By Mike Stenhouse

When it comes to leading people who are already at the top of their field, it requires a different set of skills than what some may already be familiar with. The people you are leading are not simply “everybody else”. Rather, these people are already self-starters who have proven abilities, perseverance and drive.

This type of leadership is about leading without authority; something that many leaders face on a daily basis. The ability to lead at this level arises not from your position or resources, but from your will and skill.

According to DDI, there are 7 leadership imperatives that make for effective leaders. These principles apply to all types of businesses, teams and situations:


Coach and develop for results.

No matter where you’re at in your career, we can all benefit from coaching. The All Blacks are at the top of their game, but they train and allow themselves to be coached. Leaders get work done through others. The ability to effectively coach for success and for improvement is critical to getting results and ultimately executing the company’s strategy. Developing your leaders through training and targeted experiences is one of your most important tools.


Leaders drive performance

This is a process, rather than an event. It’s about holding people accountable for achieving their objectives. Naturally this requires clear communication, ownership and engagement. People perform at their peak when they’re engaged and when they embrace their goals and objectives. Therefore, being an effective leader is about enabling other people to be effective leaders; offering the support they require to be successful.


Inspire loyalty and trust

Good leaders look beyond employee retention and they aim for loyalty, because loyal employees go the extra mile. Trust is the other critical leadership trait - this is some we discovered in the latest Sheffield Leadership Survey. Trust requires integrity. In other words, it’s about doing what’s right, not what will just get you ahead. The great thing about this trait is that if you demonstrate it to your leaders, they can demonstrate it to their leaders and their teams. It effectively cascades throughout the company and reinforces the notion that leadership really does come from the top.


Manage Work

Somewhere in all of this, leaders need to manage their work. Whether that’s doing something themselves or delegating, they need to ensure it gets done. This is something particularly pertinent to the professional services industry; as leaders rise through the ranks to “partner” status, they’re effectively still “on the tools” and need to get it (the work) done. Delegation is the solution here, and carried out well, it is a powerful way for leaders to develop and maintain a high-performing work group.


Leaders partner within and across teams

“Teams” used to have clear boundaries and processes. Nowadays we have project teams, committees, advisory boards and more. The very notion of a team has changed dramatically, and leaders need to be aware of this. Good leaders possess the ability to quickly reconfigure their teams, forge new partnerships, set objectives and deliver.


Influence through personal power

If you build rapport with your leaders and foster their talents through professional relationships, this will create a strong building block you can use to empower them. Influence doesn’t just happen. Effective leaders look for a win/win/win situation; a win for the company, a win for their co-workers, and a win for themselves. “Anything short of this trifecta may appear as manipulation or politicking.”


Select Talent

Selecting the right people is a very important trait. When dealing with high-performing individuals, effective leaders should be brave enough to take on those who can do the job better than themselves. In short, this comes down to effective talent selection. As Jim Collins said in his book Good to Great: “The biggest constraint on growth and the success of [an] organisation isn’t markets, isn’t technology, isn’t opportunity, isn’t the stock market. It’s your ability to select, develop, and retain the right people.”


Good leadership is about empowering others, regardless if they’re leaders or not. One of the great things about leading leaders is that you’re effectively leading your peers and therefore you have just as much of an opportunity to learn from them as they from you. It’s leading without authority and therefore mastery of effective communication is vital, as this builds trust. According to Jeswald W. Salacuse in his book Leading Leaders, “leading leaders is interest-based leadership. Leaders will follow you not because of your title or your commanding presence, but because they consider it in their interest. Your job as a leader is to convince them that their interests lie with you.” At this level, leaders will choose to follow you not because they feel obliged to but because they are interested in doing so.  


This article originally appeared on LinkedIn here.


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