Master these 10 Key Leadership Concepts distilled from Experience of Working with 100s of CEOs Globally.
Leadership concepts are the areas that leaders consider to effectively lead their teams. This article will cover some of the key concepts of Leadership, which will help you elevate your Leadership Impact and unlock your true potential. Let’s get started.
1. VUCA - Leadership Concept
VUCA is an acronym that stands for Volatility, Uncertainty, Complexity, and Ambiguity. The term was originated post-Cold-War but is gaining increasing relevance to the dynamic business environment today.
VUCA leadership is the ability to respond to changes (positive or negative) in a business environment (characterized by VUCA) in an effective, focused, and agile manner. A positive change in the environment could be a product or campaign going viral suddenly, and a negative change could be the COVID pandemic, which adversely disrupted the world.
Let’s explore the four dimensions of VUCA briefly:
- Volatility (liable to change rapidly and unpredictably) — An example of this could be the changing government regulations or international supply chain disruptions.
- Uncertainty (unknown or definite) — An example of this is the lack of predictability with digitization, where past experiences or data may not completely predict the future.
- Complexity (consisting of many different and connected parts) — An example of this could be the interdependency between organizations or channels like Car supply is getting delayed currently due to a global shortage in semiconductors (electronic components.)
- Ambiguity (open to more than one interpretation) — An example of this is the unfamiliar territory that most leaders have to get into in the Pandemic environment we are all experiencing.
Some of the Key Skills required for Leading in VUCA times, which I have seen many CEOs apply effectively:
- Customer Centricity: Be extremely focused on creating an exceptional customer experience.
- Bias to Action: Have a maniacal focus towards action.
- Democratizing information: Build greater collaboration and transparency amongst teams.
- Agility by Leaning out the Hierarchy: Empower the frontline who are the closest to the ground.
- Adaptability: Encourage your team to adapt quickly in the face of a constantly changing environment.
- Influence through compelling vision: Storytelling is important when you want to inspire and mobilize your teams.
2. Coaching Framework - Leadership Concept
Coaching is one of the most important Leadership Concepts for creating high-performance teams. Impactful coaches can Step back, Ask powerful questions and Stay curious about their teams, and hence can connect at a deeper level and inspire the team to act and own their Decisions.
“Coaching is unlocking a person’s potential to maximize their performance and helping them to learn rather than teaching them.” – John Whitmore, Coaching for Performance
The GROW Model is one of the most popular Coaching Frameworks. Seeking to find a more effective way to lead in business, GROW model was developed in the 1980s by Sir John Whitmore and is quite a powerful concoction to become an influential leader.
GROW is an acronym for the following components:
- Goal (Aspirations)
Sample Coaching Question: What would you like to achieve by the end of this session?
- Reality (Current obstacles or Situation)
Sample Coaching Question: What is your main concern around this goal/issue?
- Options (Ideas)
Sample Coaching Question: What are all the different ways you could approach this?
- Way forward (What, when, by whom, and the will to do it)
Sample Coaching Question: Which of your options feels best/seems best/looks best/sounds best?
Additionally, The Coaching Habit by Michael Bungay Stanier (link below) details Seven Questions to make your Coaching Conversation Impactful. I have found it to be very valuable, consistently across coaching conversations I have with my team. I highly recommend you to check it out.
- The Kickstart Question: What’s on your mind?
- The Awe Question: What else?
- The Focus Question: What’s the real challenge here for you?
- The Foundation Question: What do you want?
- The Lazy Question: How can I help?
- The Strategic Question: If you’re saying yes to this, what are you saying no to?
- The Learning Question: What was most useful for you?
I encourage you to try out this List of powerful questions and the GROW coaching framework with your team and unlock your leadership potential!
3. Storytelling - Leadership Concept
But aren’t we Born Storytellers? Thankfully not! Here are some Pro Tips from my Experience to have Impactful Leadership Storytelling:
- Be Aware of your Audience to keep it relevant.
- Set the Context and Keep it Human to connect at a deeper level.
- Use Analogy to link the idea to something familiar
- Create Aha moments to keep your audience hooked
- Keep it short to keep it compelling
Looking for Leadership Storytelling in action? Check this Article on Medium, and power yourself 🚀 with one of the most essential Leadership concepts.
4. Who, Not How - Leadership Concept
Velocity of Business Growth has become a holy grail and Who Not How is one of the key leadership concepts which addresses this. I have seen many smart entrepreneurs fail because of micromanagement of business, as they try to do everything in their business, and in the process, spread themselves too thin.
The secret concoction to succeed as a leader is to identify the WHOs for your business!
As a leader, it’s also important to understand the concept of Opportunity Cost, which is the benefit or value of something that must be given up to achieve something else. It is the decision we face every step in our journey and the moment we can free ourselves from the shackles of doing everything ourselves and effectively delegate. It can not only free our time but also skyrocket our success.
Additionally, Procrastination is the unfortunate by-product of asking ‘How’ instead of ‘Who?’ Most of the time, when you’re procrastinating, you’re saying to yourself, this Goal is amazing. Still, you don’t move forward, and getting the right ‘Who’ can be your answer to build velocity in execution.
