Judging the performance of a leader can be tricky. One person’s notion of a successful leader can be the polar opposite of another’s. It’s hard to agree upon a common definition of leadership, much less the definition of success.
Do you define a leader’s success as hitting the revenue goal? Is it the satisfaction scores from your customers? How about employee engagement statistics? Is that your primary measure of success? There’s no shortage of metrics that are used to judge a leader’s effectiveness, but most of them are backward-looking data points. How can you judge your success as a leader in real time?
Let me suggest a single question that can help you calibrate the effectiveness of your leadership at any moment in time:
Are my people better off because of my influence in their lives?
At its most fundamental level, leadership is an influence process. A leader is charged with influencing the attitude and actions of their team members. It doesn’t matter the setting, organization, or objective; a leader’s influence is received by their team members in either positive or negative ways.
How does your influence manifest itself in these common areas critical to leadership effectiveness?
Teamwork and Collaboration—Does your leadership result in team members working together cohesively and collaborating to achieve a common goal, or do team members compete to diminish the accomplishments of others, or worse, stab each other in the back?
Innovation and Creativity—Positive-influence leaders foster a culture of trust and psychological safety. They create an environment where team members feel safe to take risks, try something new, and use their best judgment to solve problems. Conversely, negative-influence leaders rule with fear and intimidation. They punish people for stepping out of line, or heaven forbid, using their brains at work.
Sustainable Performance and Results—Lest you think all this talk about positively influencing people is a bunch of touchy-feely nonsense, let’s talk about results. At the end of the day, leaders are out to help their teams accomplish specific objectives. Contrary to popular opinion, caring about results and caring about people are not mutually exclusive. Just about any bad leader can drive short-term results, but it’s the good leaders who are able to sustain performance and results over a long period of time. Does your leadership influence produce inconsistent, flash in the pan success, or does it result in steady achievement and growth?
Employee Growth and Advancement—Examining the employee lifecycle on your team is an insightful way to measure your influence. If you experience frequent turnover, morale problems, or employee grievances, that tells you something (hint…it’s not good). On the other hand, if team members leave because they’ve gained new skills, improved their performance, and are moving on to bigger and better opportunities, that tells you something else (hint…that’s good). One of the best testimonials to your influence as a leader is what former team members say about you. What’s the word on the street about your leadership?
Are my people better off because of my influence in their lives? It’s a sobering question, isn’t it? But it’s also a great one for assessing the quality of your leadership. What’s your answer to that question?