What makes an effective leader?

What makes an effective leader?

The discussion about what makes one an effective leader is one that mankind has been engaged with for many centuries. In all civilization of men, there have been people that have taken the lead of groups of people, and these people have followed their leaders, be it by force or by choice.

Bernard Bass states that “leadership is one of the world’s oldest preoccupation, and that leaders such as prophets, priests, chiefs, and kings served as symbols, representatives, and models for their people and had an important part in the development of society. (Bass, 1990)

Mankind’s search for leaders has never ceased, although the characteristics they attribute to leaders have changed a bit over time.

For me, an effective leader is someone that has the following characteristics;

Authenticity
To thy own self be true” (Hamlet by Shakespeare). This describes the very heart of authenticity; a leader being truth to himself and to those he leads. An authentic leader lives by high standards of honesty, transparency and openness towards all he works with. His actions inspire others to improve their selves and commit more for the cause. I believe authentic leaders have a high degree of emotional intelligence, and are not afraid to show their own emotions or to deal with the emotions of those around them.

Interpersonal skills
Strong interpersonal skills are essential for any leader. The leader must clearly communicate goals, inform everyone about the importance of their role and make sure that everyone is aligned with the organizational goals.

Other important interpersonal skills an effective leader has developed are negotiating, decision making and assertiveness.

Servant leadership
This is the act of being ready to serve even as you lead. This is not only a show of humility but also a show of ability to do well in the shoes of the people you are leading.

Servant leadership is one of the proven effective ways for leaders to gain the respect that is due to them. Every leader should prove that they can handle what they expect their followers are asked to do. Effective leaders show that in the first place they are there to serve those they lead, not to boss them around.

Motivator
Effective leaders know how to motivate others to get into action. They realize that this starts with self-motivation, finding their inner strength and guiding others to be able to do the same.

People expect a leader to offer the motivation and the emotional strength needed to empower others to continue or complete a difficult task.

Ethical conduct
In my opinion, ethical behavior is one of the most important traits of a effective leader. As a leader, one should always choose for the right path, set the right example and always do the right thing, no matter what happens or how hard it is. Doing the right thing could be defined as always staying within the boundaries of the law, and what is socially accepted. A true leader has respect for the ethical beliefs and values as well as for the dignity and rights of everyone around him (or her).

Leadership cultivation
An effective leader realizes that no man lives forever and that one of his important tasks is succession planning. When a leaders states that he (or she) cannot take a step back because there is no one to fill his shoes, this means that this leader has done a poor job in securing the leadership of the organization. As an effective leader, one should spend time and resources providing coaching and guidance to others in order to develop the skills needed to be able to assume the leadership position whenever that is needed.

In my opinion, everyone can assume a leadership position, but to be a real effective leader, the above mentioned characteristics are very important.

Besides these characteristics, an effective leader also knows that based on the specific situation he is in, a certain leadership style will be required. This can be derived from the leadership types as defined by Kurt Lewin (Kurt Lewin, 1930).

For instance, in a crisis situation where immediate decisions and fast actions are required the best leadership style would be an autocratic leadership style. In this case the leader takes all the decisions without consulting team members.

If a leader wishes to create more involvement, he can include team members in the decision-making process. Although the leader still takes the final decision, everyone on the team gets to give their input and share their opinion on the matter. This is known as the democratic leadership style.

A Laissez-faire leader gives his team members to fully decide on how they will do their work, what deadline they will set and how they will deliver results. This leadership style works best in an organization of professionals, like a legal or a consultancy firm.

Leading volunteers
In addition to characteristics of effective leaders and the three leadership styles, I would also like to elaborate a little bit on leading volunteers. My reason for this is because I see a very important difference in leading a team of people who are paid to the work and volunteers. Since volunteers are not paid for their work, but do it for some intrinsic reason, it is even more important that leaders are able to motivate and inspire team members. Someone leading a team of volunteers must guide the team member into finding and holding on to the “wildly important goals” for both the organization as for the individual.

In the past 15 years I have taken various (national and international) leadership positions within a voluntary organization (JCI / Jaycees) and I have learned that the most effective way to get things done is when you are able to create the alignment between the individual’s personal goals and the goals of the organization.

 

Finally, I fully agree (and live by) the following quote by the Chinese philosopher Lao Tzu about the best leader.

“To lead people, walk beside them …
As for the best leaders, the people do not notice their existence.
The next best, the people honor and praise.
The next, the people fear; and the next, the people hate…

When the best leader’s work is done the people say,
We did it ourselves!”