This brings me to the book Who Not How, By Dan Sullivan and Benjamin Hardy, which has had a profound impact on my life, and I would recommend this read if you want to boost the success of your business while leading a more fulfilling life.
There are 4 core concepts in this book, which I found of great value:
Expand Impact — If you want to get more done, consider the people that can help you instead of worrying about the best Way to do it.
Expand Time: You will have more time to find the right people to help you reach your goals.
Expand Relationships: Once you start delegating, collaborating, and using more strategic partners, you’ll often find mentors to work with who will help you get to the next level.
Expand Boundaries: You can imagine new goals and make them happen because you’ll have more confidence and a bigger vision.
“Every time you apply Who Not How by imagining a new goal and getting Whos to work toward it, you will improve your time, increase your income, expand your relationships, and deepen your purpose. Who Not How is the answer.” — Benjamin Hardy
In summary, to excel and reach a higher level of performance as a Leader, replace asking “How can I do this?” with the question “Who can we get to do this for us?”
5. Radical Candor - Leadership Concept
“Radical Candor is the ability to Challenge Directly while showing that you Care Personally at the same time.” Kim Scott
During my upbringing, an idea that was reinforced with me was that if you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all. My Experience working with many great leaders globally made me realize the flaw in this behaviour when we lead teams, as we stall the growth of our team if we don’t provide timely, direct, and honest feedback.
Offering your most constructive feedback to help others grow is a challenging aspect of great Leadership, but challenging directly is taking an active role in the growth and development of your team members and offering your guidance for ways they can improve.
Balancing this feedback with having empathy is another valuable trait for any leader, and your ability to identify with your team members is vital to your organization’s success.
While Practicing Challenging Directly + Caring Personally is the core of Radical Candor, let’s explore the framework in a little more detail.
The model of Radical Candor shown in the image above has four main quadrants:
Holding your true thoughts back to keep from hurting someone’s feelings is ruinous empathy. If you withhold your criticisms and feedback because you’re overly concerned about feelings, you’re doing that person an even greater disservice than you would otherwise.
Obnoxious aggression is the opposite of ruinous empathy. Think of it as a complete disregard for a person’s feelings and offering your harshest criticisms upfront. This Situation happens when you challenge directly without emotion, which makes you come across as rude.
Manipulative insincerity happens when you have the complete opposite of radical honesty and is the worst type of feedback you can offer. It’s typically marked by insincere praise to someone’s face and ruthless criticism behind their back. As a whole, manipulative insincerity serves no purpose and is void of care and honesty.
Radical candor happens when you care personally while challenging directly. It’s the opposite of manipulative insincerity, as it’s marked by praising publicly and criticizing privately. This type of feedback serves the ultimate purpose, as you offer it with care and meaningful intentions.
You can explore this leadership concept and some great practical ideas in the book Radical Candor by Kim Scott, a great Leadership Resource to Inspire your team and supercharge your growth and impact as a Leader.
As a leader, your honesty and directness will command respect and attention from those around you. If the people you surround yourself with feel they can have an open and honest discourse with you or challenge you directly, you can build trusting, fulfilling, and long-lasting relationships.
So, where do you get started? The first and most important step to practising radical candor is soliciting feedback from your team. This Way, you know what to work on first, and you can shape your approach as a result.
Thanks to radical candor, you’re accountable to your team, and they are to you because you’ve challenged one another directly and understand what one expects from the other, thus creating a virtuous cycle of growth for all stakeholders!
6. Inclusive Leadership Concept
Inclusive Leadership is about treating people and groups fairly based on their unique characteristics, rather than acting on stereotypes.
“Inclusive leadership means having the ability to lead a diverse group of people while demonstrating respect for each person’s unique characteristics without bias”, says Smaiyra Million.
7 Key traits of an Inclusive leader are:
- High Level of Self-Awareness
- Treating everyone with Fairness and Respect
- High Level of Emotional and Cultural Intelligence
- Promote Psychological Safety at Workplace
- Create a High Level of Trust
- Great at Collaboration
- Demonstrate a High Level of Curiosity
Becoming a truly inclusive leader is a long road, but an important and valuable one as it will help you unlock the potential of your team and skyrocket your business.
7. Leadership Styles
Different situations call for different types of Leadership. A good leader can switch between those leadership types when they need to. And typically, every leader will need to, because one size does not fit all businesses.
What types of Leadership are the best?
Here are the 9 most popular leadership styles to help you decide what type of leader you want to be:
- Servant Leadership – This leadership style runs on the motto, “You manage other people the way you would like to manage.” A servant style of Leadership is when someone works with a people-first mindset. A servant leader believes that team members produce their best work when they feel professionally and personally satisfied, and are focused on helping their teams play to their strengths.
- Transactional Leadership – This Leadership is a “give and take” scenario. Reward or penalize your employees according to the organization’s standards. Everyone knows what to do, why to do it, and to what standard. Evaluation of team member performance happens with predefined criteria and goals. This style can be effective if the employees are also motivated by perks and benefits. It works best where the tasks are repetitive and goal-oriented.
