to your leadership to positively impact them and if it doesn’t, employees will remind you, in one way or another, of this old acronym: WIIFM. It all does,

though, begin with you and is quickly followed by how others will perceive you. The truth is some will love you and others will not, and everyone needs to be alright with that. In the same vain, a small dose of all about me is actually healthy. It reminds you to take care of you, set health boundaries, and not repeat some of the bad habits those leaders before you have been known to do. The concept is no longer called work-life balance, but instead referred to as a realistic approach to have robust life AND do work that provides you with goals and a challenge. Let’s face it, in order to be a good, effective, results achieving leader, one must first be you, then effectively lead you, and master both before you have any business leading others that report to you.

About The Author
Monica Wofford
Monica Wofford, CSP is a leadership development expert and author of Make Difficult People Disappear and Contagious Leadership. Her training firm develops leaders through coaching, consulting, live and online training. For more information, go to or call 1.-866-382-0121

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