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5 skills successful leaders share

November 23, 2015

There are no “magic bullets” or “secret formulas” to successful, results-oriented leadership. However, we’ve identified 5 core disciplines that successful leaders share. And each of the following disciplines can be learned and improved upon. It simply takes commitment and practice.

1. Have a clear picture

Successful leaders have a clear and exact understanding of their organization and its context. This may sound obvious but it’s just too important to gloss over. Successful leaders know what’s going on in their organization. They know what’s happening in the competitive marketplace. They know what’s happening with their suppliers and with the other functions within their organization. They know exactly what they and their teams are expected to contribute to the organization. And they have a clear understanding of their leadership principles.

These leaders are also able to identify what makes their organization unique by doing periodic SWOT analysis (Strengths, which are internal positives; Weaknesses, which are internal negatives; Opportunities, identified as external positives; and Threats, identified as external negatives). They understand what their competitive advantage is. They are clear about defined strengths and weaknesses, as well as opportunities and threats the organization faces. And they reiterate this clear picture to their people on an ongoing basis.

2. Focus on priorities

Think of it this way. If having a clear picture is at the 40,000- or 50,000-foot, big-picture level, focusing on specific, tangible, and achievable priorities is more at the 20,000-foot level. All successful leaders are able to translate big-picture goals and ideas into specific areas of focus that individuals, teams, departments, and divisions can work on. A good example of this is a leader who wants to improve customer satisfaction. Improving customer satisfaction is the high-level goal. You must also identify and illustrate the necessary projects and initiatives to focus on specific critical priorities.

3. Secure commitment

The most successful leaders earn commitment by engaging, involving, and empowering their teams. They set the stage for commitment. And they do that by instead of just giving people tasks to do or projects to cross off a list, they make sure the context is clear and specific by explaining why things need to be done as much as what needs to be done. Good leaders are open to input as well. They create a culture of engagement by making sure that people are connected to the context and broader purpose. By helping folks connect passionately so that they can give their all, good leaders get a much greater commitment to the desired results.

4. Accelerate the pace

Once they’ve set the big picture, and the priorities, and have a committed team in place, the best leaders know when to accelerate the pace and really raise the bar. They encourage their people to constantly be innovating by identifying an “enemy” (to progress, success, etc.), breaking a deadlock, establishing new milestones, openly addressing conflicts, and rewarding experimentation. They also understand there is a downside to going too fast and are able to refocus and course-correct their teams too.

5. Create an achievement ethic

The most successful leaders set goals, then create a stimulating and rewarding work environment in which to achieve them. They use the first four disciplines to guide and direct their teams, and spend lots of time watching how their teams respond to challenges. Leaders with the best achievement ethic (and often the most consistent results) strike the delicate balance between pushing and rewarding their teams.

So let’s hear from you. What’s your ideal achievement ethic? 

Want to learn more? Check out Mitchell’s webinar on the 5 Disciplines of a Results-Oriented Leader.

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