The Essentials of Great Leadership

By Ida Rowlands

What constitutes a great leader? For the most part, a proficient leader must be able to provide clear direction and limits, give backup and assistance to his or her team, and then, most importantly, step back and let them achieve what needs to be done.

The best leaders provide insight and information in order to allow their teams to exercise their own creative powers with independence and pride, while maintaining guideposts along the way to assist them in their quest for perfection.

Developing a democratic organizational structure can sometimes be a route prone to the fragility of the system itself. There is a thin line between allowing full freedom and maintaining accountability; yet the best leaders know that by establishing performance standards which can be readily monitored, evaluated, and – if necessary – corrected, they can provide the much-needed balance to get the job done efficiently and successfully.

Balance is essential to progressive leadership skills. In order to deter conflict and tension among the staff, a good leader realizes that organizational requirements must be coordinated with individual needs. Although ultimately the organization must maintain control at all times, effective leaders realize that cohesiveness and accountability between management and staff is crucial to the success or failure of any venture. Rather than control being based on individuals controlling others, effective leadership provides the framework that allows the organization to maintain control while providing incentive co-opted with accountability for its team members.

Creating an aura of support and morale within the team will ultimately result in increased productivity. The essence of progressive leadership relies on adherence to three basic tenets: reduction of ambiguity between team members, fair allocation of assignments, and providing and encouraging a positive attitude.

Reducing ambiguity essentially means providing clear and concise instructions. Far too often, team leaders fall into the convenient trap of assuming that all members of the team understand their ultimate goal. Therefore, a clear definition of goals and expectations must be readily identified at the onset of any project. Good leaders allow others to ask questions, and they must work diligently to provide astute answers to concerns they themselves may consider mundane. All team members may not be privy to every aspect of management proposals, so beginning with basics and progressing to advanced expectations can sometimes seem moot. However, this exercise can go a long way in clearing up any misunderstandings at the outset of a project.

Fairness must be exercised at every turn. There is always the tendency to allocate responsibility to the same people each time, but sometimes this can have an adverse effect. It can lead to other team members becoming unwilling to contribute one hundred percent to the project because they feel they may not receive recognition for their input. Effective leaders are willing to encourage all team members to present new and progressive ideas about any given project.

Maintaining and projecting a positive attitude is contagious, and the best leaders know that promoting affirmative, constructive behavior among every team member goes a long way on the road to success.

Providing much needed, critical feedback is an essential component of efficient leadership. Crucial, developmental analysis must be balanced with a modicum of praise. While most people do not relish receiving critical feedback, when it is tempered with a positive message they tend to be more willing to accept and consider another viewpoint.

Effective leaders promote positive performance. Good leaders have the fortitude to provide praise for positive input while putting negative performance in perspective. Great leaders tend to seamlessly combine both these attributes while maintaining control of the helm, which results in the consistent achievement of success in their endeavors.

Ida Rowlands is administrative assistant to the executive director of CAM-X (Canadian Call Management Association).  As a CAM-X team member, Ida has worked behind the scenes on various association projects including the Annual Call Centre Coaching Clinics, CSR and Supervisor Certifications, AOE and AOD awards programs, and the CAM-X Annual Convention and Trade Show. In her spare time, she likes to write short stories and has ghostwritten hundreds of articles for various online businesses.

[From Connection Magazine September 2008]