Great leadership is not about having all the answers.  It’s about figuring out and discussing the right questions. Leadership skills can be learned – but it usually requires hard work, and personal discomfort to reach your full potential.

This growth tip is our take on an interview with Robert Kaplan, Professor of Management at Harvard Business School.

Have you clearly communicated your Vision and Strategy?

Having a vision in your head means nothing.  The company Vision and Strategy must be clearly articulated and kept visible to all staff. Otherwise your people will expend their energies in uncoordinated directions.  How well do you people understand your Vision and Strategy? Where can they see it every day?  If you don’t have the discipline to clearly define and communicate these things, you will struggle as a leader.

Are people clear on their Key Priorities?

Develop a focused list of no more than 3 Current Strategic Priorities for the company that are critical to achieve the Vision and Strategy.  Adapt these to each team, and cascade them down the individual functional roles.  When you have the discipline to follow this process every quarter, you give your people the clarity they need to choose which tasks need to do be done each week in order achieve their goals.  It shows them what is important, where they need to spend most of their time, and what they need to say “No” to.

Where are you spending your time?

Peter Drucker emphasized this simple (but not easy) concept.  Does the way you spend your time really match your key priorities?  Again, it takes discipline, but note in a log what you are doing every 30 minutes for at least a couple of weeks and then analyze how your time is being spent.  If your time does not match your top priorities, then many of your tasks should be either delegated or eliminated.

Are you coach-able?

Most leaders understand they need to coach their employees, but how many ask their subordinates for coaching? Being at the top of an organization can be very isolating. People won’t usually tell you the truth unless you ask for it.  Make it safe for your people to give their honest feedback about how you can improve your leadership effectiveness.  You may not like what you hear, but you need to hear it.  Ask questions like, “What can I do to be more supportive?”  “How do you prefer me to communicate with you?”  “How can I do my job better in your opinion?”

Do you have a succession plan in place?

Kaplan stresses the importance of developing potential successors for key positions in your company including your own.  If you are not growing your people then you are failing as a leader.  Who are you grooming for your role?  What are you doing to develop them?  What tasks can you delegate to teach them the skills they need to learn?

Do you act as a role model?

People judge you by your actions more than your worlds.  Are you a role model for the Core Values?  Do you preach one thing for the team, but do the opposite yourself?  Take a look in the mirror.  What messages are you sending?

Are you being true to yourself?

You must see your strengths and weaknesses clearly (we all have them), and take the right action to address these.  Do you focus most of your time on the tasks you enjoy, whilst neglecting important tasks you don’t enjoy?  You don’t have to do everything personally, but you need to make sure the critical functions are performed to a high level of excellence.

Eat your veggies!

Not all leadership tasks are enjoyable and not all can be delegated. Certain tasks come with the territory – Vision and strategy, setting key priorities, hiring, holding people accountable, firing.  If don’t learn to do these things well, then get out of the way and let someone else do the job.

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