Am I the most effective leader I can be? Is my organization well led? Do I always have to be present for my organization to get the job done? These are questions that every leader should be asking himself. The truly honest answers may not always be pleasant.
For smaller to medium sized organizations/departments that are part of a larger enterprise, my three key indicators of effective leadership will enable a leader to determine if he is being effective. For the senior leaders of large enterprises, such as Fortune 500 companies, more indicators, such as increasing shareholder wealth, would be needed to assess effective leadership. However, large enterprises should use these three indicators to measure the effectiveness of their junior to middle level leadership. All three must be present to indicate truly effective leadership.
The first indicator is Proficiency which I define as the "the organization knows the job thoroughly and does it well." Proficiency is a result of both individual and group training. All organizations know that individuals must be trained, but individual training should be tailored to improving the organization's effectiveness. An individual's training must contribute positively to the organization.
Additionally, in my book, Small Unit Leadership, I advocate group training whenever possible, even as a conference room exercise if necessary. Athletic teams and military units use individual training to get to a common language/understanding and they then train as a team for maximum effectiveness. Why can't other organizations? It might require some creativity, but that's not a bad thing.
Also, a leader must never assume proficiency. Train as necessary, but always inspect for proficiency. Many potentially great leaders never moved forward in their careers because they failed to exercise one of my principles, "Inspect what you expect." This includes inspecting for proficiency.
My second indicator of effective leadership is Organizational Discipline, which I define as "In the absence of the leader or key personnel, the organization executes well and initiates appropriate action." Many leaders believe that to be effective, they must be present nearly all the time. They believe that when they take vacation that their organization will struggle without them. However, when a truly effective leader takes vacation, his organization can run for a period of time without his physical presence. This is because he has set clear standards and expectations and has ingrained a sense of responsibility in his people. His people understand what has to be done and they go about doing it without him being physically present. This is a truly effective leader.
Clearly understood standards and expectations are key. Without them, an organization will only do what it is told to do on a recurring basis. With no one physically there to tell them what to do, it will flounder. An effective leader sets clear standards and expectations allowing a well-trained organization to function effectively during his occasional absence.
I've frequently heard workers say "We work better without the boss; he only gets in the way." However, the truth is the vast majority of workers want their leader to succeed and be effective. Part of that success is your organization being able to survive your occasional absence without a drop-off in effectiveness. A department with organizational discipline succeeds despite the occasional absence of its leader. Additionally, your boss should notice the well-trained, disciplined team that you have developed when you are away.
My third indicator of effective leadership is High Morale, defined as "Employees exhibit a positive state of mind; they are proud to be part of the organization."
High morale indicates that proficiency and organizational discipline are well received, indeed, expected by the people in the organization. Organizations can have proficiency and organizational discipline without high morale, but the proficiency and organizational discipline will come from fear or another negative leadership trait. Experience tells me that negative leadership works for only short periods of time.
Conversely, for a time, there can be high morale in an organization without proficiency and organizational discipline. However, a lack of proficiency and organizational discipline will eventually lead to chaos, never allowing the organization to reach its goals and objectives.
High morale by itself will not allow an organization to attain its goals. However, it will confirm that, if the organization is meeting its standards and expectations, then the leader is using positive, forceful leadership.