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5 Steps for Outstanding Leadership You Can Take — Right Now

Learning or experiencing leadership can be daunting. Every day a myriad of new theories and articles appear on what leadership skills a manager should exhibit, or what key phases or words a leader should use to motivate a team, or how better understanding strategies of a long-dead samurai warriors can help make you an exceptional leader.

I am certain that there is a bit of truth in all the theories and experiences people have had and share as a leader. And I believe that greater knowledge and more experience makes us all more ‘in-tune’ with real leadership.

But covering the entire gambit on leadership is a real challenge.

For example, if you Google the word “leadership,” 149,000,000 results appear in 4.5 seconds. If you focus just on “leadership qualities” the list narrows to only 39,000,000 (if we spent just one second viewing each result, it would take 451 days to get thought the entire list.). Amazon boosts 114,821 books that include the word “leadership” as part of the title. “Leadership Qualities” books number at 33,031. Reading just a fraction of the titles from either list would take multiple lifetimes.

Having studied leadership and having run a number of organizations, I would submit that outstanding leadership could be achieved by following five steps below. They have worked exceptionally well for me and I offer them to you.

Focusing on each will make you, your team, and your organization more effective and efficient. Implementing all five will make you an outstanding leader:

1. Make sure your mission is clear and straight forward

Does your program or initiative have a clear mission? Can someone entirely unfamiliar with your enterprise know exactly what you are trying to accomplish? If the mission does not exist, or is too general (and therefore not achievable) or is written in bureaucratic mumbo-jumbo it needs to be focused and become clear. Otherwise you are doing little to obtain results and are not demonstrating financial stewardship.

Having a clear mission ensures everyone in the enterprise is more focused on what is to be done and how it is to be achieved.

2. Set clear expectations for your team

Everyone expects you to set expectations. Too many enterprises have an orientation that outlines traditional human resource issues: days worked, holidays, pay scales, etc. In practice, few have a culture where individuals know what is expected of them and how their contribution fits into the greater mission. Each team member needs to be given (and explained) specific expectations on their performance. If you have an organization with supervisors, each of them should explain their expectations to the rest of the organization so all enterprise team members know what is expected of those with greater responsibility (it also ensures they take it seriously as well). We would hold a full staff meeting and have the CEO and Senior VPs each presents what was expected of them for the year. It was a great use of time and sent a message to the entire organization of what was to be done.

3. Treat your team like you would want to be treated

Personality fit is important in keeping outstanding people. Bottom line: treat people like you want to be treated. Be the servant leader who exemplifies honesty, directness, compassion, and civility. Those who are negative to the mission or enterprise, senior leadership and fellow team members should be shown the door. Negative individuals drag down your top performers. Your culture reflects the composite sum of the individuals working for the enterprise.

4. Use easy understand metrics to measure performance

Measuring the performance of others is difficult. Having individual performance measurable does not make reviews personal. It makes them the most subjective possible. In fact, metrics for measurement performance begin during the conversation of expectations. It will take some time to create expectations and performance measurements for every team member but superior productivity results. Those being measured can also see qualitative results for the over 3,000 hours of their time they have contributed to the success of the organization.

5. Base compensation on performance results

Compensation issues can be disruptive if there is a perception of their being allotted in an unfair way. This is fundamentally why all compensation needs to be based on results. As enterprises grow, or just through inertia, compensation is constantly being pulled in the direction of just showing up. “I showed up for a job for which I was paid, so I believe I should receive a bonus,” becomes the dangerous talk of team members. No, organizations can only truly be effective and efficient if all compensation is based upon results. Peter Drucker, the man who coined the phrase, “management by objectives,” and revolutionized business management, said that focus on results was fundamental to good organizations. Paying for results minimizes jealously, suspicion, and many other performance problems that all come from any other way to see compensation.

If you are like me, you will continue to Google “Leadership” and “Leadership Qualities” read all the articles, commentaries, and watch the video experiences of others. You, too, will probably be searching Amazon later today for another great book on some aspect of leadership. But while you are continuing to learn, getting these five steps right now will make you an exceptional leader.

David Rehr is part of the GovLoop Featured Blogger program, where we feature blog posts by government voices from all across the country (and world!). To see more Featured Blogger posts, click here.

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