Why Leadership is Important: The Eleven Keys to Leadership

Leadership is one of the most important aspects of a business. It can have a huge impact on how successful an organisation becomes.

In this blog post, we will discuss why leadership is important by taking the main components from the book by Author, Dayle M. Smith, “The Eleven keys to leadership.”

The Importance of Leadership

Without leaders, not much would get done. In fact, without good leaders, organisations actively see poor productivity, customer service and profitability.

It is often said that, If you want to know how an organisation functions, then look at its leaders.

The way people behave and interact with each other; from how engaged they are, to how the business currently performs, stems from leadership. Leadership is a powerful force that impacts the culture, decision-making, and future success of a company.

Leadership can be viewed as one person’s essential ability to influence others, to produce specific results for a society or a company. A poor leader can get bad results, whereas a great leader can get world-class results from the same people.

How people are led, directly influences employee’s morale, their ability to succeed and ultimately, performance.

Good Leadership

From Winston Churchill leading Britain and the Allies through the second World War to Elon Musk leading the technological revolution to Gandhi leading societal change, leadership has played a huge role in shaping history.

Leaders are teachers, organisers and motivators. They’re mindful of their organisation’s culture, yet challenge new thinking and ideas.

They ensure that goals are met, the team works well together and each individual is motivated and inspired to do their best.

We wrote an article on examples of how some inspiring leaders turned their businesses around.

Why Leadership is More About Results

Dayle Smith argues in his book, The Eleven Keys to Leadership, that a leader can learn the skills of leadership. He identifies two common myths, which often hold people back from taking the plunge and being effective leaders.

The Birthright Myth

This myth is based on our fascination with heroes in literature and entertainment. In these scenarios, leaders are born and normally find their ‘birthright. However, as academia has consistently demonstrated through their research, successful leaders emerge. In other words, they have learned leadership skills and mastered them, thus becoming good leaders over time.

The For-All-Seasons Myth

This view is based on “Once a leader, always a leader.” It’s easy to believe that if someone is great at one thing, they will be just as good in any other field. This couldn’t be farther from the truth though, and it is demonstrated repeatedly.

Leaders crop up when there are specific conditions present. Some may be excellent in a crisis, others may be just the person to lead innovation. The point is, some leaders excel in certain conditions, whereas others excel in distinctly separate scenarios and industries.

This means that there may be a perfect industry or environment that matches your own leadership skills and traits.

The 5 Core Roles of Leadership

To master your leadership skills, you must first perfect the 5 core roles of leadership. These sit above the “The Eleven Keys to Leadership,” and consist of the 5 different scenarios that you will morph into as situations unfold during the day.

  1. A Vision Role;
  2. A Relationship Role;
  3. A Control Role;
  4. An Encouragement Role;
  5. An Information Role.

Whilst these a manager must switch their leadership style to suit the right role, there are critical factors that all leaders need to implement, to ensure that they create the right foundation for success, and spend time in each role.

By doing this, you’ll create a balance between managing, coaching, development and leading teams to success.

The Eleven Keys to Leadership

Here’s a breakdown of the 11 keys to a good leader.

They are:

  • Define the Vision;
  • Set Goals That Motivate;
  • Develop a Dynamic Belief System;
  • Assemble the Right Personnel Working in Teams;
  • Build High-Quality Networks;
  • Empower Staff to Solve Problems;
  • Delegate Meaningful Responsibilities;
  • Recognise Achievement With Worthwhile Incentives;
  • Provide Support in Tangible Forms;
  • Nurture Effective Channels of Information;
  • Train, Consult and Mentor.

Key 1: Define the Vision

Leaders look above the current constraints an organisation currently faces. They clearly define what the business should become in the future.

Effective leaders start with a clear vision statement, which describes the future in their mind’s eye. This allows everyone to understand and identify with this goal.

The vision statement should be concise and compelling, capturing what your business will look like in five or ten years. It is not a goal but rather a written summary of where you want to take the organisation as it grows over time and should be explained in ways that energise others.

Key 2: Set Goals That Motivate

Good leaders then take this broad vision and make it something tangible that can be produced. They translate these visions into a set of goals with clear directions for achieving them.

These goals are discussed between employees, in a back and forth format, until clear actions and objectives have been defined.

They are normally split into the following 5 factors:

  1. What does the business want to achieve?
  2. What is the time frame within which the goal should be
  3. achieved?
  4. What are the resources that will be committed to this project?
  5. By what criteria will work be measured?
  6. What is at stake in achieving the goal?

Key 3: Develop a Dynamic Belief System

A leader convinces their team members that they can achieve anything they set their mind to, and that the only limitations are in their limiting beliefs.

Creating the right belief system involves allowing employees to learn and try ideas and new methods.

