What’s the Secret to Strong Leadership?

Guest
post from Alain Hunkins:
Over
the past two decades,
I’ve
worked with thousands of teams, and tens of thousands of leaders in twenty-five
countries around the world.   I’ve worked
with every industry you can think of, as well as some industries you probably
don’t know exist.
On
the surface, each team and company’s situation and issues were unique. However,
over time, I started to see patterns emerge- patterns of behavior.  It’s been said that success leaves clues, and
it’s true.  Great leaders operate using
similar principles to guide their actions. 
What’s less well known, as equally as true, is that mistakes leave
clues, too.  Poor leaders rely on a set
of “shadow principles” that keep them mired in mediocrity.
So
what separates great leaders from the rest? 
Mastering three fundamentals:  connection, communication, and collaboration.
 
Connection
At
its core, leadership isn’t about control, power, or a job title. Leadership is
a relationship between two people. The quality of their relationship is built
on the quality of their connection.  Connection
provides the spark that gets others to willingly follow your lead. It’s the
main ingredient in trust. There’s a reason we say, “people don’t care how much
you know until they know how much you care”: it’s the root of humanity.
Connection
comes with a price—the investment of your time and attention.  It also takes a willingness to put your ego
aside.  Demonstrating empathy towards
others means being courageous enough to be vulnerable from time to time.  However, these upfront
costs pay dividends on the back end—that of engagement and commitment.
Communication
When
leaders are asked, “What is your biggest challenge at work?” communication is
usually at the top of the list. This makes sense: leaders spend 70-90% of their
time in group or team interactions every day.  Communication and leadership are joined at the
hip.
Effective
communication is harder than it looks. For the most part, it’s taken for
granted.  We treat communication like a
basic utility. Just like the electricity in your home, it’s expected that it’ll
always be there for you. Not until the blackout do you notice you have a real
problem.
The
challenge with communication isn’t one of quantity — it’s a quality
issue.  Great leaders know that the goal
of act of communication isn’t communicating, it’s to create shared
understanding. The best leaders don’t assume that getting to understanding just
happens.   They know that the nature of
transferring meaning from one person to another is rife with challenges. They
accept obstacles as part and parcel of the process. They just happen to know
what those obstacles will be in advance, so they can proactively deal with
them.
Collaboration
If
there’s one constant in 2020, it’s change. 
This year we’ve taken VUCA (Volatile, Uncertain, Complex, and Ambiguous)
to a whole new level.  People, companies
and entire industries have had to pivot and reinvent themselves.  Technology has connected more people in more
places at more times than ever before. Leaders need to harness the power of
these connections. 
Today’s
leader can’t stay stuck in a silo, relying on the antiquated model of top-down
command and control. Instead of commanding, they need to become skilled
facilitators.  Instead of being in
charge, they need to focus on helping the people in their charge.
Collaborative leaders call on a variety of skills. They need to
know how to build a common vision and unifying purpose. They need to inspire
others to bring their whole selves to work. They need to create a climate that
draws out the best ideas. They need to know how to flex their decision-making
style for each situation.  If that wasn’t
enough, they do all these things while making it easier for their people to do
their best work.
These efforts bring rich rewards. Leading effective
collaboration is a win/win. Not only are employees happier, creative and
energized, but companies that promote collaboration are five times as likely to
be high performing.
Connection, communication, and collaboration.  These fundamentals are the foundation for leadership
success. They’re not complicated to understand, and they don’t require a great
deal of sophistication. However, there’s a big gap between knowing and
doing.  Practicing these principles
consistently is what separates the great leaders from the rest.  If you call yourself “leader”, the true
challenge is making connection, communication, and collaboration an everyday
habit.

ALAIN HUNKINS, author of CRACKING THE LEADERSHIP CODE: Three Secrets to

Building Strong Leaders (Wiley, March 2020) is a sought-after speaker, consultant, trainer, and coach. Over his twenty-year career, Alain has designed and facilitated seminars on numerous leadership topics, including teambuilding, communication, peak performance, innovation, and change. His clients include Wal-Mart, Pfizer, Citigroup, IBM, General Motors, and Microsoft.