How to be a long-term focused leader

How to be a long-term focused leader

In such a transitional time for business, where tech innovation is driving digital transformation, and geopolitical, environmental and economic challenges are causing turbulence for workforces, effective leadership is more important than ever. As challenges continue to shift and grow, leaders need to unite their workforce to collaborate and support each other through both the celebratory highs, as well as the inescapable lows.

With so many ‘short term’ challenges to navigate, leading with a long-term vision in mind can be easy to neglect.

1. Be a visionary

Every leader worth respecting has a clear vision of the future they wish to bring about – one that can inspire others into action. This is a generally accepted fact, but this must be supported by the ability to articulate their vision clearly.

To be an effective leader in the long term, it’s important to be able to share this vision with those involved with making it a reality, while prioritizing authenticity and having a realistic view of how to achieve goals along the way. If not thoroughly supported with honesty and a practical approach, people may pick apart your vision, so being upfront about the hard work it’ll take, and the challenges that may arise, can only serve to demonstrate how prepared you are to follow through your vision to its manifestation. Even if it takes time, celebrating progress and smaller milestones along the journey, as well as discussing difficulties openly, can help keep the vision alive.

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2. Communication is paramount

Great leadership requires excellent communication. Communication is intrinsically tied to successful leadership strategy and can be a limiting factor for those who don’t employ it. In higher stakes situations, like working with a multi-national team spread across multiple office locations, while also mixing in staff working from home, communications can make or break efficiency and workflow.

Whether it’s news on a product launch, updates about company strategy or even just an outlet for staff to speak candidly about their opinions and thoughts, maintaining an open line of communication with frequent check-ins will keep everyone on track towards the same goal. It’s the only way to guarantee the message reaches everyone it needs to and is taken on board. Even the manner in which you communicate your message – through body language, tone of email, and even those you are seen around can influence how your message is received by different parties.

3. Presence can make all the difference

Respect doesn’t come easily to leaders who aren’t present and visible – being approachable is a real advantage. Making the time to regularly travel to regional offices and have in-person meetings on top of frequent video conferencing with the wider global team can shape perspective pretty heavily. By getting to know people driving the day-to-day workings of your company, you gain greater insight into the way your company is working while also building a stronger rapport as your workforce get to know you too.

4. Be conscious of culture

Spending time on the ground will highlight how important it is to take into account cultural nuances and differences within different regions too. When leading a global team for the long-term, being cognizant of regional differences will be necessary, as well as staying aware of how these are changing with the times. Clients in Asia, for instance, generally used to expect meetings to be held face-to-face. But as virtual business practices became more popular with the pandemic, lots of clients are now choosing to connect through video call, and the trend seems to be here to stay in at least some capacity.

5. Consistency is key

The biggest difference between a short-term and long-term leader is consistency in effort and discipline. Actions like regular meetings for the leadership team to align them can support this shared identity. Invitations should go into calendars far in advance, and each session should reflect on progress made since the last, successes and lessons learned, priorities for the future and any other relevant topics at the time. By covering all topics for all departments, insights are shared between teams and everyone is aligned towards the same consistent company goal. This should be replicated across every region your company operates in, and there should be an effort to make sure actions are followed through on where possible.

Final thoughts

Considering these tips together, the common theme underpinning them is trust. Any leader in the driving seat for the long term will face difficulties, it’s impossible to completely avoid. Across my career, I’ve had a lot of tough times where brilliant leaders have guided the way and proven I could put my trust in them wholeheartedly. After facing challenges as a team, strong bonds built on mutual trust can prepare a company for anything that comes its way. A good long-term focused leader will recognize the strength of that trust, and contribute to it through example.

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