Smart Leadership | Developing effective, value-added leaders

Author Mike Meyer, Portman Partners Managing Director

What are the key characteristics of a smart leader, and how can individuals develop these traits to become effective leaders in their respective fields?

Some key characteristics of a smart leader are vision, strategy and innovation, they are decisive and empathetic ‘playmakers’ adopting a collaborative approach, they are self-aware with the ability to see game changing ideas and possibilities with tangible outcomes with a consistent pursuit for excellence.

Leadership starts with vision! Having an unclouded vision is essential as is the ability to communicate the vision to the team in order to inspire them. The ability to think strategically and plan for the delivery of the vision is equally important.

Smart leaders favour collaboration and do not seek to dominate, they are quite the opposite from ‘command-and-control’ leaders. Their approach is to be involving and inclusive, to facilitate and seek consensus about the ‘what’ as well as the ‘how.’ They do not seek to impose their views but rather to develop a collective view.

Consensus should not be to the detriment of being decisive. The smart leader makes decisions quickly and confidently, even in uncertain situations. They weigh the pros and cons of each option and choose the one that aligns with the business goals.

Being self-aware, knowing your strengths and weaknesses and the ability to delegate and how to get the most out of the team is vital. The objective of any business is the same ultimately – Create original ideas, make sense of the ideas, make them happen, make them brilliant and have everyone work together.

Having the ability to understand the needs, concerns and strengths of the team is fundamental as is the ability to show empathy. Listen actively, provide support when needed and empower people.

To develop these traits and become an effective leader, individuals should seek feedback. Asking for feedback helps to gain insights into your strengths and areas for improvement. Emotional intelligence is critical for effective leadership. Practice active listening, empathy, and self-awareness. Seek out a mentor and/or mentorship opportunities and learn from other successful leaders in your field. Stay relevant by keeping up to date with trends and developments, network, attend conferences and ensure you are informed and knowledgeable.

You must be willing to take risks and practise making decisions in high-pressure situations, and evaluate the outcomes to improve your decision-making skills. Try new approaches and encourage your team members to do the same by creating an environment that values collaboration and teamwork. Encourage open communication and collaboration between team members.

Becoming, and continuing to be a smart leader takes effort, and dedication. By developing these key traits and skills over time, you can become an effective leader in your field.

How can smart leaders balance the needs of their organization with the needs of their employees and stakeholders, and what strategies can they use to maintain this balance over time?

Balancing the needs of an organization with the needs of employees and stakeholders is a critical skill for smart leaders. Here are specific strategies I believe leaders can adopt to maintain this balance long term.

  • Strong relationships with employees and stakeholders are important and building these should be a primary focus. Listen to their concerns and needs and try to understand their perspectives.
  • Maintaining balance is challenging but effective communication aids greatly. Find a method that works for you, employees and stakeholders and then communicate regularly and clearly to ensure that everyone is aligned.
  • Make sure everyone is on the same page and pulling in the same direction by setting clear expectations for your employees and stakeholders. Establish goals and objectives and communicate the metrics by which success will be measured.
  • Share information openly and encourage employees and stakeholders to do the same thereby creating and fostering a culture of transparency and honesty.
  • Prioritize employee development and growth. Provide training and development opportunities, and then encourage employees to take on new challenges and responsibilities. “Train people well enough so they can leave, treat them well enough so they don’t want to” – Sir Richard Branson.
  • Create an environment where everyone feels valued and included. Build a diverse and inclusive workplace that values and respects differences. Diversity of religion, ethnicity, race, gender, and social and ethnic backgrounds leads to increased productivity. Diverse workplaces allow for more original ideas and bespoke processes. Diversity of talent ensures a broader range of skills, diversity of experiences and perspectives which improves the potential for increased productivity.
  • Encourage employees and stakeholders to take ownership of their work and to contribute to the success of the organization.
  • Conflict is both soul and business destroying. It is the enemy of creativity and productivity. You have to manage conflicts proactively by addressing them early on before they escalate. Work hard to find solutions that meet the needs of all parties involved.

Balancing the needs of an organization with the needs of employees and stakeholders requires dedication, finesse, thoughtfulness, and energic approach. By building strong relationships, communicating effectively, and prioritizing employee development and growth, smart leaders can steadily maintain this balance.

In what ways can smart leaders leverage technology and data to make more informed decisions, improve organizational performance, and create value for their customers and stakeholders?

Technology and Data, it’s all around us and it’s easy to feel overwhelmed and swamped with too much information, or too many choice when adopting new innovation technologies but the principles are the same for any business decision. Does the technology and data help us make more informed decisions, improve organizational performance, and create value for our customers and stakeholders? Smart leaders can leverage technology and data in several ways:

  • Data and analytics can and should inform your decision-making processes. Gather and analyse data from various sources, such as customer feedback, market trends, and internal operations, to make informed decisions.
  • Automate routine tasks and processes using technology, freeing up time for more strategic work. This will improve efficiency and reduce errors. I am not saying replace the humans!
  • Using predictive analytics to forecast future trends and find potential opportunities and risks is smart. This can help make decisions and keep you ahead of the competition.
  • You can use GDPR compliant technology to gather and analyse customer data, such as performance scores, site preferences, ideal behaviours, to better understand their needs and preferences. This can help you customise your products and services to ensure you meet your  customers’ needs.
  • Using collaboration technology and tools such as Zoom, Microsoft Teams or WhatsApp to facilitate communication and participation among team members, regardless of their location especially in today’s post covid work from home. Businesses know that employees are happier, more productive, and more loyal when they are afforded the opportunity to work from home, work remotely or have flexible work hours. Smart leaders use these and keep everyone active and involved.
  • Utilise business tools that help you re-think how you identify and nurture key talent and how people at all levels within your business make their best impact.  Make use of the technology and data, which is at your fingertips, that can empower you and your organisation to drive performance and achieve innovation by creating game-changing teams and cultures.
  • Digital marketing is a game changer. You should absolutely leverage technology to develop and implement digital marketing strategies, such Search Engine Optimization, Pay-per-Click, Social Media Marketing, Content Marketing, Email Marketing, Mobile Marketing, Marketing Analytics and Affiliate Marketing. This can help you reach a wider audience and improve brand awareness.
  • The cyber threat is real and to help build trust with customers and stakeholders and ensure the continuity of your operations you should invest in cybersecurity to protect your organization’s data and systems from cyber threats. The penalties for inaction are hefty.

The long and short of it is be informed, leverage technology and data to help make more informed decisions, improve organizational performance, and create value for customers and stakeholders. By staying up-to-date with the latest trends and technologies, and investing in the right tools and resources, you can stay ahead of the competition and achieve your vision.

Originally published in InterGlobix Magazine. Read the article here!

About the Autor:

Mike Meyer is the Managing Director at Portman Partners. He brings with him over 27 years of direct hands-on experience across Digital Infrastructure, Data Center, IT, and Telecoms businesses prior to moving into Executive Search.  As a seasoned director, founder, and entrepreneur, Meyer has an established leadership track record having structured, restructured and built successful and cohesive teams globally.

Through his career in the United Kingdom, Europe, South Africa and Africa he has developed in-depth knowledge of diverse, multicultural and multinational teams and organizations as well as an desirable industry network. Having founded, grown, and exited numerous businesses successfully he’s now turned the skills he honed searching for the best talent to grow his businesses to searching for the best leadership talent to grow Portman Partners client’s businesses.