SMART leadership has been underpinned by the traditional definition of setting SMART goals (both for self, others, and the organization) …. Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, Timebound. Or – defining work, how to deliver it, understanding resource requirements, aligning to strategy, and focusing on targets. Of course, leadership is a vast topic and there are many other ways of defining it, e.g. values, competencies, traits, etc. For the purposes to sticking with a familiar mnemonic, a re-focus of SMART is suggested for critical aspects of leadership.
Most research suggests that self-awareness is critical for great leadership. Being secure in knowing strengths and development areas requires considered reflection, insight, feedback, and an open mind. Leadership presence is more than charisma, it is displaying authentic, honest, and vulnerable traits which make a distinct impression. Knowing oneself and being know by others is the sweet spot for a leader who others will follow. Being self-aware enables a leader to be comfortable in their own skin, to be believable, and exemplifying integrity.
A leader with energy, purpose, and focus, is personally motivated and motivating to others. Often leaders need to discover their own passion through personal journeys before they really come alive. For some, transitioning from college into a well-defined career is straightforward. For others, leading through repeated transitions is what fuels their motivation. Leaders are very different, but it is critical to find the field and direction that provides deep fulfilment and inspiration. A motivated leader builds enthusiasm and commitment in others, as well as having personal drive.
Everyone knows that change is constant. For leaders, developing learning agility is essential. This is defined as the ability and willingness to learn from experience and subsequently apply these lessons in new or first-time situations. Being agile in breadth and/or depth of applying learning is the mark of a leader who can roll with the punches of organizational reality. Leaders who learn from experience and use that learning to make better decisions and wiser judgments inspire followers. Another aspect of agility is to be able to flex leadership responses when faced with diverse situations. A leader needs to demonstrate self-awareness as well as a mature ability to practice different approaches in leadership style.
Pressure to perform, lead others, and juggling a plethora of organizational challenges is the life of a leader. How to recharge, maintain composure, and build leadership muscle, are secrets that many seek. The need for leaders to maintain energy and stamina is important. A leader needs to learn how to lean on others, develop personal techniques for recharging, and demonstrate an ability to bounce back from setbacks. For each leader this learning will be different. Some are blessed with stamina and others thrive on short bursts of making an impact. Whatever the leadership style, resilience is needed to keep moving forwards and bring others along.
Being curious, willing to learn, and constantly expanding horizons, are essential leadership traits. A recent quote from a senior leader eludes to this: “if you refer to events more than 5 years ago when asked about your career journey, you are not focused on continuous improvement.” A leader needs to build an appetite for learning, use time constructively, and engage with others in a network that stimulates learning. A leader can never stop exploring or seeking out others who can expand knowledge and experience – to do so would mean stagnation.
Being a SMART leader, according to the definition above, is not just desirable but essential to be a leader who others will delight to follow. For insight into a specific genre of SMART leaders, Rise of the Gig Leaders provides a detailed analysis of interim leadership. Please check-out the YouTube link as an introduction to the book https://youtu.be/iHMesdPFbro