Event organizers can take a few leadership lessons from small business expert Andrew Soave when it comes to learning how to guide and lead people.
Soave is known for his business and entrepreneurship sessions conducted at McMaster University and DECA Inc as well as various organizations. His practical leadership experience with small businesses and being a specialist in strategic management with a Certified Lean Six Sigma Black Belt makes him more than just a business expert. He knows what it takes to be an effective leader in the world of business.
He recently shared some of his thoughts on leadership lessons that can aid event organizers in developing their skills.
Qualities of a Strong Leader
Soave shared four qualities he feels a strong and effective leader must possess.
- Resilient and Adaptable: Handles change and uncertainty with confidence and openness; seeks new challenges to develop; gives, receives, and acts on feedback.
- Engages and Inspires Others: Trusts other people’s competence; creates energy, excitement, and inspiration; recognizes great performance.
- Strategizes: Thinks critically about long-term challenges; understands implications of decisions; translates ideas into practice; leverages the strengths of others.
- Manages Execution: Organizes and coordinates resources, time, and people to achieve key goals; prioritizes goals effectively.
Various Leadership Lessons
# 1 A Good Leader Empowers Others
Many people fail at being a leader simply because they don’t understand what a real leader is. In fact, many people assume that a leader simply forces her or his will on others to accomplish tasks.
According to Andrew Soave, the mark of a good leader is someone who has, “the ability to bring the desired change into existence.” He explains that the best way to enlist the help of those working for you is to “leverage their strengths and desires to accomplish tasks.”
You can accomplish this with a simple managerial technique. First, you must understand your workers and what they want as well as their individual skills and abilities. Soave advises, “Try to understand how the tasks you want done relate to the goals and strengths of others.”
# 2 Inspire Employees with Practical Leadership Lessons
One way to enlist the help of those working for you is to work with direct reports. This creates a filter down effect that can inspire and energize all workers.
Soave gives an excellent example of how he worked with three direct reports to create excitement for the tasks he needed his team to accomplish.
“I explained my dilemma [increasing performance/production] and asked them if they’d want to gain more experience planning, organizing and making decisions so that they could better justify their value for future promotions. When the request was phrased this way, it provided an opportunity for them to take advantage of, rather than another item on their to-do list.”
# 3 Delegating Is a Leadership Skill
While you may not have promotional opportunities for your workers, you can still appeal to their desire to grow their individual skillset for future opportunities and their individual career growth.
The ability to delegate is imperative to becoming a good leader. Keep in mind employees’ skills when you delegate and assign tasks. If you know an individual doesn’t have good organizational skills, then you should provide opportunities for them to learn these as well as other skills they lack. Just don’t overload them with too many to tackle.
As a leader, you need to recognize how much responsibility to delegate to employees. At the same time, entrusting specific duties for employees to oversee will empower them and groom them for the next level. Be sure to also provide them with the necessary tools and opportunities to learn new skills.
# 4 A Leader Is Also a Coach
While delegating responsibilities is a vital aspect of being a leader, you also need to don the hat of a coach. Soave sums it up best, “A coach is one that helps to develop talent in others through teaching and feedback. This is really the hallmark of an effective leader or manager.
He uses two “well-run organizations” as examples General Electric under Jack Welch and retailer Target. The leaders of these companies, “train others to train others.”
# 5 Communication Is Vital
While it’s a fine line to walk being a leader when you want to inspire your employees, you can’t accomplish this if you can’t communicate with your team.
During the TechCrunch Distrupt SF 2013, Twitter CEO Dick Costolo explained that as a leader, you must be able to articulate what you want. He advised that whenever communicating with employees that a leader must focus on clarity so the meaning is understood.
He advised that the way to build trust with your team is by “being forthright and clear with them from day one.”
Goal Setting to Develop Your Leadership Skills
One way to develop your leadership skills is to set specific goals. Soave points out that accomplishing goals is a “key to building the confidence it takes to lead, even if those accomplishments are unrelated to the tasks at hand.”
Soave recommends that you, “develop stretch goals for yourself and accomplish them.” He advises to constantly “push yourself out of your comfort zone” so that it “becomes normal for you to do great things in unfamiliar situations.”
Some things to keep in mind when setting goals:
- Create specific goals. Soave believes, “The more specific the goals can be, the more effective that person’s development will be.”
- Break down each skill into parts you can easily recognize and understand.
- Practice each part of the skill consistently.
- Receive “timely feedback” to assess and improve your performance.
Don’t Fear Failure, Assess It
Soave doesn’t believe there can be failure as long as you don’t give up. He says, “If you miss a goal, take it as a learning opportunity.”
He teaches leaders to ask specific questions about whatever went wrong. These include:
- What went well?
- Also, what didn’t go well?
- Which outcomes were unpredictable?
- What could we have predicted wasn’t going to work?
- Which contingency plans could we have used to mitigate the bad results if we couldn’t predict them?
Soave advises that when you have other people involved in a situation that didn’t go as planned, you need to include them in the assessment process.
This type of inclusion can be very beneficial. He explains that, “The members of the team will have different perspectives and opinions and it is likely that new ideas will come out of a brainstorming session.”
This can become an important and even pivotal lesson for not just you but for everyone involved. From this point, you can build on whatever didn’t work for a positive outcome next time.
Finding Downtime to Assess Progress
Perhaps one of the most important skills you need as a leader is a bit of downtime. Soave uses this time slot to think about plans and reflect what is working and what isn’t. “Since the leader is consistently working with others, it can be difficult to stop and assess the situation.” He believes that carving out this downtime is essential for “making optimal decisions and ensuring that all stakeholders are satisfied.” At the end of the day, a real leader must boldly assess her or his own progress and make corrections when needed.