The idea of what makes a great leader has changed enormously in the last 20 years, and there has been a huge shift in the style of leadership that gets the most effective results.
At Elevate Talent, the work we do helping to promote leadership skills within organisations has allowed us a unique opportunity to explore what exactly this shift is and where it comes from.
We came to the conclusion that it is the priorities of leadership that have changed.
What are the traits of great leadership?
Conscious leadership, as we’ll explore in our upcoming Elevate virtual session, is about having the self-awareness to know what traits, habits, and behaviours we display, how they affect those around us, and their impact on our ability to lead.
Twenty plus years ago, when asked what traits great leaders embody, people might have been more likely to offer descriptions such as:
- Strong negotiating skills
Today, however, it seems people have different priorities when it comes to leadership. In fact, at a recent event, we asked a group of people to rank leadership traits in order of importance.
The most common traits that people mentioned were:
- Strong ethics
Now, it isn’t to say that the traits on the former list don’t still have their place in great leadership. Of course they do. But the focus has changed and new elements are being prioritised.
Twenty-five years ago we’d have been very unlikely to hear the word ‘empathetic’ connected with strong leadership. But values are changing, and in order to leverage our full leadership potential, we need to get on board.
The two main types of leaders
We have identified two main types of leaders:
This type of leader focuses on the people. For example, if a deadline was looming, this type of leader would focus on how best their team could be managed to get the task done. Perhaps the leader would jump in and help, or request a deadline extension from the client. However, this type of leader would not put pressure on the people in their team.
A task-oriented leader will focus on the project at hand. In the case of a looming deadline, they are more likely to encourage their team to stay late until the job is done. Getting a job done – and done well – is their top priority.
If we want to be a strong leader, we must be able to have one foot on either side of the line. We need to know when to be task-oriented and when to be people-oriented. The good news is, practising conscious leadership allows us to identify which behavioural types we naturally exhibit, and set a plan to increase our skills in other areas.
Doing so promotes trust in our leadership abilities. For example, a people-oriented leader who puts time and effort into their relationships with team members will have built a basis of trust. When a time comes that requires absolute focus on a task or project, the team trusts that their leader has their best interests at heart, even when they’re putting on extra pressure.
A balanced perspective
When considering why this shift in leadership over the last 20 plus years has occurred, it’s helpful to break it down.
What day to day responsibilities does a leader have?
We identified two main components:
- To be able to successfully manage the day-to-day running of the business
- To be prepared and ready for the future
A great leader has to strike a balance.
They can’t be solely focused on the day to day without thinking and planning ahead, but it’s also important they remain present and engaged. By the same token, they can’t spend all their time planning for the future because the day-to-day running of the business would be overlooked.
Striking the balance
In much the same way, leaders must also strike a balance between the traits they display. Confident yet humble, strong yet vulnerable – it’s all quite contradictory!
In our upcoming Finding Your EPIC Conscious Leadership session, we are going to be investigating three contradictory leadership styles.
Whilst we all have preferences and natural tendencies, these should not limit us, dictate our leadership style, or provide us with excuses. The good news is that it’s easier than we realise to strike a balance between what comes naturally and what we need to work on.
For more information on how you can overcome the contradictions of leadership and strike the perfect balance, have a look at more Elevate resources here. To be kept up to date with news and articles, follow us on LinkedIn – we’ll notify you every time a new blog goes live.