What great leadership boils down to is simply a subset of behaviors. Findings show that among the organizations where leadership was rated the most effective, its leaders displayed four distinct leadership behaviors out of 20 measured behaviors.
We here at Entrepreneur have teased out four questions to help both leaders and aspiring leaders assess where you fall on the leadership spectrum.
1. Are you able to zero in on the essentials you must do for that day and delegate additional necessary tasks effectively?
To effectively lead, you need to be able to have a clear understanding of what you, and you alone, must be in charge of doing. Not everything that demands your attention is important.
Tim Ferriss, the author of The 4-Hour Workweek, has mastered the art of human efficiency by zeroing in on the absolute essentials to achieve maximum results and delegating tasks that aren’t exclusive to his decision-skills to others. “To be a good leader, you cannot major in minor things, and you must be less distracted than your competition,” Ferriss said. "To get the few critical things done, you must develop incredible selective ignorance. Otherwise, the trivial will drown you."
Leadership is also about intelligently delegating. You can’t, and shouldn’t, be doing it all, and you need to have a team of people who can make and carry out decisions using their own judgment. In The 4-Hour Work Week, Ferriss wrote how one of the ways he was able to focus on his goals for achieving the most income in the least amount of time in the drop-shipping business was by hiring an affordable virtual assistant.
Being able to relate your vision and clearly explain what you would like done is crucial so that everyone is working toward the same goals. Also, articulating what success looks like to you in some well-defined, measurable ways (e.g. key performance indicators) is equally important.
Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos is crystal clear about his company’s directive: The customer comes first. And he’s able to also use KPIs (metrics) to provide measurable goals for the abstract. Amazon breaks down its customer satisfaction into goals that affect the customer experience and sales, such as reducing out-of-stock merchandise and website load time, increasing the size of Amazon’s downloadable film library and providing hourly bestseller lists. Through tracking data points, Bezos is able to define clear goals for his employees.
What true leadership sounds like, wrote marketing expert Seth Godin, who has written extensively on the topic of leadership and confidence, is a blend of two things: "I'd really like to help you," and, "If this isn't for you, that's OK, there are others it might be a better match for." In other words, strong leadership is supportive and empathetic, so people are comfortable approaching you.
The affable Virgin Group founder Richard Branson has developed a strong reputation as a caring and empathetic leader through acts such as personally traveling to where there are Virgin Airline issues and offering support to passengers and appreciation for the staff. Branson also maintains that in order for an organization to have creative license and the courage it takes to color outside the lines, a leader must support his staff during the challenges that will inevitably arise.
Anyone who leads from the inside of a bubble or echo chamber cannot be effective. Confident leaders are comfortable with healthy debate and differing viewpoints that can close both knowledge and perspective gaps. They seek information not to simply confirm their own genius but to make the best informed decision for the company.
In early 2016, Dropbox CEO Drew Houston made some very unpopular cost-saving decisions that affected the company’s enviable employee perks, such as cancelling its free shuttle in San Francisco and laundry washing service in the company gym. However, Houston was aware of the pushback and asked, in a company-wide email, for his employees to think about ways the company could save and share, using an email address created for the purpose.
How did you do? If you scored…
4: Congrats, you're a Natural-Born Leader. If you’re not running your own team or company already, you will be. In the meantime, focus on reading more books for lifelong learning.
3: You’ve got the majority of leadership qualities down. Now that you understand better what area you need to work on, reach out to a mentor who has the skills to cultivate you in that area and start reading a leadership book on the topic.
1 or 2: Hey, don’t be discouraged. Leadership is a multidisciplinary quality that can be cultivated through effort and time. Ask yourself what your version of leadership success would look like in metrics. Is it a certain number of sales per quarter? A decrease in employee churn by half? Once you have clear goal posts, you can decode the steps to reach them.