Effective companies are led by effective leaders. According to CornerStone Leadership Institute president and CEO David Cottrell, the essence of leadership boils down to answering six questions team members are always asking – whether the leader hears them or not.
"People have a deep-rooted need to know what is happening in your organisation, how they fit in, and how well they are performing, says Cottrell.
"[W]hat distinguishes the best leaders is typically not competency; most leaders are competent enough to do the job. The best leaders understand how to lead others toward a common goal. They are competent and also passionate, trustworthy and humane."
Cottrell believes that the challenge in leading effectively lies in the fact that leadership by definition involves dealing with individuals who each have their own needs and desires.
"The best leaders have developed skills that help them understand people and know how to get results through the efforts of other people," he says.
The six leadership questions
Cottrell believes that if a leader clearly and consistently answers the following six questions well, they will be rewarded with a team that works together with energy and enthusiasm.
What is REALLY important?
Not understanding the answer to this question can be a major source of stress to employees, especially if they feel like the target is always changing.
How am I doing?
This question should always be answered truthfully and constructively – and tackled on an ongoing basis, rather than simply in an annual review. Lack of feedback can lead to problems with performance, and these problems are often wrongly attributed to employees not being able to perform their role effectively, or being unmotivated or lazy.
How is our team doing?
A good leader understands and communicates exactly what their team is supposed to be achieving. They measure what matters and monitor performance. These results are constantly visible to employees so everyone always knows exactly how the team is performing.
Do you care?
Everyone wants to be appreciated, accepted and understood. Positive leadership is shown in the way a leader invests time and attention in their employees, as well as building a personal relationship with them.
What difference do we make?
The bigger picture is vital. People need to understand how they and their work fits in and how this is helping achieve overall goals. Feeling part of something bigger drives people’s passion and motivation. It’s all about commitment from the ground up.
Are you worth following?
The hardest question a leader must ask themselves; this hinges on being honest as to whether you are, in fact, a good leader. This will never be asked directly, but employees will constantly assess their leader, decide whether they are worthy of loyalty, trust and extra effort, and perform accordingly.
Great leaders communicate effectively, increase knowledge and earn trust. They aren’t afraid to get of their comfort zone and they reward effort.