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11 tips to be an effective leader

March 30, 2015 09:00 IST

Virender Kapoor, the former director of Pune's Symbiosis Institute of Management and the founder of Management Institute for Leadership and Excellence and the author of Leadership: The Gandhi Way, A Wonderful Boss: Great People to Work With and Passion Quotient, tells you just what you need to do to be a good leader.

1. You can learn skills easily but imbibing traits takes years.

Analysing a balance sheet is a skill.

Writing a note effectively is a skill.

Being able to make a powerful presentation is a skill.

Having empathy for people is a trait.

Being able to connect with others is a trait.

Managing people and their moods is a trait.

Skills can be learnt but traits you are born with.

And if you aren't born with them, it takes years to imbibe them.

A good leader is someone who will work hard towards imbibing noble traits.

2. There's nothing quite as important as a sound sense of judgement

Driving isn't just about gears, brakes and accelerators.

It is as much about how well you can anticipate other drivers, or how you judge and navigate through traffic.

Running a team is not very different from driving a car.

You need to be able to judge the risks, seek out the right opportunities, select the right team and at the same time not take your foot off the accelerator.

Sure, some people have a better sense of judgement than others but typically it is like driving a car or flying a plane. The more you do it the better you tend to get at it.

3. Reject politicking

Politicking doesn't start from the bottom; it starts from the top.

If as a boss you don't encourage politicking, it will cease. Period.

Incompetent and insecure leaders play politics.

Efficient and self-assured ones do their job.

4. Learn to give solutions

Leadership, as Colin Powell, the former American Secretary of State, said is solving problems.

"The day soldiers stop bringing you their problems is the day you have stopped leading them.

"They have either lost confidence that you can help or concluded you do not care.

"Either case is a failure of leadership."

As a leader, people expect you to give solutions. That is the litmus test of leadership.

If you cannot give solutions, people will start bypassing you and you will lose control of your team.

As a leader, giving solutions is your job; do it well.

5. Encourage inter-sectional meetings

When similar-minded people ideate, they are often unable to think out of the box.

They are often more concerned with consensus and the need to be united.

For fresh perspective, encourage people from different sections to participate in your meetings; there is a good chance you will get better ideas :-)

6. Promise less; deliver more

Anyone who does the opposite is either over enthusiastic or lacks judgement.

Don't promise something if you are not sure of being able deliver it -- be it a project to your senior or a promotion to your junior.

Actions speak louder than words; so let your actions do the talking.

7. Remember, a perfect plan if submitted late is of little use

Of course this rule is dependent on what situation you are in.

Some projects have to have a zero error margin.

For the rest you quite simply have to move fast.

So instead of spending inordinate time on crafting a perfect plan, go ahead with a reasonably good plan and fine tune it along the way.

As the American George S Patton Jr said: A good plan violently executed now is better than a perfect plan executed next week.

8. Keep it simple

Some of the greatest ideas are ones that are expressed simply.

Einstein's dissertation was 24 pages.

Intel's business plan was written out on a single typewritten page.

Simplicity of a strategy is crucial to the working of a team. And a leader should be able to keep it simple.

9. Show integrity

Integrity isn't just about honesty; integrity is living up to your word.

It isn't something that can be taught in a classroom.

You either have it or you don't.

And if you don't you ought to have the desire to imbibe the quality.

10. Have a flexible mind

As a leader you ought to have a broad view of any situation presented to you.

And you should also be aware of its details.

Problems often come unannounced; you cannot afford to wear blinkers and be rigid in your outlook.

11. Be fair

You cannot mete different punishments for the same mistake.

Do not over/under reward to over/under punish.

When you have to allocate budgets, be fair to all departments.

But being fair can be a difficult job in a workspace.

When a judge hands out a judgement, s/he doesn't have to deal with the person again.

When a leader plays judge, s/he is doing so with her/his colleague... someone s/he has to work and interact with every single day.

So it can be more complex to be fair for a leader but is also very critical.

Photograph: Vinoth Chandar/Creative Commons