Leadership is not restricted to those who have a formal title. We know that the best leaders are not necessarily defined by the formal position they hold in their organization. The qualities of leadership can show up at many different levels in an organization and, whenever they do, can support improved employee performance, engagement, and retention. The challenge is to learn just what top leaders do differently.

Not surprisingly, managers who attend our new manager training workshops all aspire to emulate what they believe top leaders do. They understand that how leaders lead has a major impact upon job satisfaction.

What Top Leaders Do Differently – The Big 3
If you want to maintain a high level of employee performance, engagement, and retention as a manager, consider carefully what top leaders do differently than average leaders at the strategy, culture, and talent levels:

  1. Top Leaders Are Ruthless about Creating Strategic Clarity and Alignment
    Top leaders know that ambiguity is the enemy of high performance and employee engagement. Our organizational alignment research found that strategic clarity accounts for 31 percent of the difference between high and low performing teams.Are your managers adept at creating agreed-upon, aligned, and meaningful goals, roles, success metrics, and interdependencies?  If not, they need learn how to create a clear line of sight for their teams.
  2. Top Leaders Create an Environment for Success
    Once the team’s strategy is clear enough, believable enough, and implementable enough, top leaders make sure that they create an environment for their teams to perform at their peak.They do this by creating a healthy culture, a high performing culture, and an aligned culture that supports the business and people strategies.Do your managers know how to truly set their team up for success?
  3. Top Leaders Attract, Develop, Engage, and Retain Talent
    Once your strategy is clear enough to act and you have shaped and aligned your high performance culture for that strategy, top leaders win the war for talent. They proactively and visibly invest in attracting, developing, engaging, and retaining top talent that fits their unique situation.For example, in terms of developing employees, top leaders proactively and consistently:

— provide guidance to help improve performance
— respond to development needs and expectations of their team
— give positive, encouraging, and informative feedback
— seek appropriate development opportunities for others
— mentor others

Are your managers talent leaders?

What Top Leaders Do Differently – The Few Competencies that Matter
Once you create strategic, cultural, and talent alignment as a manager, your next step is to get proficient at:

  • Thinking Strategically
    Top leaders make time to think strategically. They anticipate and prepare for future events and outcomes by consistently seeing the big picture, looking around corners, and thinking systemically.This makes them great problem solvers. They consistently:
    — identify and solve challenging problems
    — overcome challenges to find an effective solution
    — discover underlying causes of problems overlooked by others
    — take on demanding tasks to solve complex problems
    — find the right solution where others have failed
    — view problems as opportunities and take decisive action
  • Communicating Effectively
    Top leaders are great two-way communicators. They can:
    — speak and write with ease, clarity, and impact
    — express complex ideas easily and effectively
    — use a communication style suited to the subject and audience
    — describe difficult tasks clearly and concisely
    — use language to influence othersThey also know how to listen to concerns and give constructive feedback by:
    — listening attentively and understanding what is being said
    — allowing others to fully express themselves without interruption
    — listening actively and understanding voice tone and body language
    — processing impressions and information without rushing to a conclusion
    — understanding both the words and underlying feelings
    — restating the opinions of others even when disagreeing
  • Motivating and Influencing Others
    Top leaders, both through their example and their interactions with followers, are able to exert influence and motivate toward action. Leaders invest in building relationships with their team by respecting others, being present and showing that they care.

    They generate energy, enthusiasm, and a desire to succeed in others by:
    — motivating others with one’s own vision and plans
    — acting as a role model
    — encouraging others to achieve outstanding results
    — motivating others to accept a challenge
    — generating commitment

They positively influence the opinions, ideas, or actions of others by:
—  gaining commitment from others for their own ideas or goals
—  presenting ideas and proposals in a convincing manner
—  influencing the direction of a meeting, plan, or project
—  convincing others and winning support in discussions

The Bottom Line
We don’t believe that only a few are born to be leaders. We believe that everyone can learn and improve leadership skills. Regardless of where you are in your career, learning how to be an effective leader is simply a smart way to continuously improve and grow.

To learn more about what top leaders do differently, download How to Fast Track Your Leaders with Just-in-Time Action Learning

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