- Transformational Leadership – Transformational Leadership is a style that’s all about big vision thinking and intellectual stimulation to create a thriving, openly communicative work culture. The one thing to note about a transformational leader is that day-to-day details are not their priority. Transformational leaders need dedicated managers to delegate these types of tasks.
- Authoritative Leadership – A charismatic leader automatically or intelligently attracts people just by being their charming selves. These types of people are Confident, Self-starters and Passionate about what they do.
- Autocratic Leadership – “My way or the highway.” Autocratic Leadership (sometimes called authoritarian) is an aggressive leadership style that’s based on control. This style of strong-willed Leadership only leaves room for one person in charge. A person with an autocratic leadership style expects promptness and perfection from the people around them. They dictate instructions, policies, and activities and expect the followers to comply. You can see high power dynamics going on between the leader and the followers.
- Democratic Leadership – Democratic leadership style has the “two is better than one” philosophy. Democratic leaders emphasize the inputs and ideology of workers. The business world also calls it “participative leadership”. Democratic Leadership is a participative leadership style that involves a team of people who collaborate with a leader to make critical decisions. A democratic approach to Leadership is one of the better-liked types of Leadership in business.
- Coaching Leadership – Coaching leadership helps prepare people for the future by building long-term strengths. A coaching style of Leadership is a bit of a cross between democratic and laissez-fare leadership styles. It’s not micromanaging (but not hands-off, either), and actions are often decided with multiple inputs to consider.
- Laissez-Faire Leadership – The literal meaning of the French word laissez-faire is ‘let them do’, which can be translated as ‘let it be in English. This type of Leadership is a hands-off style, where delegating tasks is a regular occurrence. Leaders who use this style often lead people who are skilled enough to not need constant supervision – which leaves the door open for creative ideas and new ways of doing things.
- Bureaucratic Leadership – Bureaucratic leaders live by the rules. There are certain times that you expect to get things done by “the book.” Bureaucratic leaders always follow specific rules and stick to those at all times. Yet, this leadership style can be very rigid at times. They are not preoccupied with technical details: they focus on big-picture, innovative thinking.
8. Goal Setting - Leadership Concept
A goal is a dream with a plan and a deadline. Leaders with clear, written goals, accomplish far more in a shorter period of time than people without them could ever imagine. Hence, Goal setting is one of the most important leadership concepts.
Any success story begins with a plan (a blueprint), outlining what you want to achieve and how you plan to achieve it. Essentially, that means setting Goals. Goal-setting can be an effective tool for leaders to provide challenge, focus, and motivation to their people.
One of the most effective Goal-Setting Framework I would recommend follows the acronym: SMART. It states that Goals should be Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Results-Oriented, Time-Bound. Let’s understand this with a simple Goal Setting Example:
Weak Goal – I’m going to be an entrepreneur.
SMART Goal – I will start an E-commerce business with Shopify in the next 4 weeks. I will spend 1 hour on this business each day and work to land my first sale within two months.
9. Authentic Leadership Concept
Authentic Leadership is one type of management style in which leaders practice transparent behaviour to build strong relationships.
Authentic Leadership emphasizes transparency, genuineness and honesty. Authentic leaders build authentic relationships and inspire trust and motivation in their employees.
Some important traits of Authentic Leadership are:
– High Level of Self-Awareness
– Great Listening Skills
– Transparency in Approach
– Leading with the Heart
– Focus on Long Term Results
Authentic Leadership skills can help leaders create strong relationships and foster a high level of trust, boost productivity, and create a more positive working environment.
10. Leadership Concept for Building High Performance Team
Did you know that Issues related to psychological safety cost large firms MILLIONS of dollars each year? Despite that, it is still one of the least understood aspects amongst leaders at work!
A psychologically safe workplace begins with a feeling of belonging. Like Maslow’s hierarchy of needs — which shows that all humans require their basic needs to be met before they can reach their full potential — employees must feel accepted before they’re able to improve their organizations.
Leaders who create psychological safety and hold their employees accountable for excellence are the highest performing. According to Edmondson — a leader in psychological safety, it is all about finding the balance, as illustrated in the image below:
When both Accountability and psychological safety are present, it creates a learning zone for the team — a zone where the team feels free to challenge and own the results, thus leading to high performance!
So how can leaders create this environment where psychological safety and Accountability exist together? Am glad you asked. 😊
Having observed many leaders across different sectors and geographies, I found 5 traits running common across high-performance teams that created a constant learning environment and strived for results. I call this “B-R-A-V-E,” the success formula for high-performance teams.
Become a Role Model for the team
Rollout Tenets for a Safe Space at Work
Advocate Inclusivity & Encourage Dialogue
Vouch for a Learning Culture
Elevate Feedback and Coaching
To sum up, if the leaders can effectively incorporate these 5 traits (B-R-A-V-E) mentioned above, they will be able to harness the power of it all coming together to create an environment where Psychological safety and Accountability can exist together and create a thriving environment for high-performance teams.