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Servant Leadership

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A leader is best when people barely know he exists, when his work is done, his aim fulfilled, they will say: we did it ourselves. Words by the legendary ancient Chinese philosopher Lao Tzu, founder of the philosophical Taoism.

For century’s philosophers, kings, generals, politician and many more have been studying, researching and talking about leadership. Various leaders in history and present are being analyzed for their leadership styles and compared to well-known theories about leadership. While the effectiveness of a certain leadership style can best be judged by putting it in the context of that certain time frame and situation, many of us nowadays will most likely agree that servant leadership is one of the most effective to lead people in the 21st century.

When Lao Tzu first uttered this words about leadership he was probably thinking of all those gasconading leaders of that time or the times before him. Unfortunately these type of leaders still exist today. Looking around us we would definitely be able to mention some of today’s leaders who take pride in boasting around how good a leader they are and how they are creating impact with their work.

Although these leaders might be successful in business, it will not be difficult to find those who will tell you that they find it very hard to get inspired by these type of leadership.

Servant Leadership has many characteristics which inspire people nowadays to not only walk in the footsteps of leaders, but also to aspire to become such a leader so they can create positive impact themselves.

One of the characteristics of servant leadership that stands out is humbleness. Servant Leaders are very confident of their capabilities, capacities and their strength. As they are aware of the big positive impact they are creating on the lives of others, they know they need not to boast about this. They realize it’s not about jumping so other people notice you and give you credit, but about the impact they create. A true servant leader will never stand in the front line to let people know what great job he did. Or stand in front to show that he is the one giving credit to someone else. Servant leaders will do what they have to do and be satisfied with the positive results. Even if no one knows about their role in the process.

Leadership is not a destiny, but a mere journey. It is a journey in the process of self-development and finding inner wealth. Servant leaders know this. They also know that the real inner wealth doesn’t lie in being a leader but being able to develop other leaders, preferably better ones than they are themselves.

A servant leader invests time and energy in finding talent, encourage them, coach them and motivate them to get the best out of their selves. The best leaders in the history of mankind are those who were able to develop much better successors.

So how can you recognize a servant leader? If he’s very good it will probably not be very easy to recognize him, as he will not be the one that walks in front. Also not the one walking in the back either. The servant leader will be the one walking in the midst of everyone, listening to what they have to say, giving encouragement and advise and asking for their opinion and view on matters. This leader’s team will be so strong and successful, just because they feel that they matter and that success is the result of a ballgame played by each and every one of them.

Marciano Lie A Young is a trainer and consultant who has conducted training programs on Leadership, Work-life balance, Entrepreneurship and Public speaking in over 20 countries in 4 continents.
He is the director of the Leaders Management Group Foundation, an organization that offers training and consultancy services to Small and Medium businesses. You can follow him on twitter on @marcianolie or visit his blog www.marcianolieayoung.com.

 

Securing your financial future with the Lifetime Money Plan

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One of the interesting reads I’ve had this week was an article about the 50/30/20 rule outlined in the book “All Your Worth: The Ultimate Lifetime Money Plan“, written by Elizabeth Warren and her daughter Amelia Warren Tyagi.

In their book, they describe how people can take matters into their own hands when it comes to securing their financial future. It is no secret that being able to properly manage your budget and creating a solid financial cushion for the future is a big challenge for most of us. In a world where we are constantly surrounded and even seduced by all kind of fancy things to buy, keeping track on your expenditures seems even more difficult.

But still, if we don’t want to end up with an empty bucket at the end of our working life, we need to take action as early in our life as possible.

If you ask me, the 50/30/20 rule is in fact a very simple way to cut your budget in 3 pieces to decide what you are going to spend your money on.

What this rule of thumb proposes is that you should spend your money in such a way that not more than 50% of your net-income is spent on the Essential expenses. These includes the money you spend on groceries, utilities, rent, insurance etc.; the basis needs to maintain the fundamentals of life.

dilbert on retiring

source: http://www.dilbert.com

The next step of the 50/30/20 rule is that no more than 30% of the net-income should be spent on your Lifestyles choices. These are the “wants” in your life such as going to restaurants, clubbing, (expensive) hobbies, pets, personal care etc.
Sometimes it might be a little hard to distinguish the difference between a “need” and a “want”. What you could do is ask yourself if the thing you are considering to buy is really necessary or just great (or fun) to have.

The “20” in the 50/30/20 rule refers to the amount of money you should set apart for Financial priorities. These includes paying off debts and saving for the future. Like I mentioned earlier, you wouldn’t want to end up with an empty bank account once you retire.

So how does this Lifetime money plan works? This Huffington Post article has two nice examples of how this could work in the US. In a few weeks I will be posting some examples of how it could work in my country as well.

