What is Leadership? STRONG leadership style - 6 steps for effective leaders

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How do you know if you are a strong leader?

”A good leader can't get too far ahead of his followers.” Franklin D. Roosevelt  US President 1933-1945

Just look over your shoulder at the tens or hundreds or thousands of people who are following some of your ideas or values, goals or life-targets – not primarily because of some organisational role, or job title, but simply because of the nature of who you are, the values you have, the vision you hold, the friendships you have and what you mean to those people’s lives.

Most leadership is by example, and the effect of example can be very enduring.  Depending on your stage in life, your greatest leadership influence may now be through the lives of all those you influenced, mentored, encouraged and taught some years ago.  That is why leadership influence can span several generations, commonly seen in families, but also in all long-term organisations.

What do you see?

“When I hear corporate leaders refer to values as “soft” issues, I wonder what they regard as “hard”.  In my experience, cultural beliefs are the heart and soul of all business matters.  More than heroic working hours, more than pay incentives, certainly more than strategy alone, shared beliefs, values, can be the key to unleashing the talents of all the people in an organisation.” The former CEO of Eli Lilly, Randall Tobias
10 steps to powerful leadership

Want to lead more powerfully?

  • Let your passion show
  • Be the person you know you were made to be
  • Have the courage of your convictions
  • Focus on things that are important to you and others
  • Decide to make a significant difference
  • Dump trivial and unimportant things
  • Go for it with all your heart and mind
  • Live just as you want others to live
  • Show people how you are going to build a better world, with or without their help, and get on with making it a reality
  • Have fun!

Why should people follow you?

People will only follow you if they see you’re ahead, are convinced you know the route, trust you and want to get there too. Leaders have to prove they are worth following. 

There is a crisis of leadership today because many no longer trust those in authority – their integrity, vision and wisdom.  That’s why character is fundamental to all successful leadership.  Consistency, honesty, willingness to admit the truth even when embarrassing or humiliating.

It is not enough to be liked, or attractive, or a powerful speaker who can touch mind and emotion.  Leaders need to be more than that, if they are to survive close scrutiny and criticism.

Within every strong leader there is an unshakeable inner conviction of the rightness of their cause, matched by bold commitment to the way ahead, tempered by sound judgment.  Strong leadership defies those around to challenge the vision.  Strong leadership is like a magnetic force, drawing people and resources into action.

“The leader is always more effective with he gets the relevant people to “buy into” his proposals.  The leader uses his interpersonal skills to excite his people, and helps them to see how they may themselves benefit from both the journey and the arrival. He helps them to see “the word made flesh….For a vision to guide a team or organisation, it must be a compelling story – one that portrays real events:  real people achieving a better tomorrow”. Max Landsberg - The Tools of Leadership.  He describes the essence of leadership as Vision x Inspiration x Momentum. 


S  elf-aware
T  arget-driven
R  elationship-hungry
O  rganisation-influenced
N  eighbourhood-linked
G  lobally-concerned

S Self-aware

All strong leaders know their own strengths and weaknesses.  They know their limitations, and what complementary skills they need in their teams to work most effectively.  They are humble, teachable and quick to defer.  What is more, they listen to the voice within, to their own thoughts and values about what really matters. They are sensitive to their own conscience as a higher principle, and use this guide as a check against every action they may be about to take, even where it appears to be permissible in law and acceptable generally. 

T  Target-Driven

Strong leaders are driven by more than vague vision. They aim for clear targets, practical, achievable goals which inspire teams to great things.  They are passionate about the higher purpose of all they do, and how each target fulfils their big mission.

Robert Kaplan and David Norton developed the idea of a plane cockpit in their book The Balanced Scorecard, proposing new “dials” and “instruments” to provide ongoing feedback to business leaders about many different parts of their business.  The scorecard has revolutionised target setting in many corporations, but as the authors point out, the four parts of the scorecard can be a strait-jacket and may need rebalancing (financial, customers, internal business processes and learning / growth) with softer variables such as employee satisfaction and community involvement. 

"If any one idea about leadership has inspired organizations for thousands of years, it's the capacity to hold a shared picture of the future we seek to create." Peter Senge

R  Relationship-hungry

Strong leaders do it together.  For them, relationships with men and women they can trust are of absolute importance.  They spend time investing in key people, mentoring, coaching, encouraging, releasing and equipping.

“The best morale exists when you never hear the word mentioned.  When you hear a lot about it, it’s usually lousy.”  Dwight D Eisenhower, US President 1953-61

O  Organisation-influenced

Strong leaders are always open and sensitive to those they are seeking to lead.  They consult before they commit, listen before they leap, ask before they advance.  They make themselves accountable to those they seek to serve in their leadership.

N  Neighbourhood-linked

Strong leaders recognise that they are part of the wider local community and the company benefits from local talent, local resources and local trade.  Strong leaders invest in neighbourhood schemes, and expect their corporations to benefit the area as a whole, and as a result, are seen as a community friend.

G  Globally-concerned

Strong leaders take the broad view, with a long term perspective, committed to responsible planning rather than short-termism. They drive sustainable business practices and aim to leave the world in a better state than it would have been otherwise.

“Business leaders cannot begin to foster a climate of positive order if their sole concern is making a profit.  They must also have a vision that gives life meaning, that offers people hope for their own future and those of their children…. What do they do to make life better for themselves and for others?”  Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, Professor of Pyschology and Education, University of Chicago and author of Good Business

Adapted from Building a Better Business book by Patrick Dixon.


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