Governance Institute of Australia: The 7 indicators that demonstrate good leadership - Michelle Gibbings

In this article Michelle contributed to the Governance Institute of Australia, she provides seven indicators that identify good leadership. Michelle makes the following points:

  • Leadership is never a one size fits all approach.
  • Successful leaders hold true to their values, while adapting and adjusting their style to suit the context in which they are operating.
  • Adapting and adjusting requires leaders to regularly assess their leadership effectiveness against seven key indicators to highlight what needs to shift in them.

Organisational psychologist Tasha Eurich found that 95 per cent of people believe they are self-aware, even though only about 10 to 15 per cent are. There are two elements to self-awareness: internal and external.

Internal self-awareness centres on how clearly you can notice and identify your values, passions, aspirations, fit with your environment, thoughts, feelings and behaviours, and the impact you have on others. High levels of internal self-awareness are positively correlated with job and relationship satisfaction, personal and social control, and happiness; while it’s negatively associated with anxiety, stress and depression.

External self-awareness focuses on how accurately you can assess how people view your levels of self-awareness. Strong external self-awareness is positively correlated with empathy and perspective taking, and therefore a greater ability to build healthy and satisfying relationships.

Ask yourself: do you know what drives your thoughts and actions, and how are your motivations interpreted by your colleagues and team members?

Every time a leader decides what to do (or not do) their values and behaviours are on display.

Colleagues and team members will make assumptions about what you did, why you did it and who you are as a leader. You will be judged on your actions, intentions, values, integrity, trustworthiness and worth as a leader.

Ask yourself: Is there a disconnect between how you want to be seen (your promise) and how you are actually seen (your practice)?

The concept of servant leadership has been around for centuries, but it was Robert Greenleaf’s 1970 essay ‘The Servant as Leader’ that brought it to the surface. A servant leader starts with a desire to serve. They focus on the growth and wellbeing of people and their community, while sharing power and putting the needs of others first. They are clear on who they are serving, making it is easier to focus on what matters, build the team and secure the desired outcomes.

Sadly, often leaders put their own needs first. This ‘me first’ approach does little to create strong team dynamics and an environment in which everyone excels. A ‘me first’ approach doesn’t inspire or motivate team members to be their best.

Ask yourself: Who are you serving and are you putting your needs first?

“The more powerful a person feels, the more confident they are of the accuracy of their thoughts and beliefs. ”

At work you’ll come across two types of leaders — those who approach leading with an abundance mentality and those who approach it with a scarcity mentality. A feast or famine mindset impacts how you connect and lead.

A leader with a famine mindset hordes resources, rewards and recognition; worrying that if someone else gets the same amount or more than they do it will diminish them. This has huge implications for how they work, as they approach conversations and negotiations with the objective of getting as much as they can for themselves. They are also less willing to collaborate and think about other people’s needs, and struggle to admit mistakes.

By contrast, a leader with a feast mindset sees the work environment as full of opportunity, with more than enough to go around. They look to expand relationships and to collaborate with the goal of securing joint outcomes.

Ask yourself: Are you operating with a feast or famine mindset?

Research reveals that people in positions of power are three times more likely than other employees to interrupt colleagues, raise their voice and insult others. A 2010 study by the University of Southern California and London Business School, Power and overconfident decision-making, found a correlation between overconfidence and how much power a person has.

The more powerful a person feels, the more confident they are of the accuracy of their thoughts and beliefs. This means people in powerful positions are more confident that their opinions are correct, which may result in their failing to heed advice, ask questions or look for alternative opinions — all of which can hamper effective decision making.

Ask yourself: Do you think you’re the smartest person in the room? If so, have you stopped listening and learning, and is it time to find another room?

Relationship style
Leadership isn’t a popularity contest. There will always be someone ready to criticise and condemn you, but part of being a leader is taking a stand on things that matter. You have choices to make every day in how you lead and learn. These choices contribute to creating either a culture of denial and exclusion, or an environment of opportunity and inclusion — for you, your team and your colleagues.

Ask yourself: Are you stepping up, finding your unique style, building constructive relationships and being courageous?

Team norms
In 2012, Google started a research project, code-named Project Aristotle, to figure out what made the best teams. Initially, they thought it would be about the smarts of the people in the team, but over time they came to realise it had far more to do with heart.

A year into the five-year study, they realised that having clear group norms was fundamental; the most important being psychological safety.

Ask yourself: Are you working with your team to create team norms where each team member can be their best?

Your leadership effectiveness starts and stops with you, so what do you need to start and stop?

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