How to be an effective leader

Roger James Hamilton
Photo by Jonathan Vandiveer

Be a leading learner, create a positive culture and build an engaged, innovative, high performing team as your business grows, says guest columnist, the futurist Roger James Hamilton

As a start-up when you are one person doing all things, it often feels like you don’t have the time or money to grow. Inevitably there will be a point at which you need to relinquish full control and begin to build a team who can work with you, or you will become burnt out.

To be an effective leader it is vital to look after your own wellbeing and establish a healthy workplace culture so that you can lead by example.

Putting off scaling into a team for too long is a familiar problem, worrying about giving away profit and placing your trust in another, but there is a big opportunity cost that comes with that.

Consider where your strengths, and more importantly your weaknesses, are so that you can make the most productive and cost-effective use of your time.

Equally, remember that it is a common misconception that leadership is all about leading other people to go and do the jobs you don’t enjoy. In fact, leadership is to do with leading the customer to get to the value that enables the business to drive forward.

It is not about simply leading people; it is in fact hinged on leading the process that generates your company’s value in the first place.

What is going on internally in your business always flows through to your customers and marketplace

As your company grows, so must your leadership skills if you are to sustain an upward trajectory. It is a problem well known to many. As you experience growth in revenues, it is commonplace to lack the speed of agile leadership required to grow talent at the same pace. It’s a steep learning curve and one that pays to learn quickly.

Keeping in mind the following key elements of effective leadership will equip you with the building blocks upon which your management skills and your business can skyrocket.

Trust and communication

When expanding your team remember trust is a big element in staffing. The foundation of being an effective leader is to build trust. Trust is the number one factor in every relationship. For clients, employees and potential partners, knowing they can trust you is crucial.

Communication is key to building trust. Are you effectively conveying your vision and company values to your staff as well as your customers? Develop your company vision and actively share this with your team and other stakeholders.

Tell people your vision of where you plan to take your business. This not only helps to build staff engagement, but it also assists in attracting the right people that share your values and believe in your vision in the first place.

What is going on internally in your business always flows through to your customers and marketplace. Through creating a high level of trust you can become not just an effective business leader but also a market leader.

Link everyone together with a strong culture – one that allows everyone the freedom to be at their best

The primary responsibility of any enterprise should be to add value to the market it serves and to leverage its resources effectively. Your business should be solving problems rather than simply selling products or services. When defining your goals, keep at the forefront of your mind how your business is adding value to the market and what it can contribute to wider society.

Having a well thought-out, genuine Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) framework is an important way to earn trust. It’s vital to connect and collaborate with your team.

Allow your employees the opportunities to contribute ideas towards this and have a say in the vision of the company so that it’s not only you simply dictating to them. Harness their insights and your employees will feel more valued and will therefore be more engaged as a result.

Company culture

Effective leadership stems from a healthy company culture, which starts with you as the business owner. Culture is defined by what you’re doing when others are not looking, and also what your team is doing when you’re not looking.

Link everyone together with a strong culture – one that allows everyone the freedom to be at their best. More important than writing detailed job descriptions, promote flexibility and self-direction. The simplest and most effective job description is for staff to work their way up out of their current role.

Find out what each team member’s purpose and values are; ask them to set goals for themselves so that they can develop their own personal compass. Ask them what they want to achieve each quarter and be fluid with those goals. Allowing the individual to take ownership of their role is hugely motivating. This is the approach big tech giants like Facebook and Amazon adopt.

Reverse planning

If you don’t have a clear plan in place and you are changing the goalposts regularly it’s massively problematic when you are building a team because things feel chaotic. You could be in danger of losing great people and the ones that remain are unlikely to be thriving in such unpredictable circumstances.

Set yourself target goals of where you want your business to be 12 months from now. Once you have set clear goals, break them down into quarterly cycles. Create a 90-day strategy and work backwards from there to plan how you and your team can achieve those targets.

Map out what needs to be done each month, each week, in order to step closer to the big aims. You will reduce feelings of overwhelm by having a clear direction and knowing the steps you need to take to reach each milestone.

At the same time, remain ready for and open to change. As technology radically changes every industry, and competitors can show up in every corner of the world it’s crucial to be ready to shift directions, be agile and change your plans on the go. Keep fixed on long-term purpose but flexible on short term changes.

Most importantly, celebrate success, both individually and as a team. It is valuable for everyone, including yourself to soak in the good times. A little recognition goes a long way when it comes to building a happy, motivated and engaged workforce.

In order to effectively lead highly aligned, high performing teams, keep it simple and remember the adage: managers solve problems, leaders create momentum.

Roger James Hamilton is a world-renowned futurist, New York Times bestselling author and social entrepreneur. He is founder and CEO of Genius Group, a group of companies prominent in the entrepreneur movement


How to move closer to your vision

C-A-K-E is what you need to be a leader

Leadership behaviours that can boost innovation