Blog · Oct 20, 2015

Leadership Development – How to Build your A-Team

Leadership – what’s required?

What is it that allows some teams to be more than the sum of their parts, while some teams of experienced high-performers struggle to reach their potential? In some cases, the cause could be the quality of the leadership that the team enjoys. High quality leadership can be particularly important when you’re leading a less experienced or able team.

Harvard Business Review recently published an article examining the leadership qualities that enabled the Greek football team to overcome odds of 150/1 against and lift the European Championship trophy in 2004. What leadership qualities did they possess that teams like France and Portugal, with substantially better odds of winning, did not?

In this article, we’ll examine leadership development strategies that can improve leadership skills, and look at how you can drive a team of B-Players to outperform their more experienced counterparts.

The psychological skills you require

The research by Harvard Business Review suggested that there are a number of key leadership qualities, common to good leaders, that inspire confidence from the people they lead. Effective leaders can have a wide variety of styles, but there are a number of common traits and characteristics that they all share. According to the Harvard Business Review article, the three most important are:

  • Better judgement than their counterparts
  • An ability to avoid repeating the same mistakes
  • Very high levels of ambition and a desire to succeed

Key to developing these skills is an ability to focus on what’s important. If you can’t recognise your mistakes and learn from them, you may be doomed to repeat them. Similarly, your judgement can only improve if you’re able to recognise the tasks that are really important to achieving a goal, and then steer your team and yourself to focus on them. This type of clear, focused direction is one of the qualities that sets A-grade leaders apart from their B-grade counterparts, in the opinion of HBR.

Are you using these tactics?

The same article outlines four tactics that strong leaders use to improve their team’s performance. The four qualities mentioned are.

Analytics – using data to make better decisions. Good data can cut through the biases of internal politics and squabbles and allow you to make high quality, focused decisions that drive the best performance.

Feedback – listening to the people you manage and improving your leadership based on their feedback is a key part of leadership development. Used correctly, this sort of feedback can improve performance by as much as 25%.

Morale – One of the three Will It Make The Boat Go Faster? principles is that Nobody Does it Alone. A team that shares a set of common goals, principles and ways of working is far more likely to succeed than one that does not. Do the leader and the team share the same goal? If this is not the case, the chances of both morale and performance dropping as a consequence is far higher.

Vision – It may sound obvious, but a leader must have a vision that inspires other people to follow them. This vision should inspire everyone in the team. Can each of the team members answer the question ‘what’s in it for me?’.

Your leadership style

One of the first steps in leadership development is understanding the strengths, and shortcomings, of your current leadership style. Executive coaching could be worth considering too help you on this path, but as a starting point, take time to talk to the people you lead and listen to their feedback. Does your current leadership style allow for that type of communication?

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