Marciano Lie A Young is a trainer and consultant who has conducted training programs on Leadership, Work-life balance, Entrepreneurship and Public speaking in over 20 countries in 4 continents.
He is the director of the Leaders Management Group Foundation, an organization that offers training and consultancy services to Small and Medium businesses. You can follow him on twitter on @marcianolie or visit his blog www.marcianolieayoung.com.

3 ways to ensure that your training programs are effective

Worldwide, companies spend millions, even billions of dollars on training employees in order to improve the important skills needed to do a better job at work. The big question is, however, how effective are these training programs? HR and training managers often come across the question whether the training programs they are spending so much money on are effective at all. If you really want to succeed as trainer, you will need to be able to give your clients their money’s worth.

As a trainer myself, I am also always interested in finding out how I can measure the effectiveness of training programs I conduct, and I came across two articles that provide some nice insights on how to measure the effectiveness.

In the first article, titled “Measuring the effectiveness of your training program” (http://ubm.io/1QnAfEn), Rose Polchin discusses using the four-level training evaluation model created by Donald Kirkpatrick. In her article, Polchin describes the model as a tool to help you to objectively analyze the effectiveness and find out how you can improve your training program.

dilbert20031663411201Source: Dilbert on training

In addition to the information shared in the previous mentioned article, John Eades provides some very handy tips on how to evaluate the effectiveness of a training. In his article ”3 Ways Organizations Can Improve The Way They Measure Training Effectiveness” (http://bit.ly/1XRQQRn), John suggest using visual confirmation by asking learners to post vidoes of theirselves putting into practice what they learned, creating social ownership and performing skills assessments.

As you will go through the two articles mentioned above, you will no doubt fully agree with me that every trainer must design his training program with the effectiveness of that program in his mind. This means that there are three important steps you as a trainer cannot afford to skip;

  1. Always remember that when designing and conducting a training program, it’s never about yourself but about the trainees. Your program should be designed in such a way that it can clearly be seen how participants can put what they’ve learned into use.
  2. Not everyone learns in the same way. A good training programs caters to the different learning styles, this will help you create a better engagement with all of your trainees. Do some research about different learning styles and what you can do to increase the effectiveness for each style.
  3. Don’t forget to include ways to effectively measure whether or not you have achieved your learning goals with the training. Using the Kirkpatrick 4 level evaluation model should provide you with the right tool to find out if you were able to make your training stick.

From my experience as a trainer, I came to learn that in the field there are people who just pass on information and there are trainers who actually know how to create the right learning environment. If you want to be among those who actually add value to their learners, taking the three above mentioned steps are a great way to start off.

Marciano Lie A Young is a trainer and consultant who has conducted training programs on Leadership, Work-life balance, Entrepreneurship and Public speaking in over 20 countries in 4 continents.
He is the director of the Leaders Management Group Foundation, an organization that offers training and consultancy services to Small and Medium businesses. You can follow him on twitter on @marcianolie or visit his blog www.marcianolieayoung.com.

[note: this blog post was written as part of an writing assignment for my “Engagement & Nurture Marketing Strategies” course at the Northwestern University.]

Presentation tips for managers

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A managerial position comes with a lot of responsibility and maybe rewards. So unlike other employees on a lower strategic level, a manager is expected to provide top notch pitches and presentation to the directors, owners or any other relevant stakeholders.

This therefore creates the need of the presentations to be of high standard and high quality to satisfy their intended functions. I will list some tips that will guide you as a manager in delivering that important presentation to your seniors.

Focus on the intended results
As you make that presentation, make sure that you have been well informed on what exactly your seniors wanted to know. Make this the target of your presentation. The key point here is being able to respond and to answer all the questions that your audience has in mind and expects to be answered.

Make this professional
Keep in mind that this is a professional presentation. Get to the point and avoid being indirect. Make sure that you keep their valuable time in mind, this means that unlike a speech where you may include jokes, your presentation needs to have a serious tone.

Know your audience
Maybe there will be a major stakeholder among your audience. Or that decision maker from that company you want as your client.  Research about them and get information from any available source. Know what to expect and be prepared for it. Make sure you also maintain eye contact. Remember the rest of your audience and pay close attention to them too.

State facts
As a rule of the thumb, you should be able to prove what you say. It is therefore important to carry every relevant document. Make sure that the use of filler words is minimal. They portray uncertainty and lead to your clients being doubtful of your information.

 

Marciano S. Lie A Young
http://www.marcianolieayoung.com
http://www.twitter.com/marcianolie