It is time for all leaders to do a reality check

It is time for all leaders to do a reality check

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Just as the wicked step-mother in Cinderella gazed into the mirror expecting that the mirror would recite her name, many leaders look into the mirror expecting to hear how great they are. But the mirror on the wall does not lie. 

In the case of leaders, the mirror on the wall is really the employees.  And when they were asked how effective their leaders are, the results were shocking to most leaders as they rate themselves 12 per cent higher than their direct reports do. It is very dangerous and mis-leading for managers and leaders to have a misconception about their work in leading. 

Unfortunately, many leaders stop taking a daily or even a monthly look to review their leadership effectiveness and they only remember exaggerated and fantasised photos of their greatest moments as a leader. No matter what a leader thinks of him/her, their followers see and know the real story - so much so that their engagement and performance is impacted by it. 

To find out how effective you are as a leader, you need to stop relying on press clippings, selective memories, the rare legendary story and the flattery pats on the back from employees. Instead you need to have a clear definition of what manager/leadership effectiveness is and continually measure yourself against it.

Definition of a leader

So to begin with, let’s agree to a clear definition of manager/leader effectiveness so you can get an accurate picture in your mind as to how effective you are.  Effectiveness as a manager/ leader can be summarised as one’s ability to inspire or motivate their direct reports towards increased performance, to carry out people management, i.e. developing employees abilities, aligning them with challenging and interesting work, to manage the work, i.e. set priorities and expectations, monitor and assess contributions, and give feedback, be trusted by direct reports and to perform or in other words to deliver the results that the organisation is looking for from your team. Now that you have a clear picture of what manager/leader effectiveness is, it is time to do the work of the mirror and reveal how good you are. There are numerous approaches you can take to measure you effectiveness, but I will just highlight three of them. Rate your effectiveness on daily activity - to do this, you should have a statement that describes each of the areas that you want to measure.
 
An example based upon the above definition of manager/leader effectiveness is below: Rate yourself on a scale of 1-5 on the following items:

Inspiration: I inspire my direct reports to perform at their best.

People Management: As a manager/leader I do a good job at ‘people management’ that is, developing others abilities for success.

Work Management: As a manager/leader I do a good job at ‘managing the work’, that is, making appropriate work assignments, setting priorities, monitoring progress, and giving feedback.

Trust:  My direct reports trust me to keep my commitments.

Performance: Through my team, I deliver the results that my organisation is looking for.

Describe your effectiveness on weekly activity - this is a very powerful exercise that forces you to state an actual example of how you lived out each of the five parts of manager/leader effectiveness.  At the end of each week, you should look back and restate an example of being an effective leader.

Effective rating

Validate your effectiveness on a monthly basis - for many leaders and managers this is the most difficult and threatening part of assessing your leadership effectiveness as it make the assessment public. To validate your effectiveness you should talk to five different people comprising of direct reports, peers and your boss asking them to rate your effectiveness based upon the criteria mentioned above and encourage them to qualify their rating by sharing actual examples from your leadership.  Once you have completed the self-assessment, you should ask yourself, what you should do to improve in each area.  It is one thing to rate your effectiveness, but only the best of leaders work to get better. Leadership and management is like any art and/or skill and it only improves with practice. Therefore, it is vital for a leader to identify specific areas for improvement. Personally, I recommend that leaders select one area of improvement to focus on each month. I have found if they try to focus on more than one topic per month, they will not do anything as they get paralysed.

So, let’s pause and do a quick exercise. Rate yourself based upon point one from above...once you have finished, I want you to think through what is one thing you can do to improve your effectiveness as a leader/manager. Now, focus on that over the next month.

In conclusion, it is imperative you take time for self-reflection and assessment if you want to achieve greatness as a leader. As you peer into the mirror on the wall and ask who is the greatest leader, your self-assessment needs to be honest, comprehensive and based upon pre-determined criteria.

(The writer is VP of Leadership Solutions, Kenexa)

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