by Paul Casey

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How to Know if You are an Effective Leader

Business people rating leadership effectiveness

December 16, 2021 | Originally posted on September 2, 2019

Your company has met its goals for the year and your team is firing on all cylinders. It feels like you are an effective leader – and that’s a wonderful feeling. But do you really know if your leadership is making a difference? What specific attributes does an effective leader possess? How can you tell if the results you are getting are due to your leadership or just your management skills?

If you wonder about how effective you are as a leader, you are not alone. Leadership has lots of moving parts. It can be challenging for even the most seasoned leaders to gauge how well they are hitting the mark. You deserve to understand the aspects of effective leadership. That way, you can be your best – for yourself and your team.

With a little time for self-reflection and a set of measuring sticks, you will be able to truly gauge if you are an effective leader. As a result, you may discover areas you want to improve in, and you’ll be equipped to take your leadership to the next level.

Begin with the End in Mind

Before you pull out the measuring sticks, begin with the end in mind. By that I mean make sure you have a solid grasp on where you are going. I call this figuring out your two big O’s:

Your Objectives–what you want to accomplish

The Outcomes–what you want to see happen in the lives of your constituents.

Once you’ve identified your objectives and outcomes, you can begin to assess how well your leadership is moving you and your team toward them.

Take some time either during a personal retreat or by carving out an hour or two during your day to evaluate each of the following attributes. You might even come up with a grading scale (A to F or 1 to 10) to help you gauge how well you are performing in each area.

Measuring Sticks to Gauge the Effectiveness of Your Leadership

You have a personal growth plan.

Your business and your team can only grow as high as you have grown yourself. You must prioritize your own personal and professional development throughout the year in order to keep leading well. Your growth plan might include hiring a leadership coach or finding a mentor. You can also read about what it takes to be a great leader. Seminars are another great source of information and provide a chance to be around others who are on the growth path.

You are actively training up another leader to replace you.

No success without a successor. While it may not seem like a top priority when viewed with all the other tasks coming at you every week, it is critical to your business’s longevity and your sanity, too! Every leadership position in your company needs a succession plan, starting with you. It doesn’t matter when you intend to leave the business and move on to something else, be it next year or in twenty years. For tips on how to set up a succession plan for any position, read 22 Ways to Develop a Leader on Your Team”.

You are actively training your leadership team on fulfillment of objectives and pursuit of outcomes.

Your team wants challenges that are a bit of a stretch but within their wheelhouse of strengths. Equip them with the training to boost their skills to rise to these challenges that are a bit outside their comfort zone but inside the delusional zone. Cross-train to make them more versatile to the team/organization. The team is clear on expectations and roles. The team keeps each other accountable for proper priorities and life-margin, and plays together.

You regularly connect with your boss for communication, encouragement, problem-solving, feedback and to receive the organization’s vision.

This is a proactive move. It shows that you are not only invested in the company, your work, and your performance, but it shows that you are invested in your own personal growth. Make these meetings consistent and frequent. That way you (and your boss) won’t have to block out huge chunks of time. As an additional benefit you can collect the feedback you receive and use it for your next performance review.

You have clearly defined goals to take your department to the next level, in alignment with the organization’s mission, vision, and thematic goal for the year/quarter.

You also communicate these goals to your staff so that everyone is on the same page. Goals help keep the “why” alive and give your team purpose and energy. Regular check-ins on goals gives you an opportunity to engage team members, measure progress, and make adjustments if needed.

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You have budgeted accurately for fulfillment of your department’s goals and monitor line items carefully.

As a leader you oversee many different aspects of your department. The financial aspects of your area of responsibility shouldn’t get overshadowed by the time you spend on managing people. Accurately budgeting and monitoring throughout the year are signs that you are an engaged leader; you know what is needed and when things get off track you can investigate or adjust.

You regularly communicate with your team in person and using various media.

Meet with your team the same way I recommend meeting with your boss. Your direct reports need the same “face time”, feedback, encouragement and problem-solving that you do. Depending on the size and location of your team, these touch-base meetings could be in person, an online meeting or even by email. When schedules are tight, a mix of in person and email updates is enough to keep staff feeling connected.

You stretch and take risks every year, trying new ways of achieving goals, as to not get in ruts.

Growth does not happen in the comfort zone! Take a look around you and find an area you can take on more responsibility, start a project or lead a task-force. Once you stretch and succeed you will feel more confident and better equipped to lead. This isn’t just an activity for the office. Stretch yourself in your personal life too.

 “Whatever the status quo is, changing it gives you the opportunity to be remarkable.”

– Seth Godin

You evaluate every activity as to how it can reach the objectives and outcomes even better.

No plateaus. Anything worth doing is worth evaluating. Following a project or completion of an activity, set aside time to do a debrief or conduct a “post-mortem” with the team. Use a rating scale of 1-10 to evaluate things such as how well the team worked together, did milestones get met, did the project stay on or under budget?

Your team feels cared for by the attention, recognition, and obstacle-removing you provide.

Most workers look to their immediate boss for some measure of feedback and inspiration to keep going every day. Praise doesn’t cost your bottom line anything, and the payoff is great to that bottom line if you retain good people. For more ideas on getting this outcome, read my blog post How to Make Your Team Happier.

Conclusion

When you invest in yourself by taking time to reflect on how well you are performing in each of these areas, you give yourself the gift of confidence and self-awareness. It will also help you determine if you are an effective leader. This activity will show you where you are nailing it and where you might need to increase your efforts or ask for guidance. This is just a partial list. You may have some of your own metrics that you want to include. If you do, I’d love to hear what you would add to this list – for the benefit of the leadership community. Shoot me an email.

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