Have you noticed the wide range of effectiveness embodied by leaders within an organization? Some leaders seem to be highly effective by nature. They draw team members in, while other leaders create dissonance. Even though leaders may have attended the same leadership training, there are glaring differences in effectiveness.

The question is, how can we make all leaders highly effective?

To irrevocably increase leader effectiveness, research and experience points to the need for higher-order development beyond conventional training:

  • Research by the Carnegie Institute of Technology found that 85 percent of our personal financial success is due to human engineering—our personality, ability to communicate, negotiate and lead.
  • Psychologist Daniel Kahneman found that people would rather do business with someone they like and trust rather than someone they don’t like, even if the likeable person has a lower quality offering at a higher price.
  • The Center for Creative Leadership consistently finds in their extensive research that the number one cause of executive derailment is weak or missing interpersonal skills.
  • The theory that salespeople with the right people skills achieve better results than those who are weak in interpersonal strength, self-confidence and empathy has been confirmed numerous times throughout selling history.

The fact is that the more you work with people and the higher you go in the organization, the more conventional leadership skills fade to the background, and your interpersonal and social skills come to the forefront as your primary reason for effectiveness and performance.

In today’s climate, we can’t afford the status quo. We must aim higher and develop the individual, the whole person. Every leadership action or reaction originates as a thought, a perspective or a mindset. Explicit increases in leader effectiveness are realized through new approaches in thinking, new habits of thought, new perspectives and new mindsets.

Real life doesn’t follow a leadership model or a logical flow. Leaders can’t plan for and choose their crisis. Rather, they must be prepared to respond with composure and diplomacy under any circumstance but especially when emotions are charged, opinions are strong and passions are overflowing.

Highly effective leaders:

  • Stay composed in the face of uncertainty and anxiety
  • Temper their emotions to perform at their best
  • Expand their thinking in real time
  • Reframe under pressure

Highly effective leaders control their thinking and regulate toxic reactions. They are not thermostats that make the room hotter. They are rheostats that regulate temperature, stress and tension.

These leaders have developed a higher view that helps them see problems and misunderstandings early. As we all know, it’s easier to prevent misunderstandings early on than it is to correct them down the road. It’s easier for you to build trust with your team than it is to rebuild it after losing their trust due to a blunder.

The caveat is that this kind of increased effectiveness must be cultivated and developed. Just relying on showing up in the workplace to develop is not a valid plan. Leaders should develop these skills to start thinking like a highly effective leader:

  • Taking control of their mind: Help leaders become the master, not the servant, of their habits of thought by teaching them to notice the spike of emotion when, for example, someone they are meeting with starts checking their email or when they are cut off in traffic. Teach them to acknowledge the knee-jerk emotion and override it with rational thought.
  • Changing their mindset: We cannot outperform our mindsets. If leaders believe that team members are productive contributors, they will support, invest in and develop the team even further. The opposite is also true.
  • Changing their perspective: A limited perspective limits choices of actions. By changing the way they look at things, leaders can change the way things look.
  • Changing their assumptions: By following their assumptions like a creed or a doctrine, leaders may find themselves in the “often wrong, never in doubt” camp.
  • Reframing: By helping leaders develop the ability to reframe their thinking toward what is possible in real time, you can promote upward thinking and growth, exposing potential that only a highly effective leader can see.

We feel before we have a chance to think. Highly effective leaders have mastered the ability to self-regulate, unplug the emotion-action link and break the stress cycle. The entire organization feels and responds to the new normal of reduced anxiety and tranquility.

Highly effective leaders have cultivated and developed their thinking, and as a result, they draw people in. These leaders are so effective people follow them not because they have to but because they choose to. This higher-order development of leadership thinking helps all leaders become highly effective regardless of age, experience, leadership level or skill level.

Brian Braudis is the author of “High Impact Leadership:10 Action Strategies for Your Ascent” and the founder of The Braudis Group, a coaching consultancy that helps individuals and organizations rethink, take action and move beyond their biggest challenges.

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