The Five Key Facets of Quality Leadership
By: Brian Ward
|Brian Ward is a principal in Affinity Consulting. He helps leaders, teams and individuals acquire new knowledge and wisdom through their consulting and educational work. He can be reached at t firstname.lastname@example.org.
Many people in leadership positions struggle with understanding what makes
a great leader. While billions of dollars are spent annually on leadership
development, quality leadership is still in short supply. For example,
the move towards total quality has inspired many organizations to take
a long, hard look at building their leadership capacity. Quality management
systems such as Baldrige, ISO 9000, European Foundation for Quality and
the Canadian National Quality Institute all demand an emphasis on quality
Organizations have responded to this with myriads of education and training
resources, which seem to be plentiful, (Amazon.com has over 9,000 references
on leadership.), yet most attempts at building quality leadership are either
far too complex or too simplistic to be of any practical use to leaders
who need to make things happen.
So what does work?
|In working with leaders we have isolated five key characteristics that
successful leaders demonstrate. These work extremely well whether the emphasis
is on 'quality' or some other approach to building and sustaining a customer
focused, team based organization that pays as much attention to results
as it does to process.
||We have found these five facets to be of such immense practical value that
we wrote a book on them. These characteristics are described in detail
in our e-book "Lead People...Manage Things" - we refer to them as The Five Key Facets of Quality Leadership, embodied
in a model which we labeled The FACET Leadership Model™
Here are the five key facets of quality leadership:
Focus - Authenticity - Courage - Empathy - Timing
Effective leaders stay focused on the outcomes they wish to create, and
don’t get too married to the methods used to achieve them. They provide
this 'outcomes focus' for their organization by emphasizing the mission,
vision, values and strategic goals of their organization and at the same
time building the capacity of their organizations to achieve them. This
capacity building emphasizes the need to be flexible, creative and innovative
and avoid becoming fossilized through the adoption of bureaucratic structures,
policies and processes.
Leaders who are authentic attract followers, even leaders who are viewed
as being highly driven and difficult to work for. Simply put, they are
viewed as always being themselves…and therefore followers know what to
expect from them and can rely on them, come thick or thin. Authenticity
provides the leader with the currency to obtain 'buy-in' from key stakeholders,
because it builds and maintains trust. Authenticity is the bedrock upon
which the other facets are built.
The challenges facing leaders today are immense, and require great courage
to overcome. Leaders are constantly being challenged by others, be it their
own team, customers, the public or other stakeholders. Standing firm in
the face of criticism, yet having the courage to admit when they are wrong,
are hallmarks of courageous leaders. For example, shifting an organization
from being introspective to becoming customer focused requires courage
when people pay lip service to the new direction...it means calling people
on their bluff.
Effective leaders know how to listen empathetically…thus legitimizing others’
input. By doing so, they promote consensus building, and build strong teams.
They coach others to do the same, and so create a culture of inclusiveness.
They tend to be great listeners who capitalize on the ideas of others,
and provide recognition for these ideas, yet they don't get bogged down
in overly complicated dialogue. While they create learning organizations
that place a high value on dialogue and continuous feedback, they know
when to take action, when to 'fish or cut bait', which brings us on to
the final facet...
The one facet that can make or break a leader is in knowing when to make
critical decisions and when not to. All of the other facets must be viewed
as subservient to getting the timing of critical decisions right. There
is a need to be focused, authentic, courageous and empathetic, but get
the timing wrong on critical decisions and everything else stands to be
nullified. Great leaders move with appropriate speed. They don't believe
that everything must be done immediately...they know how to prioritize,
and how to get their team to prioritize. As well, they engage in timely
follow-through to ensure actions that are committed to happen in a well
coordinated and timely way.
Is that all it takes to be a great leader?
These facets of quality leadership are not exhaustive. Just as one would
look at the facets of a diamond, upon closer observation other facets become
observable. Any person can aspire to being a great leader by commencing
with these facets. If you are in a leadership role, regardless of your
position in your organization, start by asking yourself the following key
- How focused am I? How much of my time do I spend communicating and inspiring
people about our mission, vision and strategic goals? How much focus do
I create in my organization? How married am I/my organization to methods
that have outlived their usefulness?
Am I viewed as authentic? Do people see and hear the real me? Do I wear
a mask at work, and remove it when I leave each evening?
How courageous am I when my values, vision and goals are challenged? Do
I stand firm and only change my position when I know that I am wrong?
How empathetic am I? Too much/too little? Do I create enough opportunities
for open and candid dialogue? Do I ever find myself getting bogged down
in consensus building, or achieving false consensus? Is there a feeling
of inclusiveness amongst the members of my organization, and with other
stakeholders, including customers?
Do I make and execute decisions in a timely fashion? Do I know when to
'fish or cut bait?' - do I demand well coordinated and timely execution
of strategy from others?
What can you do to create a quality leadership culture?
Asking these questions in a candid way will open up many possibilities
for you, your organization or your clients...if you have the courage to
Building and sustaining a quality leadership culture takes time, patience
and a clear focus on the vital few characteristics that leaders can develop
naturally and authentically. Listening to what people expect from you as
a leader, and then responding empathically, in a timely fashion, will move
you dramatically towards mastering these five key facets of quality leadership.
Above all, you need to take action.