Unleashing Excellence - What Outstanding Leaders Do

Are effective leaders born or developed? That question has been debated in thousands of books, articles, speeches, and forums. While there are some characteristics effective leaders may have acquired early in life (I don’t believe they were born with them); I believe that leadership skills can be developed later in life. And these skills aren’t based on personality or charisma, nor are they dictated by a person’s DiSC or Myers-Briggs profile. No matter their style, effective leaders do three things very well.

  1. Effective leaders Operationalize the Organization’s Mission. The organization’s mission is at the core of the effective leader’s actions. Whether the mission is to Create Happiness (Walt Disney World); to be Ladies and Gentlemen Serving Ladies and Gentlemen (Ritz Carlton); or to Help Customers Achieve Their Financial Dreams (First Citizens Bank), effective leaders keep the mission consistently in front of their employees. The hiring process, new hire orientation, ongoing training, team meetings, newsletters, etc. all seen as opportunities to operationalize the mission.
  2. Effective leaders Involve Employees in the Forward Movement of the Organization. There may have been a time when the leader had the answers to every business issue that would arise. The leader had formal authority and was usually an expert in all phases of the operation. Due to changing customer expectations and competition, those days are over. Today's leaders must rely on the skills of a facilitator and idea champion. The effective leader sees employees as partners in coming up with new ways to delight customers.
  3. Effective leaders Make Excellence Non-negotiable. Lack of accountability is the number one reason many (or most) organizational improvement initiatives fail to achieve their desired results. When leaders look the other way when an employee performs in an unacceptable manner, even the best improvement plans begin to collapse.

An important behavior of effective leaders is that they never let the coaching moment go. If there’s a performance issue, they handle it without delay. A related behavior of effective leaders is that they never let the recognition moment go. They let strong performers know that their performance is truly appreciated.

While there are certainly other qualities effective leaders might demonstrate, I believe these three areas of focus provide the foundation for excellent leadership performance.

Something to think about:

  • Are you operationalizing your organization's mission?
  • Are you involving your employees in the forward movement of your organization?
  • Do you make excellence non-negotiable?