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The Leadership Success Formula – What Should Leaders “Be”?

The Leadership Success Formula – What Should Leaders “Be”?

In a recent article, we put forward the theory that the formula of “Have X Do X Be” (or simplistically Clear Vision X Consistent Actions X Supportive Behaviors) will lead to leadership success. However, it was concluded that the last part of this simple formula (the Behaviors aspect) gave a lot of perhaps what could be seen as unhelpful latitude for a leader and we therefore may need to be more explicit about what sort of behaviors may be supportive. In this regard, the following list is offered for guidance:

1. Leaders put relationships first. Effective leaders not only build broad networks of colleagues at all levels, but they also build and nurture the connections they make. This means making time every day for work colleagues of all kinds and at all levels (both directly and indirectly) not only ensuring that good listening takes place but so that quality conversations can occur to both learn and nurture relationships or build/grow these relationships over time.

2. Leaders maintain a sense of perspective. Although it’s difficult not to respond in the moment in these fast-changing and high pressure times, a good leader will always try to put everything that he or she encounters or experiences in the workplace into perspective before making a decision. This may mean holding back and reflecting a little longer, looking for additional information or even ignoring some issues from time to time. In other words, leaders are often best-served to “sway” with events rather than to react decisively in the moment (unless circumstances dictate that this is the best approach of course).

3. Leaders surround themselves with good people. Extensive research (by the Gallup Organization in particular in recent times) shows that the most effective leaders surround themselves not with sycophants or “yes people” and individuals with lesser skills but with good people who often know more than they do and are prepared to regularly offer direct feedback . This not only ensures that a team of followers has a wide variety of skills and abilities to tackle the challenges but that the leader is also challenged to keep learning him or herself.

4. Leaders maintain an optimistic outlook. When people bring their challenges and ideas forward, it’s easy to be cynical and pessimistic as a leader. After all, many leaders operate on the basis that they are mainly there to maintain the stability of the current order (with the past representing secure knowledge and the future representing insecure risk). However, the best leaders are optimistic about the future when people in the team bring their ideas. In other words, they always try to look enthusiastically for enabling strategies, possibilities and solutions when the team presents challenges and ideas for change.

5. Leaders are disciplined and perseverant.  Many expert authors on the subject write about leadership as a set of “soft” skills that are often important in the mix but miss the more tangible and “harder” and less fashionable to mention skills of discipline and perseverance. The dictionary defines discipline as “the practice of training people to obey rules or a code of behavior”. In the context of leadership this means ensuring that people understand why goals exist and how things get done best in the organization (and being a disciplined role model to others, especially when it comes to the need to focus on the detail and follow-through). As part of that perseverance it is then also important to role-model, so that team-members can adopt the same approach on tasks and projects that they undertake.

6. Leaders manage their stress and energy.  Good leadership is about finding a balance between too much and too little happening in workload (both for the leader and the team). When the pressure is on, a leader therefore needs to “ramp activity levels up” in a sensible way to get tasks done and deadlines achieved (and operate at higher energy levels) but when things are quieter or less is happening at once, a good leader paces things and finds ways to rest and replenish.  The second of these is much harder for most leaders as it needs the discipline and perseverance described above to find adequate rest and reflection on a regular basis.

The above is not meant to be a definitive or complete list of what good leaders need to “be” in order to be more successful. However, it is a good start in looking to be more effective in general.

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About Dr. Jon Warner

Dr. Jon Warner is a prolific author, management consultant and executive coach with over 25 years experience. He has an MBA and a PhD in Organizational Psychology. Jon can be reached at

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About the Editor and Primary Author

Jon Warner

Jon Warner is an executive coach and management consultant and in the past has been a CEO in three very different companies. Read more

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