Good leadership is simple, but not simplistic.
Too many solutions sound good (simplistic), but ignore the few levers that make a good leader. First, the term leader implies followers. A good leader is ANYONE who has the ability to get others to willingly follow in a desired direction. Good leaders can be found at ALL levels of the organization. For example, If there is a leadership vacuum in any particular function, a subordinate may quietly step up and covertly fill the vacuum -- saving the function in spite of weak supervision and management.
What are the levers? First, a good leader must provide unambiguous and measurable directions ("This is your target for the next hour [day, week, etc.]"). A good leader tells workers what must be produced, by when, and to what standards. Then the leader steps aside and lets work happen (monitoring progress through frequent, but brief, work reviews).
Second, if workers don't know how to produce the desired product to standard, or if monitoring reveals that workers are lagging the expectations, the leader provides coaching ("Here, let me show you how to...") either directly or by delegating the coaching task to a star performer.
Third, if the workers do not have the necessary support (required inputs, raw material, the right tools, access to help when needed, freedom from distractions, frequent feedback on progress, etc.), then the leader will immediately take steps to remove or mitigate these barriers to provide the workers with a supportive environment.
If that is not possible, then a good leader will modify the expectations to make them reasonable given the barriers. If that is not possible, then a good leader, supported by good leaders higher in the organization, will consider aborting the project.
It takes guts to do that; It also takes brains to realize that such action will preserve important corporate resources for projects that are more likely to be successful. And, it takes skill to get others to come to the same conclusion -- in a good company, early warning is rewarded and data driven decision making is SOP.
And, fourth, a good leader provides positive leadership. Positive leadership strives to catch people doing the right thing and freely expresses approval and appreciation. You must be sincere in (as Dale Carnegie would say) in your praise and approbation -- workers can identify false praise faster than the lie can be pronounced... and the liar will be resented for it.
Clear expectations, coaching, frequent feedback, and a supporting environment will get most employees to do what you want the first time -- and perhaps for a few more times after that. But, what sustains desired performance is consequences.
Consequences are that which happens to the employees when they do as you expect -- or don't do as you expect. A positive leader provides LOTS of positive consequences (pats on the back, attaboys, privileges, etc.) for desired performance. And, they look for barriers EXTERNAL to the employee when they don't get desired performance (see above). They do NOT assume that the employee is malingering, stupid, lazy, or lacking in esprit de corps (see Case Study 1, above).
Finally, there is a skill to providing positive consequences. Sadly, few organizations teach their supervisors, managers, or executives these skills, much less expect it of their employees. Providing positive consequences appropriately isn't difficult or expensive to learn or do. But, if it's not done, then you should not be surprised if your employees are not willingly giving you 100% -- even when you aren't around.
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