Being Effective: What it Takes to Achieve Results as a Leader
Effective leadership is a tough thing to master and sustain, and that’s even without factoring in the extreme events of 2020. Simply defined, being effective means adequately accomplishing a purpose or producing an expected result. In other words, it doesn’t have to be that fancy. It just needs to get done.
With so many leadership models touting strategies for effectiveness, it can feel overwhelming to know which direction to go. For this blog, I’ll focus on a real world example from my own “backyard” that was grounded in a few principles borrowed from The Leadership Circle and their decades of research and experience studying and working with highly effective leaders.
What is Effective Leadership?
Effective leadership comes down to knowing how to offer visionary, achievement-oriented, and selfless leadership. Leaders who do this well maintain high standards of excellence in their work and activities. They’re goal-directed, take well-calculated risks, and have a track record of high performance. Their values, beliefs, and vision are guided from within, and they take responsibility for their own actions and circumstances.
These leaders know how to create desired future states (vision) in collaboration with others, and then translate this vision into strategies, strategies into goals, and goals into actions that achieve results.
They’re optimistic, maintain a result-oriented focus, and stay clear on these projected results even in the face of obstacles. Effective leaders believe they can make a positive difference in the eyes of others. Their approach can be stoic or flashy, innovative or conservative.
The truth is, it doesn’t really matter how they go about it. All that matters is they’re focused on the desired outcome and results, and won’t bend in the face of pressure.
As an alternative view (since sometimes it’s easier to identify what something is not), here’s an example of what ineffective leadership looks like.
Ineffective leaders who fumble and lose followership tend to make excuses for not meeting goals or commitments, wait for others to set direction, avoid the risk of big challenges, blame others for their problems, act defensively, and are slow to admit mistakes. They may make some strong gains in the short-term, but are unable to sustain any progress over the long term.
Which leader do you aim to be?
An Example of Effective Leadership in Action
While I’m not one to write about politics, I’m heartened by what’s happening in my own backyard in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts.
Based on The Washington Post report from May 2020, our Governor has an 82% approval rating. For a Republican Governor in one of the most liberal states in the country, that’s pretty darn good.
Why do I think this is the case? My opinion—through a pure leadership lense—is that Governor Baker is methodically driving to achieve results—sustainable results. Results that ideally don’t have us yo-yoing back and forth as a community while we wrangle with this pandemic. Only time will tell.
For now, I’m pleased and very optimistic given what I see from a leadership standpoint. This month, I celebrated my son’s return to summer camp, and in September, I hope my two children will fully participate in 100% in-person learning this school year. Again, time will tell. Based on the current leadership trajectory, I stand proud believing that we are being led well through this pandemic locally.
How did we achieve these results? During the United States’ early stages of COVID-19, our governor pulled together a plan with the stated purpose to keep the people of Massachusetts safe. We were one of the first states to close our schools, a bold move at the time that other states quickly followed. While many may say it wasn’t the most visionary of plans out there (e.g., it seemed rather draconian and conservative), the stated vision was “flattening the curve” and that translated into strategies such as the closure of schools, restaurants, and many of our most cherished public and private facilities.
These strategies were then translated into the stated goals of slowly reopening the community through a phased approach, hitting key milestones and envisioned trend data. And then that was translated into actions we all would be required to take as citizens, such as the mandatory wearing of masks and limitations on social gatherings to achieve these intended results.
Well, the results are in: Massachusetts is leading the country in reductions of transmissions, and we’re enjoying the experience of steadily reopening our community. On June 30th, we had zero deaths reported which is very promising news.
Because our state leadership focused on creating a purposeful plan grounded in serving the welfare of the community in the long run, we could achieve these results. They didn’t care about their popularity or if their approval ratings would take a hit. They developed a clear and concise plan. They cared about the health and welfare of all of us and stayed true to that. They communicated regularly and were clear with their constituents that what they proposed required a lot of sacrifice from each one of them, but stressed the importance of it to reduce the spread for the benefit of the entire community. They led by example and modeled the behavior they expected to see across the community.
Ignoring criticism, they developed a plan and pulled together a great team of leaders from both the public and private sector to support them. This made a huge difference. They didn’t waffle on their decisions and took many hits for being too conservative and reactive. However, had they given into the naysayers too soon, we may have had a completely different outcome, much like what we’re seeing in the South and West now.
They believed in their vision and meticulously planned, replanned, and tracked and reported on results, instilling confidence in the residents of the state along the way.
And they got the results. That’s effective leadership in action.
The Bottom Line
As a leader, your plans (especially in a crisis) don’t need to be massive or incredibly innovative, but they do need to have meaning and rigor. Every choice along the way needs to be decisive. Purposeful and effective leadership is about having belief and direction, developing a strategy, setting up metrics to track milestones and key indicators, and making modifications to ensure you’re staying the course. Remain authentic and courageous even through the darkest of times. That creates trust, respect, and admiration every time.
What You Can Do to Lead More Effectively
When considering your next steps as a leader, ask yourself the following:
Do I have confidence in the direction I’m heading?
Am I willing to speak openly in the presence of “authorities?”
Am I listening and learning from others?
Am I acting as a role model?
Am I willing to trust my gut?
Do I have a diverse team of experts around me?
Am I initiating projects and reaching for high goals?
Remember, you’re not doing this alone. Taking charge means taking risks and sometimes falling flat on your face. When this happens, the key is to recover quickly, keep taking risks, and keep learning. Success favors the bold!
Do you need help growing your skills for effective leadership? Learn more about Pivotal Moments’ service offerings here.