People intuitively know the difference between an effective leader and a lousy leader.
Effective leaders inspire and guide with clear communication, empathy, and strategic vision. Meanwhile, lousy leaders may lack communication skills, fail to motivate, and struggle with decision-making.
Despite knowing it when they see it, people often ask, “What makes a good leader?” It is important to note that leadership capability runs along a continuum, less based on time and experience and more on situations encountered. Many newly minted leaders can possess an ideal leader’s traits, and many established leaders can rank very low.
At Karl Bimshas Consulting, we define lousy and ideal leadership in the context of three factors. The current environment, The needs of the times. The consensus of others.
- The Current Environment: A leader’s ability to adapt to and navigate the challenges and opportunities in their surroundings is crucial in determining their effectiveness. This includes factors such as industry trends, market conditions, and the overall context in which the organization operates.
- The Needs of the Times: The current landscape, societal expectations, and technological advancements evolve, and leaders must respond to these changes. A leader who understands and meets current needs is more likely to guide their team or organization successfully.
- The Consensus of Others: Leadership effectiveness is not determined by the leader’s perception of their abilities but by the consensus of others. Feedback, opinions, and perceptions of team members, colleagues, or stakeholders are essential in evaluating leadership. A leader who gains consensus or positive feedback from others is likely to be considered more effective, while a lack of consensus may indicate lousy leadership.
Leaders who align with these three factors are more likely to be effective, while those who neglect them may be perceived as lacking in leadership effectiveness. The approach provides a well-rounded perspective on leadership.
- Adaptability and Responsiveness: Effective leaders must be agile and capable of adjusting their strategies and actions based on evolving circumstances.
- Stakeholder Involvement: Leaders, with the support and agreement of their team members, colleagues, and stakeholders are likelier to create a positive and collaborative work environment.
- Continuous Improvement: Leaders are encouraged to stay attuned to changes, seek feedback, and adjust their leadership approach, promoting ongoing growth and development.
The effectiveness of this approach is context-dependent and requires a balance of adaptability, awareness, and stakeholder engagement.
The Leadership Scorecard captures a snapshot of a leader’s observable skills. From this, we can glean valuable insight for assessing growth opportunities, monitoring development, and determining if the leader is currently worth following.
There are five key leadership traits with a range of options.
- To what degree is the leader empathetic? Do they have little to no empathy, or are they explicitly empathetic?
- To what degree is the leader curious? Do they seek provocation, or do they seek clarification?
- To what degree is the leader situationally aware? Are they tone-deaf, or do they grasp the moment?
- To what degree is the leader educating? Do they supply dogma, or do they provide insight?
- To what degree is the leader stewardship-minded? Are they self-serving, or do they serve others?
This short profile can quickly codify a leader’s current perceived skill levels. As with any candid snapshot, an inferred story emerges; however, no single measure tells the complete story. We all know cropping, lighting, a shift in angle, and filters can dramatically alter any picture. The longer the period of observation and refinement of the five elements, the more reliable the assessment.
Why these five?
- Empathy is the ability to understand and share the feelings of another.
- Curiosity is a desire to know or learn.
- Situationally aware is, in short, being able to “read the room” and act on the feedback.
- Education in this context is the ability to give and receive information or instruction.
- Stewardship is being a fierce guardian, knowing the role is not permanent.
A leader who possesses these qualities can be highly effective in various ways.
- A leader with high empathy can understand and connect with the emotions and needs of team members, creating a positive work environment, enhancing team morale, and promoting collaboration.
- Curiosity drives innovation and continuous improvement. A curious leader seeks new ideas, explores different perspectives, and adapts to changing circumstances. This can lead to creative problem-solving and strategic thinking.
- Awareness of the current situation and the broader context is crucial for effective decision-making. A leader with strong situational awareness makes informed choices and navigates challenges more effectively.
- The ability to educate and communicate effectively is essential for a leader. This helps align team members with the goals, ensures clarity in communication, and facilitates skill development within the team.
- A leader focused on stewardship is concerned with the organization’s and its people’s long-term well-being. This mindset involves responsible and ethical leadership, considering the impact of decisions on the organization’s future.
A leader with these qualities will likely create a positive and inclusive work culture, drive innovation, make well-informed decisions, and contribute to the organization’s long-term success.
Conversely, leaders lacking these qualities will likely face significant challenges in leading and managing a team or organization.
- Lack of empathy can lead to a disconnected and demotivated team. Employees may feel undervalued, leading to low morale, reduced collaboration, and a higher likelihood of conflicts.
- A leader who lacks curiosity may resist change and innovative thinking, resulting in a stagnant work environment, missed opportunities for improvement, and an inability to adapt to evolving market trends.
- Poor situational awareness leads to uninformed decisions, an inability to anticipate challenges, and a higher likelihood of reacting poorly to unexpected situations.
- A leader incapable of educating others struggles to convey expectations, leading to confusion and a lack of clarity within the team.
- A leader not focused on stewardship may prioritize short-term gains over long-term sustainability. This can lead to unethical decision-making, a disregard for the well-being of employees, and a negative impact on the organization’s reputation.
A leader with these characteristics will face challenges in building a positive and productive work environment. The team may experience reduced motivation, higher turnover, and difficulties achieving long-term goals.
Effective leaders must possess balanced qualities promoting empathy, curiosity, awareness, education, and stewardship for sustainable success.
Why this approach?
This Leadership Scorecard approach is more context-driven than traditional leadership assessments focusing on specific traits or competencies. It acknowledges the dynamic nature of leadership. Implementing it in your organization could provide a comprehensive view of a leader’s capabilities as it emphasizes adaptability to different situations and considers essential interpersonal qualities. However, it also depends on how well it aligns with your organization’s values and goals.
Apply this tool in various ways:
- Leadership Development: Identify areas for improvement and tailor development plans for individuals based on their scores.
- Team Building: Understand a leadership team’s collective strengths and weaknesses.
- Feedback Sessions: Incorporate the tool into monthly or quarterly performance discussions for a candid conversation on leadership effectiveness.
- Aid in Succession Planning: Identify potential leaders by evaluating their scores over time and preparing them for leadership roles.
Remember, the effectiveness of the Leadership Scorecard depends on consistent and fair application across contexts. If you need assistance with this or other leadership development and accountability initiatives, reach out, I’m happy to help.