How do you know if you are a good leader? When someone tells you? After you take a leadership workshop? Is it when the business improves dramatically under your lead?
One of the biggest hurdles in today’s business world is the inability to answer this question. How does a leader of an organization know they are doing a good job, an effective job? Many people attribute good leadership to how much a business is profiting, while others attribute it to the approval ratings of the employees and how well people like their jobs. Both are examples of assessments to rate how well a leader is doing. What if there was another way?
Data-driven performance is essential, but does not always account for the employee’s personal lives and overall happiness. Other times, leaders will focus too heavily on building relationships and miss out on exponential profit growth. Leaders typically lean towards one side or the other based on personal preference, leadership styles, and specific business cases. The best leaders consider both sides in the decision-making process, but often struggle to know the right route to take. Will I allow longer break times for employees? Will I force my employees to work overtime to hit the week’s quota? While a leader might possess exceptional leadership qualities and understand the consequences of decision making, there is still a gap between the leader being an effective leader, and knowing they are an effective leader.
There is a cost to every decision a leader makes. For example, if employees in the manufacturing plant work more hours this week, the organization earns 10% more profit. The consequence is the workers become 10% more unhappy because they were planning to have the afternoon off. Which is more critical to the organization? The 10% more profit or 10% more employee happiness? It is a lose-lose scenario. Somebody is not going to like the leader’s decision, no matter the outcome. How does the leader know they made the right choice?
There is a vast chasm between the “is” versus the “expected” in the business world. Imagine a world where there is a clear-cut, optimized way to lead. Every business is an efficient machine where employees love to come to work and love to work hard. The company expands rapidly and exceeds all expectations. The business decisions are always easy to make, and nobody is ever unhappy with the repercussions. This thought is an organization’s dream, and unfortunately, the “expected” in the business world. How could a leader live up to the expectations?
This idea of “expected perfection” is why so many leaders struggle to find confidence within themselves. Without any all-inclusive non-opinionated ways to indicate performance, leaders feel an immense amount of pressure to excel. There is a sense of inadequacy and fear of failure, which inherently happens when a human assumes the role of management and responsibility. The battle to be perfect is the primary factor keeping leaders awake at night.
Knowing you are a good leader boils down to one concept. It is not how good you are at decision making or what your approval rating is. It is the way you rest in the fact that you will never attain perfection, and not being perfect is okay. Identify the parts of the business you can control, and then do so to the best of your ability. Drive the company in the right direction. The business is not, and will never be, perfect. If you can accept this, you will be a good leader, and you will know it too.