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Effective leadership: it's not about winning friends

Today, successful businesses harness leadership qualities within all their employees. They create a team of leaders and build a culture that values experimentation, collaboration and problem solving. 

These businesses have higher productivity and better customer service, are more innovative, and are ultimately healthier and more competitive.

Australia needs more effective leadership

Developing your team to be leaders empowers them to take ownership, show initiative, and be more engaged in helping the business succeed.

However, according to a recent survey by The Centre for Workplace Leadership, University of Melbourne, employee perceptions of management and leadership in Australian workplaces reveal concerning insights. A staggering 75% of employees, and the majority of younger people surveyed, reported Australian workplaces need better managers and leaders.

According to The Conversation many Australian managers are seriously underqualified for their job. They cite Australian Bureau of Statistics data on the qualifications of different occupation groups showing that fewer managers have post-school qualifications than the unskilled and semi-skilled workers they manage. This gap is particularly acute among small and medium-sized businesses.

A 2014 paper published by the University of Melbourne’s Faculty of Business and Economics, Australian workplaces need much better leaders, reveals survey evidence that many managers and leaders lack critical technical and people skills. 

Significantly lacking is an inability to develop a strategic perspective that allows the business to read disruptive changes in markets, identify new opportunities and adapt. This in turn affects productivity, innovation capabilities, ability to drive continuous improvement, and effectively manage change or people.

These challenges are most acutely felt in small-to-medium organisations.

A business owner standing at a door displaying effective leadership

Make leadership part of your business DNA

With advancing technologies and shifting consumer behaviours, businesses need great leaders who are prepared to innovate as a matter of survival. For clever businesses, it’s also the path to a competitive advantage and new revenue streams.

Here are some best practice guidelines to build this leadership culture

1.   Create an organisational culture of continuous improvement

This is a great way to get new ideas flowing. Having a company culture that values new ideas and collaboration allows you to develop new processes and services that are one step ahead of competitors.

Ensure you:

  • Have a defined process and measurable outcomes with participating team members held accountable for progress.

  • Monitor the progress of new projects and collaborate on their development and implementation.

2.   Experiment and trial new ideas immediately

Don’t allow ideas to get trapped in the business analysis phase. You’ll learn more quickly about what works and can improve the quality and return from your innovation when you set things in motion immediately, which is one key to entrepreneurial success.

3.   Encourage initiative and the sharing of ideas

The best leaders foster innovative cultures by making collaboration, problem solving and risk-taking part of the organisation’s DNA. Your decisions and behaviours should allow for, and encourage, new ideas from anyone in the company. 

4.   Seek feedback and suggestions

Great leadership practices include seeking useful feedback and suggestions from others in the business – only toxic cultures will shun feedback from those throughout the company. 

Conferences and events are great opportunities to share innovative ideas, as are online discussion groups and email distribution lists.

5.   Consider hiring a marketing agency to promote ideas to industry decision makers and leaders

Marketing agencies often have large networks and resources to spread your innovative ideas and seek feedback.

Achieve the extraordinary

No business will succeed without embracing strong leadership. In turn, leaders must master the art of teamwork, which is integral to achieving company goals and paramount to building the culture required to innovate and reach the extraordinary.

Strong business leadership and culture resonates throughout an organisation. It forms a natural part of the business culture. Employees feel they’re an important part of the business and willingly provide input into achieving the business’ vision and goals. This is reflected with high morale, good employee retention, and sustainable long-term success.

Many CEOs leave innovation and creative ideas to their managers. However, managers tend to be focused on operating efficiency and find the task of developing fresh concepts too disruptive. The natural champion of innovation is the CEO as they set the tone and direction for the business.

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