5 Strategies for Leadership Success in 2021

2021 promises to provide great opportunities.  The road to success, while open, is littered with challenges.  2020 has seen intense economic dislocation and truckloads of human suffering.  The world economy is struggling.  A new Administration may lead to uncertainty.  Amid these and other threats, leaders need to be able to move their organizations forward.  Here are 5 strategies that can be employed immediately and throughout the year to ensure success in your organization.

Build Your Team’s Efficacy:

As a leader, you may think you are responsible for getting things done.  While that is an outcome against which you are measured, in fact, as a leader, you are accountable for the people who are responsible for actually executing the tasks that result in the outcomes you seek to deliver.  In other words, you can’t get all those things done; you have to rely on others to do them for you.  If they are not energetic, organized and focused, those outcomes can be less than desirable.  What would it look like if your team members were optimistic, growth oriented and accountable?  These are the kinds of behaviors that determine their efficacy, what they believe they can bring about or make happen.  And because they are engaged by a leader who is interested in their growth and they know it, it helps them relentlessly pursue possibilities, and they are highly likely to seek accountability and responsibility for their task area.

Pursue Clear Goals:

When the people for whom you are responsible have a sharp understanding of what is expected of them, it creates an atmosphere where they know what to do and can deploy their efficacy to best advantage.  Leaders want to stimulate proactive, innovative and future-oriented behaviors. Help them visualize what success looks like. Use mistakes that occur as opportunities to improve, focusing on what to do the next time.  To encourage creativity and innovation, invite them to challenge assumptions to achieve better results and try new approaches to improve performance. Once you have provided clarity on the goals, encourage them to plan the execution, and ask probing questions on the desired outcome.  Then, it’s time to tell them to shove off, making things happen and engaging in minute course corrections along the way.  When we first went to the moon, the capsule was only on course 20% of the time.

Ensure the Proper Approach:

Your team members are looking to you for cues, clues and encouragement to inform their behavior.  The examples you model are as important as the words you use.  They will be well-guided by your behaviors of excellence, integrity and transparency.  It is important to communicate the “why” along with the “what”.  Modeling excellence, constantly striving to improve and raising the bar are all qualities you must insist upon.  That will require of you a consistent level of integrity.  This means acting on your convictions, expressing your ideas even when they are unpopular and always staying within ethical bounds.  Transparency and crystal clear communication are a must.

Build Relationships

An organization is a team: helping teammates appreciate their contribution to the overall effort engages and empowers them.  Good leaders foster the power of positive regard among teammates, emphasize teamwork and find effective ways to mentor others.  Building a team means appreciating the talents and contributions your contributors can make.  A whiff of judgmental activity on your part divides your team members and sends them into list-making and comparing themselves against each other instead of focusing on the challenges at hand.  Take the time to listen to the hopes and concerns of your teammates, which will encourage them in turn to do the same with their people.  As their mentor, it is important to share tips to help your people become successful and actively celebrate their successes.

Maintain a Focus on Altruism:

Great leaders help those around them connect to the larger purpose of the organization.  They exhibit and foster gratefulness, humility and a sense of greater purpose.  They are acutely aware that information can come from anywhere and that they will respond positively when recognized for their contributions and those of others.  Because of this, when you are open to ideas that differ from your own, you encourage others to develop broader based thinking.  Most importantly, people will naturally work for their own self-interest.  When you succeed in helping them connect to the higher purpose of the organization, you free them to grow freely, because they are aligned, without conflict and highly engaged.

The road to 2021 is open.  These five strategies, pursued diligently throughout the year, will drive the culture of your organization, energizing the members and producing the kinds of outcomes that will withstand the uncertain winds along the way.

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