This continuous improvement approach helps empower employees, whilst reinforcing the notion that challenging the status quo should be the norm, not a thing to be fearful of.

Key 4: Assemble the Right Personnel Working in Teams

The leader creates a team with supporting skills and aptitudes, which when combined, create a well balanced and capable team.

The importance of leadership here is the ability to follow 2 key principles:

  1. Establishing and nurturing teamwork – Everyone should be part of a team. Information is shared, people are treated equally, regardless of position, conflict is often handled within the team, and team success is shared. Developing teamwork is built around establishing and developing trust in leadership and amongst each other. It starts with leading by example and working on developing the team through its growth cycle;
  2. Putting in place a suitable structure to develop high performing teams. This means that processes and information should flow easily and people are supported but allowed to develop in their roles.

Questions to ask here are:

  • What management hierarchy is needed, which best fits the objectives and values?
  • How should the teams be structured?
  • What procedures should be defined to ensure processes work well, there’s clarity and fairness?
  • What frameworks should be implemented to attract and retain the best employees?

Key 5: Build High-Quality Networks

Good leaders also build a network of specialist peers that they can talk to, to discuss future ideas, challenges and influences. They can also use networks to help them find other experts to work with, if and when they need particular support.

‘‘Leaders are bridges that connect people to the future. They include others’ visions in their own, building alliances and partnerships based on shared aspirations.’’ – Ceala Farren & Beverley Kaye, founders, Career Systems.

Key 6: Empower Staff to Solve Problems

Effective leaders build capabilities and confidence in other people. A big part of this is empowering team members to solve problems effectively and achieve success, without doing it for them.

Some key elements to help prioritise and empower problems solving are:

Key 7: Delegate Meaningful Responsibilities

Delegation is critical in leading teams. It allows leaders to focus on the strategic aspects of leading. It also allows leaders to assess team members’ abilities, to take advantage of their strengths, so everyone can excel in what they do best.

Delegation improves both the speed and quality of decisions, as well as improving task ownership to projects and actions.

Some General Delegation Guidelines are as follows:

  1. Delegate actions that fit an individual’s future goals;
  2. Mix long-winded tasks with faster tasks, to avoid boredom;
  3. Be specific in what you want them to do and requirements;
  4. Provide them with the resources they need to do a good job.

Key 8: Recognise Achievement With Worthwhile Incentives

Recognition and incentives play a critical role in rewarding people who demonstrate the team’s or company’s values, as well as achieving goals and objectives.

Meaningful rewards can have a huge impact on motivating people and increasing their sense of well-being.

Equally, well-timed and appropriate rewards can have the following benefits:

  • They can increase and sustain employee motivation;
  • Clarify which behaviours are desirable and which aren’t;
  • Increase job satisfaction;
  • Lessen turnover and absenteeism;
  • Make it easier to recruit quality employees in the future.

Key 9: Provide Support in Tangible Forms

A good leader dedicates a part of their organisation’s resources to support their team members in completing their tasks and objectives.

This support can be:

  • New equipment;
  • The right work environment to ensure quality work is achieved;
  • Hiring sufficient staff;
  • Ensuring processes work effectively;
  • Agreeing on work schedules that help employees maintain productivity and engagement;
  • Easy access to the right information.

Key 10: Nurture Effective Channels of Information

Leaders must also maintain good levels of communication. This is important because a lack of communication can result in miscommunication, which may lead to a misunderstanding.

Misunderstanding can cause resentment, lost confidence, conflict and reduced productivity.

The following are 3 key areas of communication to master:

  1. Communicating up the organisation – from employees to leaders through structured or casual means;
  2. Communicating down the organisation – through formal, written channels or in less structured means;
  3. Communicating across the organisation between peers.

Key 11: Train, Consult and Mentor

Ensuring team members are learning and developing in their roles is critical to effective leadership. Without this, people stagnate and lose motivation and engagement.

By actively looking for opportunities to train others, coach them, as well as mentoring them, builds capability, engagement and competence.

Summary – Why is it Important to Have Good Leadership Skills?

A well-rounded leader can communicate effectively, delegate tasks and responsibilities to their team, and listen to feedback while handling problems in an ever-changing workplace. They also have the skills to be able to jump from one role to the other to ensure that the 11 key areas are covered.

These qualities are important because they allow for a human-based approach to getting things done. This often creates improved efficiency, better motivation, increased engagement and a self-directed team.

Being a good leader means that your team members develop in their roles and their capability increases. This then means that more high-quality work gets consistently completed.

By empowering teams to grow in their roles, you also increase their confidence and motivation levels. Studies show that giving autonomy and providing a common goal creates a shared identity and gets the best out of people and teams.